Interactive restaurant. A testimonial.

If you already know what an interactive restaurant is then you are way ahead of me. What I do know, however, is that when I go to a restaurant, I would like someone else to prepare my food. Call me old-fashioned but going to a restaurant means I don’t wanna cook.

We were invited to a surprise birthday party at the Jaz Restaurant and Wine Bar in Brisbane. As surprises went, the guest of honour was truly surprised and we were thrilled for her. There were more surprises in store for the guests as well.

Having turned up at 6.30 pm we tried to have a conversation with the other guests at the table but there was such lousy or great acoustics (depends on how you look at it) that we could not hear or be understood. We all tried to project our voices to the person sitting right beside us.

I did the small talk bit and they replied. I smiled and nodded and for all I know they could have been telling me that they only have one month to live, but I laughed in a jolly manner, determined that this would be a great evening, in spite of the unbearable noise.

And then the band began to play. I can’t say for certain whether they were playing but I could see that they were attacking a drum and torturing other instruments as well.

Conversation was out of the question, unless one had a microphone, so we all shrugged and did the body language thing. Hands over the ears, fingers pointing accusingly at the band and then back to our ears again. And then the ubiquitous and polite smile at the person across the table. It was really such jolly fun.

This mime act on our part lasted about an hour and then people began to glance furtively at their watches. Someone shouted that it would be handy if we could all do sign language and we all laughed merrily and then sat back in our chairs once again, “Waiting for Godot.”

It was a set menu apparently. After one and a half hour since having sat down, we received two small slices of bruschetta and mushrooms. Everyone got busy eating, relieved that there was now a reason for not trying to converse.

And then we waited and waited…and waited. Nobody had even asked us for an order. There was a little piece of paper on the table asking you to fill in some personal details, email address etc. Some people are compulsive filler-inners. I’m not.

After one and a half hours, a waitress came around to ask what we wanted to eat. The menu was on the other side of that questionnaire.

“I’ll have the steak”, I shouted “but well-done, please”. She replied and this is when I learned what interactive restaurant means.

“You can have it any way you like because you’ll be cooking it yourself.” I chuckled appreciatively at her genuine attempt at a joke.

But no, it was no joke. We were getting something called a stone grill meal and we had to cook the chicken or steak ourselves. I tried to be smart and said “Oh, as long as we don’t have to do the washing up as well.” But she had escaped.

So we sat back and consoled ourselves with the thought that soon there would be food. The music raged on. The other revellers in other groups were going full blast.

Another hour passed. It was now almost 9 pm and still nada. Two young children in our party were beginning to wilt and so their parents demanded a plate of food for them. The elderly mother of the birthday girl shared some of her great-grandchildren’s supplies. She was on daylight-saving time, having come from down south, so for her it was already 10 pm.

My neighbour said he was changing his order to corn flakes, which got a laugh.

I suggested that we should call Domino’s Pizza and order a delivery.

At last the food appeared on the scene, two and a half hours after our arrival at the restaurant– a raw slab of meat next to a dozen or so flaccid French Fries. I proceeded to try to cook my meal and then asked for a steak knife having figured out that if I shredded the slab then it would cook faster. “This IS a steak knife,” was the reply. So my husband cut my raw meat for me, before proceeding to cook his chicken.

“Make sure yours is cooked well,” I warned as I slaved over my slab. “Raw chicken is full of salmonella.”

It was around 10 pm before we finished our main meal. We ate as we cooked. It was a sorry sight. Frankly, I had expected that a Kitchen Aid blender would be produced so that we would make our own dessert, but this was not the case. “Dessert is on us,” is the Jaz Restaurant’s motto apparently. It prides itself on service and has testimonials to back it up. I kid you not. Their website displays them.

I felt sorry that the birthday girl’s evening had been spoiled.

So what is the matter with restaurants today? Why can’t they keep noise down so that while you wait for food you can hold a conversation with the person sitting beside you?

What is the point of music if it only adds to the cacophony?

Why do they take so long to serve food? Why can’t they organise themselves if they are catering to many people on a busy Saturday night?

And finally, what makes them think that people want to cook their own meal when they go to a restaurant? What’s that all about?

We came home, sat down in our comfortable chairs, enjoyed a cup of coffee in peace and quiet and said “This is living.”

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