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On lousy restaurants in Valencia and Catalonia
(CATALONIA TODAY – SECTION: LONG-TERM RESIDENT - ARTICLE TWENTY)
We drove into Peníscola last Saturday, having been filming since seven a.m. under a blistering hot sun, with no break for a snack. We were aching to eat, in other words. It was just Sod's Law, I suppose, that we ended up choosing the restaurant we did. An unpretentious-looking, medium-priced place.
It was empty, with not so much as a waiter in sight. When one appeared, twenty minutes after we'd sat down, our parched throats clamoured for beers. He nodded and disappeared again.
He came back over a quarter of an hour later with the drinks, an order pad and a jittery air about him (noticeable above all from his trembling hands and the thick bubbles of sweat that had appeared on his upper lip).
The average wait between courses being about thirty minutes, the meal took over four hours. Eager to escape, we got out credit cards. The waiter informed us with an apprehensive wince that the restaurant didn't accept them and then blurted out apologetically that everything had taken so long because it was his first day and the boss had left him and the cook to their own devices: no instructions, nothing.
We'd come across similar cases when eating on location in Valencia and Catalonia: lazy, absentee owners who couldn't care less about the problems of either staff or customers as long as the tills were filled at the end of the day.
These are the same owners who then complain about the chronic shortage of waiters. One of the discreet hallmarks of this country used to be the pride workers in the catering profession took in their jobs. Their employers, under the spell of that tired old sin Greed, are now making sure that such professionalism, like affordable rents and commission-free banks, is well and truly on the way out.