Pre-cinema supper for 7 at Royal China (http://www.royalchinagroup.biz/) last night, a place people have raved about and which is meant to be a rung above your standard high street takeaway place.
There was a time when pretty much the only foreign cuisine easily available to most Britishers was Indian, Italian and Chinese. This time was the 70s and we Britishers didn’t know any better. Your handsome Italian waiter was not in fact Guido from Napoli, but Keith from Romford. Your tangy lamb tandoori had a good chance of being Alsatian. And the fewer questions about your “special” fried rice the better. These paltry options set against the prevailing British culture of begrudging service and the inexplicable popularity of Babycham meant that in the 70s the pickings were slim.
Fast forward a few years and competition for our ungrateful faces is stiffer and the rewards for the hungry are many and varied. It is true market economics in the sense that, largely, the good places flourish and the bad places wither and die or adapt and improve. There’s simply no room for poor service, lacklustre dishes and extortionate pricing. But wait right there! You too can relive a time when you had to ingratiate yourself to surly, distracted waiting staff and endure tepid, unexciting food with the still fresh whiff of tupperware still dancing around your dish. Step back in time to a place where you can feel sexually assaulted in the place where you keep your cash. £162 for tossing Chinese food for 7 people. Did we have the scallops? The oysters? The caviar? No. We had 3 different types of rice, duck, some beef, lemon chicken. Look at the pictures. The food (misleadingly) looks appetising, but £162? Or was it £162? No. On closer inspection it was £144 + £18 service charge. For the place that has messed up the reservation, refused to apologise and then seated us virtually inside the napkin closet. So we all paid on cards apart from me. I paid in cash and didn’t get my change. The doucheknuckle just wandered off as if our business had been satisfactorily concluded. So they pocketed an extra £5 I’ve just calculated.
If you want to know why your parents beadily eye the bill in Pizza Express; if you want to know why they rave about cuisine in unremarkable restaurants; why they sickeningly ingratiate themselves with waiting staff; why they double-check bookings; why they pore over the bounteous menus and why they repeatedly patronise their favourite restaurants long after you’ve got bored with them and would rather saw your own face off than see your mum flirt with Guido again, you should now know why. In the relentless awfulness of the 70s, when Britain was in the doldrums there was no better emblem of the dearth of ambition and expectation than shit restaurants. Unless you’re writing a dissertation on the Winter of Discontent, I urge you to take heed and eat elsewhere.
China Royal sucks donkeyballs.