Last Tuesday, my mum, the marvellous Tutster, turned 64. I love birthdays, always have. There’s something exciting about turning another year older, having accrued another year of wisdom, and thinking, ‘FINALLY! This is the year I’m going to achieve all the things I keep putting off. THIS is the YEAR! (And even if it isn’t the year, at least you can renew your optimism again, the next time your birthday comes around).
Tutti has always maintained that she’s never discovered what it is she wants to do when she grows up (yes despite being a doyenne of style and creativity) but I have a very good feeling that while she will probably never ‘grow up’ 64 is going to be the year that she absolutely excels. In what, you ask? Well, watch this space.
Anyway, our favourite thing to do on a birthday is to go out for dinner (Tutti, the Guru, Matty and Me, Fluffy – in spirit, from London, Jojo who is my unofficially-adopted Swedish sister – and her lovely boyfriend Adam). We’re a rather raucous bunch – there’s plenty of laughter and present-unwrapping and usually the Guru spills wine across the table. But I digress.
We have a few favourites: locally, Nar Ottoman and Sylvia’s Wellbeing Kitchen are always winners – delicious food and gorgeous service (which makes the food taste even better in my opinion). But on this particular Tuesday, I found a (supposedly) cheap-and-cheerful Greek restaurant to try called Grecian Blue.
We had fun anyway, because that’s what we do – I had been collecting birthday presents for Tutti over the past couple of months so even though I PRETENDED I had only bought her a small economy pack of tissues (times are tough, after all) I’d actually accrued about 40 presents including a few pieces of jewellery that I made. One necklace I even fashioned from a piece of internet cable I found that very day.ANYWAY. We all sat down. I hoped for the best. Our waitress, who may have had a bad day – or perhaps was on the waiting list for a personality transplant – could have been more upbeat. The restaurant was pretty empty and we were celebrating a birthday. She smiled at us, but it was the sort of smile a fish might give you – a particularly boring fish, that hated life, and hated waitressing more. Even when she spoke, it was less like speaking to a human, and more like speaking to a pan pipe that had only one working note and had given up on life.
The owner of the restaurant sat at a table in the corner and glared at us all night with the might of a thousand burning daggers.
I WISH I had taken pictures of the food because even though it was tragic, it was absolutely hilarious.
This is what we ate:
$11.50: Spanakopita: four small (microscopic, flaccid) spinach and fetta triangles. Which I halved (mashed) so that the six of us could each try some. Pan Pipe didn’t think to mention it might not be enough.
$9.50: Dolmades. FIVE dolmades. But there were SIX of us. Luckily I hate dolmades. I think they’re gross. They’re like slugs of the entree world. So, that was lucky.
$19.50: Authentic Greek Dips: taramasalata, tzatziki and melitzana with pita bread. This should have read ‘The stingiest three teaspoons of dips you have ever seen with the tiniest triangles of pita, which you will pay a small FORTUNE for but you will be so aghast at the miserly portion that you will be too shocked to say anything. Instead, you will each have a pin’s head worth of dip on a crumb of bread, while the chef laughs and rubs his hands with glee that you are such a mug.
$24 – 26.50: Kalamata Spaghetti, Lamb Souvlaki with Chips for main. Edible but average. I can’t even be bothered to tell you about it.
$15.50: Greek Village Salad: So called (I imagine) because apparently, in Greek Villages, they like to eat tiny bowls of salad that are mostly iceberg lettuce – and pay handsomely for it.
Then came dessert. I asked Pan Pipe how many servings of baklava came with the Baklava ($8.50). “You get two baklava,” Pan Pipe whistled, with all the energy of someone breathing their final breath. ‘Two,” she reiterated.
“OK,” I said, still feeling positive despite Pan Pipe’s lacklustre social-skills, and the restaurant owner trying to kill us with his eyes. “Load me up!”
Pan Pipe delivered the baklava. I looked at it. I blinked incredulously. It was Tutti’s birthday. I didn’t want to make a fuss. I really didn’t. But there in front of me was the tiniest, single triangle of baklava I had ever seen. It looked so sad, so forlorn, like it wouldn’t even satisfy a mouse.
“Are you serious?’ I asked, unable to comprehend the minuscule, miserly crumb before me. “I thought you said there were two baklava in a serve.”
“Last night there were,’ said Pan Pipe, barely able to rouse herself from her slumber. “But tonight, they are a different shape. You can only have one. It is a triangle.”
I could see it was a triangle. But it could have been a square, a hexagon or a frigging rhombus for all I cared. I wanted two baklava, and two baklava was what I would have.
Pan Pipe conferred with the manager, whose eyes by now were red, and shooting forth the flames of merry hell.
Pan Pipe disappeared into the kitchen and returned with one more tiny triangle of baklava. “The chef has decided you can have another triangle,” she barely said.
“Thanks,” I said. Though I didn’t feel like ‘thanks.’ I felt like head-butting Pan Pipe and her evil-eyed boss and wrecking the sorry joint.
Instead, we asked for the bill, and we paid it, like a table of morons. We even smiled and said thank you, because we’re polite like that.
We left, still high on the joy of present unwrapping, but sorry – so desperately sorry – about our dire choice of birthday eatery.
Pan Pipe smiled, by which I mean she barely awoke, and as we left I coughed. I thought I’d inhaled a bit of dust but then I realised it was just the manager, who by now had become an ashy pile of furious cinders, ensuring we were left with a truly horrible taste in our mouths.