Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tis the season to be merry - #1

No, I didn't mean jolly. Although I started off jolly as I left to drive into town yesterday morning just before lunch to meet up with an old team of mine for the first of several Christmas "dos", the last one of which won't take place until January 28th. Don't ask.

I had intended to catch the bus, thereby giving myself maximum flexibility to get bladdered or not, as the fancy took me, and depending on how the party panned out. You know how it is. Sometimes the sparks fly and you're really enjoying the mood, other times you can't wait to get home. A combination of another bitterly cold day and the probability of rain made me realise (a) I didn't really fancy the 20-minute walk from Piccadilly and (b) I wasn't really that bothered about having a lot to drink. That, and the fact that the restaurant I was heading for is surrounded by a multi-storey car park, meant the car was the obvious option.

This particular do was the "VME" Christmas party, so named because it's organised by, and ostensibly for, those people who are still working on VME. Many years ago, and for many years, I was one of those people. I still know a lot of them quite well, but more to the point their senior PA is also the lady who ran our office when 40 of us, followed shortly by another 40, branched out into the scary new world of Microsoft technologies a little over 12 years ago. That team is no longer together either, but since many of us came originally from the VME team, we share a history, and therefore a Christmas do. For most of us it's the only day of the year when we get together, because the majority of the original members (of either team) have moved to other companies, other parts of the same company, or retired, and even those who now work in the same building don't see each other very often owing to the overly paranoid security locks on all the internal doors, which admit staff only to the floor for their own department.

Today's meal took place at the modestly named "Glamorous" on Oldham Road, an establishment which I had visited on a couple of previous occasions and which can usually be guaranteed to provide mass catering on a huge scale and at extremely high quality.

Has it changed hands I wonder? Or chefs? Or is the credit crunch biting? I certainly don't remember the Christmas meal being this piss-poor in previous years. Two small scoops of chicken and sweetcorn soup, followed by some sad looking dim sum (paper wrapped prawns, spring rolls and ribs). OK, the ribs were excellent, but the rest didn't do much for me. Little did I know it was about to get worse.

Aromatic crispy duck was optional on the menu at an additional charge of £3.50, and owing to having a minimum requirement of two diners (per table), it had been left to us on the day to organise. Regular readers will know I'm an ardent lover of crispy duck. I'd be happy if that was the ONLY thing on the menu. So I was fortunate - I thought - to find four other duckophiles on my table. So we coughed up our £19.30 (10% service charge mandatory) and awaited our pancakes. 13 sad, cold, dry little pancakes between 5 of us. Two tiny plates of shredded leek and cucumber, and less than half a duck. Clearly, having left the ordering until the day, the restaurant had been caught on the hop by the popularity and run out. Instead of coming clean and saying "we've run out, sorry" they decided to fleece us of our £3.50s and spread what they had between all of us.

The mains were a disappointment too. No large, steaming bowl of rice for each table. No. A cold plate, with a handful of tepid rice (which was cold by the time the food was served).

That's another place to strike off my list of acceptable eateries at Christmas. But! All was not lost, for it's a truism that if the only thing you're going to a Christmas do for is the food, you're bound to be disappointed. The company is the thing! The craic! And boy, did we have some craic on our table.

After lunch we decanted to the Crown & Kettle for a pint. No offence, but what a dismal little hole this is. Sadly, what few sparks were flying at this party were extinguished as soon as we set foot through its dingy door onto its bare, dirty floorboards. I cracked an inward smile at the irony of the drink I ordered - a pint of Flat Cap - quaffed it as quickly as I could and beat a hasty retreat. Sincere apologies to those luvverly people I was sharing space with. Had the food been better, the watering hole more comfortable, and the weather warm enough to walk, I would have loved to stay longer. Next year, maybe?

1 comment:

Don said...

Sorry. The duck's off. How about some lovely Waldorf salad?