The story is true, only the names and place remain private to protect the guilty parties innocence and I’m sure good intentions, despite my near death experience !
After 2 very pleasant weeks away in New South Wales and Victoria, Di & I were returning to South Australia and around dinner time, pulled over for a fuel stop and some tucker west of Melbourne. Adjacent to the servo was an eating ‘establishment’ which outwardly looked OK and the timing and convenience suited us fine.
We approached the counter to be served by a pleasant woman who took our order. She was obviously new to the gig as the menu prices were not ingrained, but that’s fine. After checking our selections from the diner she tallied our tab for 2 mugs of cappuccino, my Chicken Kiev (one of my ‘moist’ garlic favourites) and Mrs W’s Chicken Parmigiana. Money paid, we sat down with me saying “G’day, how ya doin’?” to the tall, slightly stooped employee mopping the floor in an almost rehearsed circular motion. It was almost as if the mop had inbuilt magnets and it was tracking over a floor template and the gent was simply adding a bit of ‘oomph’. Anyhow, my friendly gesture was greeted with stone cold silence. My instant thought was he missed hearing what I said (doubtful with my chords), was deaf, very shy or suffering a handicap. His ongoing mop tango and a fairly vacant gaze led me to believe the poor bloke was in fact the victim of some mental problem. My next thought was “good on the owners and him for the opportunity/desire to be actively employed”. I must admit his hovering around our table was a little off putting after a few minutes, as we had just ordered, sat down and now felt we should arise to make way for the mop, almost like a right of passage. Oh, nearly forgot. The other aspect of the cleaning regime was the method of mop/floor lubrication. He had a jar of water (I presume it was water) and a glass of water (again I presume it was H2O). The glass was for the occasional ‘sip’ and the jar was for a the occasional ‘tip’ of fluid onto the floor, after which the aforementioned “mop tango” would resume. We’re both starting to think after a long day on the road, is this really happening ?
Ah, another, pleasant older gent appears with our coffees, with the ladies tennis going ball-to-ball on the TV in the background. He tells me he’s got one good one and one not so good one ! But credit given, both hands performed well and no coffee was spilled. Mrs W returns from the ladies room and asked by our man whether she likes the tennis and whether the volume is a little loud. Yes to the tennis and No to the volume, in any case he fiddles with the remote and we think the volume went UP a tad ! Meanwhile, nearby, our man and his mop continues with the sip, tip and swirl routine. In fact, I overheard the older gent suggest to him he move away and clean elsewhere.
Back to the ladies tennis, our cleaner was obviously a fan. He quite regularly would stop if front of the elevated screen and observe the action. Not just observe, he had lip syncing down to an art form. With every grunt from the girls, he would on-cue go for a big “Ahhh”. At one stage with his rear silhouette aglow from the TV and the mop resting between his legs, his perfectly timed grunts to the ladies lunges was becoming a little off putting to say the least. But where’s our food ?
Just in the nick of time our front of house hostess come cook arrives with our chicken dishes and for the moment our mop man relocates to another section of the eatery. Both dishes smell and look good, with a nicely presented salad and chips, accompanying Di’s Parmigiana and my Kiev. We commence eating with the occasional grunt still quite audible in the background, both from the TV and the floor. Di starts on her parmi and I consume a few chips and some salad before attacking the very generous portioned, crumbed coated, dark brown Chicken Kiev. Di’s going well and I’m crunching on the first couple of pieces of the garlic infused breadcrumbs and chicken, when suddenly the chicken colour appears to change rather abruptly. This calls for my reading glasses for closer inspection, only to reveal around 75% of the large, inner bird to be totally raw in your usual pinky grey uncooked chicken state. My urge to cure my hunger is momentarily curtailed. Off to the kitchen I trot with bird in hand and complain politely to the lady cook. She looks mystified and politely apologies and says she will cook me a fresh Kiev. Meantime, I eat a couple of Di’s chips, she continues with her acceptable parmi and the grunting from mop man is still heard echoing through the rather empty restaurant. I’m fast realising maybe ‘why’ it is not well patronised. Anyhow, honest mistakes happen in life and after another 10 minutes, as promised, a freshly cooked Chicken Kiev (this time more of a golden brown, crumbed colour arrives) along with fresh chips and salad. Cookie again apologies and assures me all is now in order.
I carefully tuck in again and after 2 mouthfuls, it tastes great with the chicken cooked, the very tasty garlic butter flowing wildly and things back to “all systems GO Houston”. However, Mrs W suggests before I go any further into the depths of the chook’s offerings I perhaps slice the Kiev in half and check that all is good, all the way through. Good idea I thought, did exactly that and found this time 75% of the bird was cooked, with the 25% pesky, raw pink/grey bits cleverly hiding where thankfully I hadn’t ventured ! Un…….Believable. By this time, by the way, our man on the mop had run out of water for the floor from his jar, so his glass of water was now being employed on an alternate sip/tip rotation. Gotta give him 10 out of 10 for dedication to the task + creativity. This time feeling really pissed off, I’m back to the kitchen door with the second lot of uncooked evidence, stating this is totally unacceptable and dangerous and requesting a plain, thin schnitzel and salad as plainly Big Bird is beyond her capabilities. She looks mortified, again apologises and goes back to the challenge at hand. Around this time another customer arrives for menu roulette with a couple of kids in tow.
The schnitzel arrives with the 3rd lot of chips and salad and apart from the embarrassed apologies and stating she was finding things “stressful” (hey lady, how do you think I’m feeling !) Now running around 30 minutes late on the final leg of our long day on the road) a third bloke arrives at our table, introduces himself as the owner and apologises for the raw bird situation. He said it was a case of not getting the temperature and cooking time in sync. Maybe with his lip syncing prowess, the guy on the mop should be the cook ? Anyhow, after requesting a refund of the difference between the schnitzel price and that of the Kiev, he handed over $3.50. Obviously he made no money on my 3 main courses, however the final ‘safe’ dish was cooked all the way through and we just wanted to get out of there FAST. Should also mention, the owner stated he had “once or twice” encountered the same problem in the past cooking Kiev, ! Bet those diners didn’t come back for more, although the eatery does advertise “knife sharpening”. Now there’s an incentive to return !!!
As we are on our way out, we see and hear the owner talking with the woman with the kids who had arrived earlier, asking whether they would like to “try something else ?” with him suggesting “chicken” ! Oh, shit.
In hindsight, perhaps ‘Cuckoo’ instead of ‘Chicken Kiev’ would have been a safer bet for me, from the “One Flew Over The COOKoo’s Nest Eatery”. A long story, I know, BUT 100% fact, from ‘The Wright House’.