Happy Meal We’ll Never Forget
Let me tell you about one of the most memorable meals we’ve ever eaten. I say it was a happy meal but really, it was a hilarious meal.
Years ago, Ruth and I decided to take our work friends out to dinner to celebrate another happy year together. Ruth picked a place called the Red Lion, which happily no longer exists. But even then, it was barely there. Tucked behind an old pub, it could only be reached down a long corridor and round a bend. There you entered a dimly lit room, totally curtained, with seven round tables.
“Good evening. Happy you could make it. Do you have a booking? Oh yes, Feeger. Yes, follow me,” said a tall effeminate gentleman in jeans.
We followed the two steps it took to get to the table, then proceeded to sit and get settled.
“Steven will see you shortly to take your orders.”
A while later, Steven strolled over to serve us; or at least, take our order. Only problem was, the very camp Steven looked like he had been getting a bit too merry with the cooking sherry. So all he could manage was to point toward the blackboard menu and sway.
There were only four mains available. Seated in this sparse room with a woozy waiter struggling to keep his feet, left us wondering what we were in for.
“Okay. Ah…what’s the Moroccan Chicken like?” one of us asked.
“Oh nooooo,” Steven intoned “You can’t have that. Gone off.”
“Fair enough. What about the lamb?”
“No, that’s off too.”
“Alright. The red chicken sounds interesting. What’s it like?”
“Oh it’s wicked!”
“Right. But what’s in it?”
“Well it’s very hot and wicked!”
“Fine. In that case what about the foogooth?
“Oh, that’s wicked too!”
“Whatever. We’ll have that then.”
Weird as it was we were just happy being together, so we laughed at everything. “Fair enough” I said, “We’ll have three foogooths, and two red chickens then.”
Steven struggled to comprehend this order so he spent the next few minutes teetering next to the table, writing it all down. Eventually, he staggered away.
The couple across confided they couldn’t believe it was a real restaurant, as it felt more like something from Faulty Towers. Whilst it was odd, we didn’t fuss; being happy to laugh it all off. Besides a few of us had some wine so that was a fine way to pass the time. Still, after thirty minutes we were wondering when dinner would come.
Forty minutes, fifty, and then an hour went by and we weren’t feeling quite so happy. Eventually, an hour and a half later, the food finally came. Teetering with plates in hand, Steven entered, trying to look serene. Theatrically he announced, “There you are. Your foogooth and red chicken!”
The rest of the restaurant looked on with interest.
Despite the fact that the foogooth and red chicken looked identical they tasted fine. The only catch was that mine hadn’t arrived on time as Steven had somehow forgotten. Politely, after waiting another fifteen minutes, I asked the tall gentlemen in jeans when my meal would be coming. Concerned, he assured me it would all be taken care of and strode off kitchenward. Moments later, we heard a loud shriek, followed by shouting, the clattering of broken dishes, and loud wailing. Some forty minutes later, after everyone had finished and were waiting to go, the slightly whimpering and dishevelled Steven delivered my dish.
Meanwhile other patrons had arrived and were also trying to choose. Would they be happy with the wicked red chicken, or should they opt for foogooth or not? Most people simply laughed; happy to go with the quirky strangeness of the place.
But not everyone was amused. Two tables away things got heated as peeved patrons began complaining. Having spent the evening fondling guest’s wineglasses and downing their dregs whilst declaring, “Isn’t it nice?” the tall gentleman in jeans got embroiled in a shouting match. Happy as we were to go along with things, it was hard to ignore the tension of a verbal brawl.
Given two couples had already left in a huff, Steven didn’t seem surprised we skipped coffee. Quickly slipping us the bill, he and the tall gentleman in jeans disappeared. Completely. After waiting half an hour we placed our payment onto the private desk and left, laughing about what a shemozzle the evening had been.
That was Friday. Next Monday morning our work answering machine had this message:
“Well. You came to our restaurant on Friday night. You ate and then you left without paying. Let me tell now that houses do burn darling, and we know exactly where you are…[Click]”
Funny as it was the threat was also disturbing, so we reported it to the police, just in in case. Several days later, we received another message from the tall gentleman in jeans, declaring what a dreadful mistake it all was and how happy he would be to welcome us again.
Some six months on, one of us rang a radio talk show, about people’s most memorable restaurant experiences. Needless to say he was the happy winner of a bottle of wine for his tale. Even though the talk show host professed to not believing a word of it.
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