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Around the World in 80 Soufflés: Part 2

by horripilated


Greetings, my little opossums! One would like to begin by apologising for the appalling conduct displayed last time in the tail end of one’s review; such behaviour as diving beak-first into a bowl is inexcusable, regardless of the setting. As such, this week one shall strive to ingratiate oneself with you all again.

As stated last week, Kelp took a good deal of getting in to and so the last thing one wanted was for that effort to have been in vain and to have left with a cloud hanging over one’s reputation. Although, as it would turn out, one might have been able to have taken greater liberties with one’s behaviour and not had anything said. You will see what one means as this week’s review unfolds though no doubt. So, let us once again journey into the dining room for another helping of critique!

Now one should have seen it coming, really; when the Maitre D' contacted one to confirm the booking, he also informed one that they were entertaining a special guest that night and so service might be slightly affected by this. Feeling safe in the assurance that once one arrived and was recognised one would be lavished with equally high attention, the booking was confirmed and deliberation over the evening’s attire began.

Some hours later then, one found oneself outside Kelp with an empty stomach and a soggy feather boa. But one was willing to overlook the inconvenient location of the eatery if they could live up to all that had been said about them and the chefs’ expertise with the ingredients put at their disposal. One was escorted to a table towards the back of the dining room upon entering; one had hoped to be seated in a corner under an air of privacy, but it seemed that position had been reserved for the guest of honour. The Maitre D’ handed one a menu and then scurried off, not even attempting to disguise the fact he was clearly more concerned with the impending arrival of some so-called trumped-up celebrity than he was with catering to the needs of a respectable and deserving individual like oneself.

Nevertheless, one took the seating offered and perused the menu; it seems that the head chef is not a fan of experimenting and attempting to push the envelope as far as all things culinary are concerned. One swears the options listed were exactly the same as the last time one dined there some years ago. Back then one was young and naïve; the feasts on offer seemed to be bold and exciting concoctions that had been planned with minute attention to detail. But now they appeared to be safe bets; dishes which time had proven to be popular with custom and critique alike, so they are wheeled out over and over again with lacklustre enthusiasm on the part of all involved. However, perhaps it wasn’t too much to hope for that there had been subtle changes to their composition that hadn’t warranted an altering of the menu. One kept one's feathers crossed whilst ordering that the head chef had a few tricks up his sleeves yet to revive my faith.

The first dish up for scrutiny was the ‘Angel Hair Salad’, hardly the most imaginative of titles but then what arrived wasn’t the most imaginative of ensembles either. Angel hair pasta splashed with a light, garlic dressing and served with a scattering of Scorchipeppers, little nuggets of chicken and a sprig of chive. One wasn’t expecting anything particularly spectacular as one twirled a forkful of pasta into one's beak, so one was neither upset nor surprised when it failed to deliver. Granted, the pasta was cooked to absolute perfection, the peppers were finely blanched to give them a juicy yet soft texture and the chicken morsels were flavoursome but light; however, overall it just felt like it was lacking something.

One tried to give them the benefit of the doubt and was awaiting the arrival of one’s main course with a few shreds of hope remaining when the eagerly anticipated ‘special guest’ finally saw fit to put in an appearance. Princess Fernypoo had apparently decided to step out of the pampered luxury of her palace to slum it somewhat by breathing the same air as her loyal subjects. How very big of her...

In the tumult that ensued it seems that one’s main course order fell by the wayside as the restaurant staff fell over themselves to try and accommodate the princess for her dinner date. Glancing at one’s watch confirmed that she had, in fact, arrived a whole ten minutes later than the recognised time after which the restaurant began turning people away. It used to be a strictly enforced rule that reservations would be taken for no later than 9:30 pm; though their acceptance of her flouting of this rule just goes further to show how they shamelessly employ double standards when dealing with certain clientele.

Once the whole grandiose performance of getting her from the door to her seat had played out, one hoped that normal service would resume and the main course one ordered half an hour earlier would finally be making its way to one’s table. However, one hoped too soon.

Not content with having made what can only be described as a grotesquely overstated entrance (complete with Peophin-drawn carriage and servants to play a fanfare), she then made sure that the Maitre D’ was flapping around her at every turn. Of course, she played the usual “oh don’t be so silly, you don’t need to go to all this trouble for little old me” card, but it was plain to see from her demeanour that she was lapping up all the attention. Meanwhile the rest of the dining room played into her silk glove-encased paws; all fawning over her, watching her every movement, waiting for her to look their way so they could make eye contact with her for a fleeting second. All so they could turn to the person beside them and babble incessantly about the life-affirming moment they had just experienced, as though she was of some great importance in the grand scheme of things.

Well, one decided that one was not going to stand for this kind of ill treatment any longer. As a high-ranking member in the elite echelons of polite society, one can safely say that one has earned every ounce of respect that one was not being shown that evening. Whereas madam Fernypoo was only receiving such treatment because she was born into it by nothing more than dumb luck. Now, never let it be said that one would begrudge a lady a little attention for the sake of a few Stramberry Sausages, but one felt it had gone quite far enough when one was being asked to wait inordinate lengths of time to be fed while they sourced the correct shade of napkin to offset her tiara.

And so it came to pass that one stood from one’s table, threw down one’s napkin in a show of disgust and then proceeded to flounce out of the dining room. One found it amusing that even after their blatant display of favouritism they still seemed at a loss as to what one’s problem could possibly be. Even more laughable was that they then attempted to make one pay for the meagre meal, if it is even possible to call a plate of pasta served with near contempt a meal. Needless to say, one gave them a piece of one’s mind about how unprofessional it was for them to have devoted so much attention to her at the expense of the rest of their packed dining room; and one left them in no doubt that one would do everything in one’s power to spread word of their folly in hopes that their dining room would not be so full in the near future.

So that, my dearies, is what you have just finished reading. Perhaps other critics would be taken in by the extravagance of the décor, or by the limited breathing room offered to the establishment by their past reputation as being the greatest dining experience in all of Neopia. Perhaps some of you feel that perhaps that is still the case and that one simply ‘caught them on a bad day’ as it were as far as their staff’s hospitality is concerned. One would beg to differ though.

A truly exquisite eatery must endeavour to ensure that each guest feels as though he or she is a member of royalty in their own right; not push them aside and leave them hungry and ill-tempered just because a genuine member of royalty graces them. As far as this critic is concerned, Kelp has been living on borrowed time these past few years. Rather than pioneering new recipes and launching gastronomic crazes, they have been content to coast along on the merit of their previous achievements. It would appear, though, that they may finally have run out of steam. Having fresh ingredients simply isn’t enough; they need to be paired with fresh ideas and a drive to excel, two qualities which their head chef seems to be ‘fresh’ out of.

If they are not to end up treading water whilst their competition swim circles around them, then there need to be some drastic changes made at the very heart of Kelp. As such, one sees fit to award them just one air bubble out of five and even that is done with a degree of generosity. Perhaps this will be the wake-up call they are in need of; far be it from one to rain on their parade but one can’t help feel it’s about time somebody burst their bubble of smug self-satisfaction.

After this week’s immense disappointment next week’s destination can’t help but be an improvement, which is most fortunate for the people at Grundo’s Café as they hit the ground running. Until then, eat, drink and be merry, my darlings!

- Miss Tobik x

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