Monday, 26 May 2008

What's in a name?

Today, I lunched at the splendidly-named Jaf Jaf Ristorante (presumably Jaffle Jaffle Ristorante was too much of a mouthful).

The setting is...quite unique, set next to the M1/M62 with views over the motorway, and serves as an out of town restaurant for the lonely or lost, and resident eatery for the Acanthus Golf Club and Driving Range. The restaurant itself is quite lovely, all liveried chairs and elegant decor. Think local trattoria and up the standard a notch.

By contrast, the food is fairly ordinary local trattoria fare: pizza, pasta, chicken, steak, veal. The prices are eye-opening: at £8 or £9 for a pasta dish and upto £18 for a steak, this ain't the cheap end of the market - not in this part of the world, at any rate. And the food doesn't live up to that price bracket. Yes, there was a tremendous amount of minced beef in the spaghetti bolognese (although the dish that arrived was actually linguine bolognese). And yes, the texture of the fettuccine al ragu was pleasantly rough and chunky. The food, overall, was fine. But there was nothing that lifted the dishes that extra couple of quid: the sauces were ordinary, the penne with chicken and spinach was strongly synthetic, faintly unpleasant. The celery in the mixed salad was heavy with stringy bits.

I have already described the setting and views, which brings me to the service: irritatingly-bordering-on-amusingly poor. The constant interruptions from the waitress quickly became wearisome, and her incomprehensible supposed-humour and anecdotes sans point were simply something to be ignored, glossed over, expunged from memory. It wasn't a case of lacking polish, it was a case of of lacking anything to be polished.

Really, I'm genuinely not tremendously fussy. I've eaten at a lot of places of various sorts - restaurants, pubs, cafes and burger vans. I like simple food as much as fancy stuff, and I fully appreciate the principle of getting what one pays for: I do not set my expectations unreasonably high. But this restaurant just seems to be charging for something it doesn't deliver.

Great name, though.

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