We eat to live, but sometimes eating out can add even more to life. The ‘rest’ in the word ‘restaurant’ is for the deserving cook at home.
What makes a good restaurant? The menu is important. For some, the price is of no concern. To hungry bike trippers, their call is “Just bring it on!” You can’t eat ambiance, but if it’s special, the food tastes better. The attitude of the staff is important. The setting and the circumstances of a particular dining-out make for a very special experience, too. All work together to make a restaurant meal memorable.
Blackrock Castle, Kinsale, Ireland, a sweltering day in July 1972; part of a 45-day bike trip in the UK. The open door was inviting, so we peeked in. Wiping the sweat from my brow, my eyes adjusted to the dark interior. The coolness within was inviting. Linen-covered tables were set with sparkling crystal, silverware and candles ready to be lit.
Carefully set-out goblets were ready for the sommelier.
“A big mug of water with lots of ice” would be my order. I would then gaze at the River Lee down below and browse the menu.
Then reality hit me. The sight of two sweaty cyclists dressed in shorts and flashy T-shirts would have made the maître d’ roll his eyes toward the vaulted ceiling with displeasure. He would then inform us of the dress code.
Regretfully we pushed off. We had a jar of peanut butter, some Irish soda bread and a bottle of water in our panniers.
A flashback to a more recent restaurant experience: Wednesday June 6, 2018, Icefield Parkway of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. This was part of a 55-day loop drive in our VW Westfalia, that took us as far west as Port Alberni, B.C.
We’re in no way destitute, but I’m always reluctant to indulge in anything extravagant. I just wanted to use the washroom of the Columbia Icefield Altitude Restaurant. Passing by the glass door to the restaurant, I experienced a flashback to Blackrock Castle of 46 years ago.
The menu posted on the door included no prices. Bad sign. Dining room looked somewhat up-scale. A ma ‘n pa diner it was not. At first, I took the lack of customers inside to be a bad sign, but it was off-season and just the beginning of the day.
“C’mon! Let’s give it a try!” pleaded Juliet, tugging at my sleeve. I’m delighted to admit that my reluctance was mistaken. The waitress, Jay, from Chile, was out of a book titled “The Perfect Waitress”. She was attentive, efficient, cheerful, discreet and informative. From our window table, the knockout view of the Columbia Icefield across the road was straight out of a travel brochure.
Ah yes, the food! Generous portions, creative presentation, done to a turn; the accompanying fruit had never lived in a can. Beside our mugs was a bottomless thermos of delicious coffee that had just arrived from Colombia.
Back to the waitress: she wasn’t hired just for her good looks and pleasant manner. She’s also an obliging and skilled photographer.
The third memorable restaurant experience? So many to choose from! There’s already a crunch for space this week, so I’ll share with you later.