Friday, July 25, 2008

Auckland Day 2: Worst meal EVER

So, you know how I said I wasn’t awarding spatulas on this trip? Well, now I am, just for this one restaurant. I hereby proclaim: Soul Bar & Bistro is my first and highly distinguished ZERO SPATULA RESTAURANT.
Can you tell I’m pissed? I am. Soul came highly recommended both on the internet and by our hotel’s concierge. I was excited to go there. So the evening of our second night, we braved the rain showers and headed to Viaduct Basin, making our way to Soul.

The restaurant was buzzing when we arrived—the first restaurant so far to have a sizeable crowd. The host asked if we had reservations; we didn’t; he looked perturbed; he led us to a table anyway. He brought us menus.

We were examining the menus when someone who must have been hired from the local clown college to play the part of our waiter came over to tell us the specials. And by “us” I mean “my mom,” because he came to our two person table, planted himself facing my mom, and spoke entirely to her for about three minutes straight. Then when he asked us if we wanted wine and my mom indicated we weren’t sure, he took only my wine glass away. Hey guys! I’m twelve years old! Sweet!

We were ready to place our order, and Bozo the Waiter was nowhere to be seen, so the host eventually came over to take the order. I ordered an appetizer of buffalo mozzarella. My mom ordered the tuna nicoise salad. When my mom voiced that choice, the somewhat nervous host seemed almost afraid of what was coming, and he stammered out that the tuna was “Seared. Rare inside. It’s seared, so it’s not cooked through. It’s rare. Seared. But rare inside. It’s seared. Not entirely cooked. Is that how you want it? Because it’s seared. It’s seared, but it’s not entirely cooked.” GOT IT. THANKS. I am not making this up.

Finally, the orders were placed. We had requested bread to start, and as it seems is New Zealand custom (grrr), you have to pay for bread (the meals don’t come with a bread basket). So we had ordered a $4NZ basket of ciabatta. What arrived is below: two ridiculously paltry pieces of ciabatta, bolstered by two tiny pieces of non-ciabatta French bread. Nice, guys. Great value.

Wow. Extravagant.

Shortly after our bread, our food arrived. My very small dish came with two half-spheres of mozzarella, two pieces of basil, one green tomato wedge, three bits of roasted tomato, and two microscopic cubes of jellied olive stuff. First I tried a bite of the green tomato; it was stomach-turningly sour and astringent. To compensate, I then took a bite of the mozzarella, and what I expected to be creamy and smooth and delicious was hard (yes, hard), stringy, and gross. At that point I actually almost sent the dish back—I’ve never done that—but I decided I’d already given up on the place and just plowed through the albeit small plate to be done with it.

It looks bigger...and better...than it was

My mom’s salad nicoise was also small, but the piece of tuna was generous. We both expected an actual salad, but the garnishes were mostly shaved green beans. I tasted the green beans and they tasted disgustingly fishy. When I caught her showering the piece of fish with salt, Mom admitted that the whole dish lacked any flavor. Any flavor, that is, aside from olives, which were ground up among the green beans to flavor everything. She doesn’t like olives.

Raw and flavorless. Yum.

So, yech. But of course, there’s always dessert, right? That could save the meal! Hurrah for dessert! All of a sudden Bozo was back, and he brought the dessert menus. I immediately fixated on just what my stomach wanted: malt chocolate pudding with honeycomb ice cream and a white chocolate tuile. My mom vacillated but ultimately ordered a chocolate tart, just for a few bites.

I sat and was anticipating my cool, creamy chocolate pudding when our dessert plates swooped down on the table. Her tart looked lovely. My plate held a chocolate cake. CAKE. NOT PUDDING. GAHHHHH. Now, at this point, my stomach was way off anyway, and the smell of hot chocolate cake wafting up was literally nauseating (I know, usually I like chocolate cake, but you know when you’re expecting something and get something else, even if the something else is good, it’s terrible? Yeah. Like that). I was freakin’ pissed, too. My mom called over the waiter, said there was some misunderstanding, that maybe they had meant pudding in the British sense of the word or something… and the waiter had the AUDACITY to try to convince us that it WAS pudding, that if you cracked it open there would be pudding inside. NO. THAT’S NOT PUDDING. THAT’S MOLTEN CHOCOLATE CAKE. My mom encouraged me to order something else, but I was so agitated I just wanted to get the hell out of there. We told him to take the cake away, bring us the check, and when he did we bolted.

I’m not sure if this post really conveys the extent of it, but let’s just say being truly tired, being ignored and treated like crap by waitstaff, being served disgusting food (the mozzarella appetizer was the worst dish I’ve been served in a restaurant in recent memory), and then being bait-and-switched with dessert does NOT make a happy restaurant reviewer.

ZERO SPATULAS, SOUL. Dear readers, if you ever, ever, ever go to Auckland and even contemplate going to Soul, please don’t. For my sake if not for yours. It sucks.

Fortunately, my mom knows when palliative action is needed, and she took me straightaway to White, the Hilton’s restaurant (home of the awesome breakfast buffet), and got me a hot white chocolate mousse. For the record, it was delicious and powerfully sweet, but it wasn’t really mousse either—it was like a hot soufflĂ© with a liquid interior. The desserts are weird here.

This silly little dessert improved my night immeasurably.


Anonymous said...

Commonwealth countries refer to "dessert" as "pudding." Perhaps you should learn about where you're going before making assumptions.

Janine said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your polite comment, but that's actually not true. In New Zealand, "dessert" is called "dessert." And elsewhere we had seen American pudding called "pudding." When we explained to the waiter there that we might have been mistaken in assuming "pudding" meant "american pudding" in this case, he told us that we weren't mistaken-- that the pudding was INSIDE the cake. In any case, it wasn't what I was looking for.

Perhaps YOU should go to New Zealand and check it out for yourself!