Eater­ies that leave a bad taste

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

EV­ERY­BODY loves a la­goon, es­pe­cially a blue la­goon.

As we bask in our so- called win­ter, it is cer­tainly hot enough to swim, judg­ing by th­ese past few days of glo­ri­ous weather.

That be­ing the case, a new swim­ming la­goon at Townsville sounds like a great idea.

But I’m not so sure peo­ple will be so keen on the con­cept of a 6ha la­goon and as­so­ci­ated ho­tels, restau­rants and cafes as pro­posed by Sydney’s Pure Projects in its vi­sion­ary work for Townsville City Coun­cil.

The com­pany has pro­duced a Trans­for­ma­tion of Townsville re­port or re­ports which I un­der­stand have come at con­sid­er­able cost.

A salt­wa­ter la­goon on The Strand is per­haps its one big idea in a re­view aimed at re­ac­ti­vat­ing the city and its sur­rounds.

They say there are three op­tions for the lo­ca­tion of this la­goon.

They are Dean Park, the for­mer state- owned Queens­land Rail con­tainer de­pot on Saun­ders St which was handed to Aur­i­zon when it listed on the share­mar­ket in 2010 and is now va­cant, and The Strand.

Pure Projects says The Strand is the best op­tion.

But when you look at the re­port the area they mean is not strictly The Strand but the seabed off Strand beach ad­ja­cent to Ma­rina’s Penin­sula.

Ev­i­dently, they want to re­claim 6ha of seabed. Well, good luck with that. How many years has the port been seek­ing ap­provals to re­claim more seabed for its ex­pan­sion? Ten years?

What about re­de­vel­op­ing the Rock­pool? Af­ter all, the re­port says the feed­back from peo­ple con­sulted is that the Rock­pool is dirty and slimy and, yes, some­times it is.

But there is no men­tion why this could not be a site.

I sup­pose it’s fine to be vi­sion­ary and to get peo­ple ex­cited.

But we need ideas which are achiev­able. We also need a coun­cil will­ing to work with lo­cal peo­ple and or­gan­i­sa­tions. Sadly, that has been lack­ing for some time. WHEN you eat out th­ese days, one thing be­comes very ap­par­ent. There are restau­rants that don’t think they’re lucky to have you as a cus­tomer. They think you are lucky to be there.

At least, that’s how it feels at a grow­ing num­ber of fine- din­ing eater­ies.

Be afraid when the waiter asks you: “Do you know how this works?” and the an­swer isn’t or­der, eat, pay, leave.

Be afraid when they don’t write any­thing down, es­pe­cially if you’ve all or­dered three cour­ses and your group in­cludes a lo­ca­vore, a fruitar­ian and some­one al­ler­gic to food.

And be afraid when they spend 15 min­utes telling you about how amaz­ing the spe­cials are – but don’t tell you how much they cost.

Th­ese days you don’t book, you “re­serve your ex­pe­ri­ence”.

You’re told to “en­gage your ser­vice staff” rather than ask a waiter. And you don’t read the menu you “ex­plore it”.

But there’s no such in­dul­gence when it comes to the bill: you just pay it – or else.

The fun starts when you try to make a reser­va­tion. Often it can only be done on­line, where you have to of­fer up per­sonal de­tails like your email ad­dress, home ad­dress and proof of vir­gin­ity of your first­born.

Then you’re given a choice of time that suits them – not you. On a week­end, it’s usu­ally 6pm or 8.15pm.

Some places don’t take book­ings. In­stead, they leave you at the bar knock­ing back wine at $ 15 a glass, un­til they tell you how lucky you are they’ve found you a ta­ble.

The first chal­lenge is or­der­ing the wine. You pick the cheap­est wine on the menu, which turns out to be a $ 65 bot­tle of red, then watch the waiter sneer at you for be­ing a cheap­skate de­spite the fact you can get the same bot­tle at Dan Mur­phy’s for 10 bucks.

Then you turn your at­ten­tion to the food – that’s if you can get past the ridicu­lous de­scrip­tions on the menu.

“Pick­led or­ganic cu­camelon hand­picked at sun­rise float­ing in a chaga sea with Glacier 51 tooth­fish seared with sus­tain­able- for­est tea- tree smoke.”

Good luck with that one. It may smell like sweaty armpits and look like snot, but you’ve paid $ 75 a head for the priv­i­lege, so you have to eat it.

In­gre­di­ents are also get­ting in­creas­ingly ridicu­lous. For in­stance, at one restau­rant you can eat Aged Santa Claus Melon. Some of the veg­gies in my fridge crisper are aged – I won­der if I can charge $ 30 a head for those?

And at an­other you can have a “Moon­light flat rusty wire oys­ter with le­mon my­tle”.

What’s to fol­low? Car bon­net cros­tini with en­gine oil- in­fused truf­fles?

There’s often also a heavy dose of irony in items such as peanut “sand” and seafood “crum­pets” – not to men­tion a “snag sniz­zle” which I am pretty sure is noth­ing like the Bun­nings one.

It’s no won­der you end up with the waiter – who thinks his shiso doesn’t stink – snig­ger­ing at you be­cause you don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween lardo and crudo, galan­tine and bal­lo­tine and kale and kelp.

Last Satur­day night I had the du­bi­ous priv­i­lege of pay­ing $ 25 for sev­eral pieces of sashimi the size of my small toe­nail.

The food was over­priced, the serves were small and the ser­vice was ter­ri­ble.

Our duck main was $ 37 but we had to re­mind them to bring it.

But fun­nily enough the bill mag­i­cally ap­peared in sec­onds, with the waiter hov­er­ing over us with his iPad so we could pay on the spot ( this is the waiter we tried half the night to wave down).

Places don’t even need to be high­end to be a rip- off. Pizza joints in­creas­ingly fling a bit of cheese and tomato on a cir­cle of dough and charge you $ 45.

Friends of mine went to a hip­ster pizza joint re­cently and were un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously given the bill the minute they fin­ished eat­ing. Even though they’d just or­dered an­other glass of wine, they were told there were peo­ple wait­ing.

There’s the small dish of olives on the ta­ble you didn’t or­der ( but ap­pear on the bill for $ 6).

There are also often “shared plates” which are tiny, cost a bomb and come out when it suits the kitchen, not the guests.

Hmmm … makes me not want to turn up at all. Think I’ll stay in tonight. Maybe I’ll just get fish and chips. It will prob­a­bly be ter­ri­ble, but at least I won’t need a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to see it and a mort­gage to af­ford it.

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