Wednesday, December 06, 2006

You need coolin', baby / I'm not foolin',

Living in Indonesia…part 54….I’ve rattled and moaned about the service in New Zealand’s more pretentious places, god knows how many times, but Indonesia, in a particular Bali, operates differently. The term “service” can mean something else. Its a different consciousness. I’ve been told many times that it’s not worth complaining in a restaurant in this country and, unless you are in a select few establishments that’s absolutely true.

Take, for an example, the time I was in Kopi Bali’s Sanur cafe, famous for its extreme coffee creations. I’d had a mixed time there before when I’d found a piece of glass in my nasi and had simply been offered, begrudgingly, a 10% discount of my next bill. I swore I would not return. But I returned. By myself, as it happens as Brigid was in New Zealand doing something or other. I, without the restraint of the guilt I may have felt if she’d been there, indulged myself and ordered Eggs Benedict. Excellent…even after all this time I can still feel the anticipation.

After a wait and a coffee it arrived. It had a muffin, and two poached eggs. And it was covered in this brown separated mucky stuff. I have to be honest, I’ve eaten Eggs Benedict once or twice in the past…it’s a weakness I’ll happily admit to if pushed. But each and every time before this the telur-telur have been happily covered in a creamy hollandaise sauce. The thick, extra cholesterol and fat inducing stuff that doctors warn us against. That’s the way I’ve always been lead to believe I should expect it. And so it should have been this time. I called over the waiting staff, a young girl (who in all likelihood had absolutely no idea of the anticipation a Benny can arouse in a bulé male) and said “what is this?”. It was, she said, Eggs Benedict, as ordered. I did not concur so she called the big boss over who said…”ini Eggs Benedict”. I explained that Eggs Benedict did not usually have a brown sludge over it. He looked bemused, smiled and started to walk away. Calling him back I explained I didn’t want it, wouldn’t accept it, and ordered something else, a banana pancake as I recall. It came, it was ok and I ate it. Twenty minutes later the bill came, with one banana pancake and one Eggs Benedict on it. There is a mistake said I, mistake said he, you ordered both…but I sent the eggs back...”that was your choice” he said. What you do with logic like that. My Indonesian dictionary seems not to have a word for logic, beyond one stolen from English, and that seems logical.

Al I can do is resort to a phrase that had a reasonable currency during my formative punk years in the seventies but seems to have slipped from use.....fuck off noddy...

I have had other terrible meals here, not least of which was the appalling one at the world famous Legian Hotel. Actually I’ve only eaten there twice and neither time was good. But the first time it was simply overpriced average food. The second time, not only was the food worse than overpriced but the service was less than average too. That, admittedly may have had something to do with the fact ¼ of the four guests at our table had been up for twenty four hours, was exceedingly drunk and was perusing the wine list again. Her boyfriend, the Australian style magazine publisher, managed to side step the issue with some skill. That we’d been placed in the out of the way table and were being completely ignored by all the waiting staff, may have had had a little to do with that. But that still didn’t excuse the substantially sub-Warung Indonesian dishes being hawked off at US$20 a pop.

The there was one of my favourite Indian places a couple of weeks back. We go there a lot. I love a good curry more than most anything (and despise a bad one). And this particular Indian, which shall remain unnamed…lets just call it The QT…is one of the two finest on this island (the other is the Clay Oven here in Sanur, with the best vindaloo I’ve tasted since the last time I was in Brick Lane).

Because we go there a lot we get a lot of attention from the staff. Too much at times to be honest, but thats ok. And the manager spends a little time with us each time too. On the last occasion he was extra attentive. Thanking us for our patronage and asking what they could do to improve it. As we talked a young guy came to the table and asked Brigid to fill in our names on a paper. It was, she smiled, a voucher for RP200,000 (about $22) for the restaurant. This was very generous she said and they smiled uneasily before rushing away for a conference. We agreed with each other that it was a nice thing for them to have done but commented that we’d spent a fair amount there over the past year or two.

Five minutes later the manager was back, effusively apologising and saying that there had been a terrible mistake and the voucher was incorrectly offered to us. It should have gone to table A, not table 8. We had no voucher and he sent the young man to apologise too.

We were gob smacked..totally. We’d not expected the voucher but having had it offered, it had been withdrawn five minutes later. The voucher itself was not important but it seemed incredible that this manager had thought that $22 was worth offending, and perhaps losing, some of his best customers. The man, who had spent so much time training his staff in the finer points of service had not been able to make that small jump in logic.

We will go back (the food is to good to not), and as a matter of principle, make a point of explaining that perhaps that was not the way to have handled the situation.

If this wasn’t Indonesia, I’d say, how odd and perhaps even be offended. But it’s Indonesia so I’ll smile and simply tell the story.

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