The Restaurant Lottery!

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I have found eating out to be a lottery and often there is no guarantee of quality by spending more. I am sure that I have much support is saying that there is nothing that makes the spirits sink than spending money on a disappointing eating experience. I try to take time to select the venue and am getting better at detecting those that promise much from the outside but deliver little on the inside. We recently had such an experience and I should have taken note of the warning signs. However, after a long journey we were tired, and although we traipsed a few streets to find an entising restaurant that would satisfy our hunger and mark the start of a good holiday, we were to be sorely disappointed. The restaurant in question is Bodega La Plancha in Saint Jean de Luz in South West France. To begin, the waitress who led us to our table was sullen and one could easily detect that she didn’t want to be there. At the point we were shown the designated table, we should have declined but the restaurant was filling up and I didn’t want to make a fuss. My son always gets embarrassed and that would have got the evening off to a sullen start. So, wedging ourselves into a corner and after apologising to the other eaters who we had to jostle around to get ourselves seated, we waited for the waitress to return. The wait was long and I had to gesticulate wildly to attract attention – further cause for embarrassment on the part of son, Jonathan! It was quite clear that, as far as the management were concerned, the sale was in the bag and the priority was just to fill all the tables. The waiting staff were well versed in the art of ‘ignoring the customer’, as they moved, eyes down, with rapid speed between the tightly packed tables. It was an exhausting experience from beginning to end and the food did nothing to make up for the noisy and frenetic environment. We paid the excessive bill and retreated feeling ‘ripped off’ and exhausted.

Conversely, in the same town an evening later, we had an excellent evening as we savoured several courses from the ‘gastronomique’ menu at Restaurant Zoko Moko. The environment was comfortable and there was no piped music! The gentle bubble of conversation and sounds of enjoyment were enough. And for this outstanding fayre, we didn’t pay much more than the previous evening. Let photos tell the story!

Le tout Canard.
Morue de ligne facon Viscayenne, piment padrones, ail rose.
Boeuf de Pays Basque, la joue en Basquignon, le filet juste saisi, condiment bearnaise.

Washed down with a chilled Sancerre, each mouthful was tantalising and totally satisfying. Each plate displayed the chef’s passion and commitment to his art.  Truly a moment in heaven!

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