Since starting this blog in 2009, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time writing up reviews on local restaurants, sharing info on new food shops, and generally speaking doing a bit to help promote Edinburgh’s smaller ‘indies’.
So, what’s the dilemma? Where’s the beef? Well, it’s a little thing called consistency. Actually, a rather significant thing called consistency. Last weekend I went along to the newly-ish refurbished Old Chain Pier for some fish’n'chips by the water.It was a simple plan. Mum and I both craved fish and chips. We both ordered the dish, very reasonably priced at £8.95.
Service was friendly, chatty, helpful. Everything you’d expect from a wee place on a not-too busy Sunday afternoon. So how the server (after kindly giving my mum a sample of their draft cider) could then forget to serve the subsequent pint that was ordered is odd. So was the non-appearance of some additional tartare sauce which I ordered halfway through my food.
What was good about the meal? The fish. The haddock was as good as you’ll get anywhere. Beautiful fish, the white flesh only just cooked, the butterscotch coloured beer-batter was the perfect crunchy pocket to protect the fish. A decent side salad with dressing, tangy mushy peas, and a nice wedge of lemon. Ah, what’s missing in this glowing description? The chips.
Ugh. Smelly from old oil (which thankfully, the fish evidently hadn’t been cooked in) and the wrong type of non-fluffy potatoes. Finding a bit with any crispiness at all was a challenge. They were that weird combination of over-cooked yet still solid in the middle but not crispy. I think they might even have been genuinely hand-cut in the restaurant , but they were hell in a fry.
So, back to that consistency thing. I don’t mean homogenised, generic chain-restaurant identikit food that you’ll find a million times over across the globe. But, there’s something to be said for knowing you’re ordering chips or fries and that they’re not going to be left to languish there on the side of the plate.
All right, so I can tell you’re saying to yourself, ‘bad batch’ ‘give them a break’ and other such rational-person stuff. When I mentioned the sad chips scenario to Mr Friendly-but -Forgetful waiter he cheerily replied to me ‘Ah, yes, it’s about 50/50 on those. Half the people don’t seem to like them’.
Pause. Let me get this right. You already know that 50% of the people you send these chips out to DON’T LIKE THEM? I don’t think that’s a particularly good success rate, if you don’t mind me saying. Anyway. Suffice to say that next time the wee fish n chips craving comes over us, we’ll stick with somewhere we’re at least 80% likely to get decent chips.
And as a complete co-incidence, this week I also made my first ever visit to Nando’s on Thursday night for a bite before a work event. From very likely humble beginnings, Nando’s is now an international chain of identikit restaurants, specialising in spicy chicken. Ok, so I took some convincing and had the urge to apply a disguise as I entered but the whole experience wasn’t that bad at all. The staff were friendly, explaining the menu concept which I patiently listened to (upshot: choose chicken, choose how spicy you want it, where it says ‘salads’ is the section with the salads.) . We had pitta pockets with decently cooked and flavoured lemon and herb grilled chicken, some average undressed salad leaves and chips. Regular, generic semi-thin fries, every last one of which was crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. I bet they’re like that every time, too…