I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Craptastic Corner Cafe

This past weekend, 7 lovely ladies and I all went away for a weekend away filled with good food, great wine, conversation, and debauchery involving a Sing Star. On the Saturday night we planned to actually drag ourselves away from the buttery leathery couches and head into town for a swanky meal out. Given the state of the economy (and therefore the state of our wallets), we had to forgo the much-awarded Lake House and try for something a little more local.

Thus began what I like to call the week of a thousand phone calls. Seems like every restaurant in the greater Daylesford/Hepburn Springs area was booked out, not returning my calls, or wanting to charge me $35 for a plate of biodynamic samples. Several of the places I called recommended a restaurant called The Cosy Corner Cafe & Restaurant - many of them mentioned that it's a place favoured by locals and that their food is delicious and good value. After some faffing about with message leaving and phone calling, I managed to secure a booking with them for Saturday night.

Sometimes I think I should learn to listen to my instincts. Any restaurant which boasts "normal sized servings" in all of it's advertising just...you know...hmmm. Is that your point of difference? Anyway we pressed on, as it seemed to be the only joint in town which could accommodate us (and that in itself should have been another clue.)

The restaurant itself is not on a corner, but we forgive it those minor transgressions because everything else falls into the category of a major transgression. We come in and get seated...and you know, it didn't take long for the problems to start. First was the menu, which was chucked at us. To say we were made to feel unwelcome would be an understatement. The specials board, which according to the waitress was "making it's way around here eventually" was nowhere to be seen. Then Jewel ordered a Macchiato (which was on the menu) and the waitress had NO idea what that was....so Jewel had to explain it to her. People, don't put something on a menu (even something as simple as coffee) if you have NO IDEA what it is. The blank look Jewel got in response to her request was laughably priceless.

We then made the mistake of asking for some water...which we couldn't even ask for until she went to "put some orders in." She basically told us (in fewer words) to shut up and wait. Honestly, this is the point at which we should have left, and I'm not entirely sure why I didn't suggest that.

This wasn't shaping up to be the best meal ever...but we're patient, and we're nice, so we kept hoping against hope that it would all suddenly improve. It didn't. We had to repeatedly ask for the specials board, and once we got it, it was both barely legible and not anywhere where we could read it. Poor NN nearly got brained by the damn thing falling on top of her. Funnily enough, the items on the specials board sounded a lot better than what was on the menu itself. More imaginative, more interesting, more...everything. This wasn't helped by several items on the menu being pencilled in as N/A. I'm all for short and sharp menus, but not if you can't service those items.

Jewel's now-infamous coffee arrives...as a shot of espresso with 3/4 cup of water added and barely a soupcon of milk on top. Macchiato, my arse! Jewel had to explain (again!) what it was. When she got it (for the second time), let's just say that my dog (which I don't own) with one hand (which he doesn't have) tied behind his back...could have made a better coffee. But I digress, because after all we came here for the food.



The waitress deigns to take our order from us.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And...about ten seconds before I decided to go completely mental on these people, it arrived. We're now looking at one hour, 15 minutes waiting time. In a restaurant of maybe 40 seats, there is no acceptable excuse for this...particularly since the food wasn't particularly complicated.

Sometimes, food can be worth the wait. This time? I wish I had cut and run.

Jewel and I decided to share one of the specials - described as a Mushroom Wellington with scalloped potatoes and mixed seasonal vegetables. Please, witness this horror:

Hmmm. 1.2 pieces of (soggy, unseasoned) scalloped potato. Some steamed vegetables (no seasoning there, either.) Some horrifically burnt-to-carbon veg which I think was sweet potato, but I'm not really sure of that. Most of the vegtables were clearly refugees from the Sunnyvale Home for the Elderly, or a local hospital. We are talking retirement home vegetables, people. Soft and without flavour of any kind, and certainly not seasonal. The mushroom...thing...well... here's some more detail for you:

"Waitress! Somebody shat in my puff pastry!"

Oh. My. God. I found myself wishing I was in that pitch black restaurant - the one where it's so dark the waiters need night vision goggles. This thing was HIDEOUS. They attempted a duxelles and got...poo. I'm sorry, but there's no nice way to say it. Flavour wise, it wasn't too terrible although Jewel found it way too sweet for her pallette. I ate it mostly out of hunger and depression more than actual enjoyment. I found if I squinted my eyes as I lifted the fork to my mouth I managed to - just - swallow without gagging.

The Neighbour's Wife opted for the other vegetarian selection. I'd like to be able to tell you WHAT she ordered, but neither she nor I could really tell:

"Waitress! There's a ...something...in my ....something."

007 went for a stuffed chicken breast. This one apparently tasted pretty okay, but yet again the presentation was one step above dog's breakfast. She too had to "enjoy" her unseasoned steamed vegetables from Sunnyvale.

"Waitress! There's an old man named Jeb who is missing his steamed broccoli tonight!"

The Sicilian was brave and ordered a grilled fish dish...her catch of the day was certainly fresh, but only on the day it was caught (which we guessed was some months prior.) We're talking frozen fish here, people...and not just ANY frozen fish, but frozen fish which our friends at McCain's could have done better on.

Look! More scalloped potatoes! Must've been on special.

The various other meals around the table just got worse and worse. Cocoa's lamb had no sauce at all (read: dry), the chips that Poppet's Mum got were clearly from an el-cheapo frozen brand, nothing was seasoned, most things were overcooked and then there were the salads. Ohhh, the salads!

Hmmm. You charge me $28 a main, and yet you cannot actually toss the dressing through the vegtables? You have to just kinda swirl it a bit on top? Seriously? Here's a culinary newsflash people: chucking a little bit o' alfalfa on top doesn't make your salad great. It just makes it soggy and even more retirement-home like.

At this point we all realised that, having waited as long as we did, there was no point in returning the meals...so we all kinda ate them, grudgingly. The waitress clearly did not give two hoots about us - instead she almost went out of her way to make us feel as though we were a burden on her. It took ages for the plates to be cleared, and eventually my patience wore out and I went up to the counter to request the bill. It took several more minutes to actually GET the bill, and I can assure you that the only bright spark of the meal was knowing that we would leave them a HUGE tip.

The tip? You're reading it. Congratulations, Cozy Corner, you've earned it!

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