- December 17, 2019
I was checking out my social media presence the other day when I came upon a picture of some French onion soup that looked delicious. It made me want to go and try or even pop into the kitchen and make a batch. The non close inspection I realised it was posted by a chain restaurant that I had recently dined in with very little success. I had chosen the French onion soup, as it was a “French” brand. It was pretty grim, a gloopy bowl of allium slurry topped with a sad and very soggy croute topped with mediocre cheese. And it was far from hot making it quite apparent that this had been zapped from cold.
I was with a friend and didn’t make a fuss, unusual for me I know but I was simply not in the mood. And yes I should have sent it back, it’s what I tell everyone they should do if something doesn’t come up to the mark.
What you see here is exactly what I got
My main course was hardly any better, the chicken dry and under seasoned and for some odd reason plonked on top of the green beans which were already cold on arrival. The gratin dauphinoise was better, but not stellar and it was a parsimonious portion. My friend’s mushroom risotto, an odd dish for a venue that once refused to serve me a Campari soda as it was a “French” restaurant, was a sorry looking affair that also failed the heat test and in his words “had had the very merest acquaintance with the promised truffle”.
I must confess that when I saw his dish I was very pleased to have not ordered it. Of course like every diner with a phone I took pics, apparently this is the blight of the modern restaurant scene causing huge problems for both kitchens and front of house staff. Anyway we all do it and I think it unlikely that we will stop and I’m sure that the better looking dishes when posted on social media will benefit the restaurants responsible so they win in the end.
Why am I telling you this and not naming the venue? Well the savvy amongst you will perhaps have worked it out and I’m not in the business of being mean. No, the reason I write this is because for 28 years now I have always taken my own photographs for this column. Yes I get invited along to places from time to time and yes they will often offer me their beautifully staged food images. I always refuse. I show pictures of the actual dishes I have eaten, after all, my career in book publishing as an art director exposed me to the tricks that can be employed by food photographers, tricks I might add that across those 16 years I fought, with some success, to abandon.
So what you see here is exactly what I got!