Andy’s logic seems sound.
There are a handful of restaurants in Pomena on Mljet. Most have full frontal views of a too-pretty-to-be-true emerald lake.
One doesn’t; it’s set slightly off to one side – just out of ‘well, wasn’t that a stunning sunset?’ range. We feel sorry for it. It’s going to be last in line when visitors choose where to dine.
That should mean the owners have to work a little bit harder to bring people into their konoba. Ergo, the food will be cheaper and better than its lakeside counterparts… so Andy figures. They also have a huge wood burning stove. Anything cooked on that is going to taste of summer nights in a fragrance-filled forest.
The logic definitely seems sound.
Then we meet the Slovenian waitress.
The Slovenian waitress has character, that’s clear. She looks like Lisbeth Salander… a significantly heftier version maybe, but she’s definitely got that Lisbeth thing going on.
She’s got attitude. That’s not a problem. We like attitude. Although a disinterested shrug of the shoulders when asked about things on the menu isn’t really endearing in a waitress.
We order the house red and a bottle of still water as we peruse a menu that doesn’t look as interesting as we’d thought.
Lisbeth brings us the wine… and a bottle of sparkling water. The water isn’t a deal breaker; the wine is. It’s corked. It’s seriously unpleasant.
Andy tells the waitress. She shrugs and walks away. We’re not too sure she understood.
A few yards away, in the kitchen, we hear her laughing and telling an unseen person (in English for some reason) : “They say it’s corked. I don’t know that means,” She laughs again; there’s a sneer in the way she does it.
It’s good to know she enjoys her job – she won’t be getting a tip.
A surly, burly man comes to the table.
“It’s good wine,” he insists. “It’s local wine.”
“We’ve had lots of local wine,” we aren’t backing down. “It’s bad. Taste it.”
I hold a glass up to the waitress and the burly man.
The man harrumphs and, without tasting the wine, disappears. He returns a few minutes later with a clear plastic flagon full of red liquid; our replacement wine. It won’t win any awards but it isn’t corked and is drinkable.
By this time we realise our logic is flawed.
We order a couple of unexciting meat dishes, nervous about what will actually appear at the table.
A young British couple sit at the table behind us. Lisbeth hands them menus.
“What’s the soup of the day?” The woman enquires, pointing to the entry on the menu.
“I don’t know,” Lisbeth shrugs and continues to look at the woman. The woman stares back, flummoxed. The silence creaks the night air. The woman breaks first.
“Err, could you find out?”
The waitress sighs loudly and stomps off.
Even if it’s the Slovenian girl’s first night, she must be in contention for the title of the most clueless waitress in the history of waitressdom.
She returns and tells the woman the secret that is soup of the day. The couple give her their order and the man also asks for a bottle of red wine for himself; she’s pregnant and not drinking alcohol.
Our meals arrive on tin platters. Andy’s shy fillet is covered in gelatinous mushrooms whereas mine is on the rocks. Given the waitress’s performance so far it could have been worse, although Andy is pretty sure there was no mention of mushroom sauce on the menu. The food is edible.
Behind us Lisbeth has brought the couple a bottle of white wine instead of red. The man doesn’t notice till she leaves the table.
“It’ll be okay, I’ll drink this instead,” the man insists.
“Send it back,” the woman hisses quietly.
“Honestly, it’ll be fine,” he doesn’t want to make a fuss.
We’re British, but we’re not as British as he is.
An awkward silence descends on the table.
By the time we finish our food and gulp down the last of the wine, the couple still haven’t uttered another word to each other. There is the unmistakeable aroma of a ruined meal hanging heavily over the table… and the starters haven’t even arrived.
Although we’re tempted to linger to see what further disaster Lisbeth can wreak, escape is the more attractive option.
We pay the bill and leave, vowing never again to try to apply logic when choosing restaurants in a location we don’t know.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+