Are you trying to be funny?

Posted November 07, 2017

Are you trying to be funny?

Picture the scene. A small harbour restaurant in the south of France. A nervous young waiter. 

It is clearly his first day and he is visibly trembling as he approaches my table. He says he’d like to present me with an amooth booth. “Pardon?” I ask, looking puzzled. He repeats what he’s just said. It is only then that I notice his lisp. I realise he’s talking about an amuse bouche, a small savoury appetiser designed to tease my palate. Deep embarrassment all round. 

The poor guy is even more anxious now. The appetiser wobbles precariously on its little plate as he sets it on the table. I manage to get a hand to it to prevent it from sliding on to my lap. More embarrassment. He apologises. I say not to worry.

The maitre ‘d has been observing everything. He doesn’t look at all amused, which is ironic. When the young waiter returns to his station, he is taken to one side and given the verbal equivalent of a cuff around the ear. I feel responsible. 

Fast forward ten years to Bibendum, the iconic restaurant in South Kensington, London. I'm there for lunch and am looking forward to sampling the delights of its celebrated French chef, Claude Bosi. 

From the outset I can see that it is a slickly run operation. The staff are attentive and well trained. It is the sort of place where you immediately feel you are in safe hands. I settle in to enjoy the meal.

Before long, the tiniest amuse bouche I’ve ever seen is placed before me. It looks like a solitary green olive, served up on a mound of pebbles, beneath a miniature olive tree. Whatever next, I wonder? One pork scratching nestling in a polished pig’s trotter? 

I’m so busy ogling the restaurant’s stunning blue stained-glass windows that I miss the explanation that goes with the appetiser. All I hear is something about a surprise in the middle. 

I sit pondering how to eat the ‘olive’. Should I use the miniature spoon it is resting on to transport it from the bonsai arrangement to my mouth? What if my hand shakes and it rolls off? In the end I pick it up it with my fingers. In the mouth in one go? That seems indelicate; I decide to nibble it instead.

I bite in. Big mistake! Liquid oozes from its centre. It dribbles down the side of my mouth and on to my blouse. I still have no idea what is actually in the amuse bouche as most if it is now over me. I discreetly wipe myself dry with my napkin. Unfortunately the man at the next table has seen it all. He tries valiantly to stifle his laughter but fails. 

Deep embarrassment for me … again.

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