Team Dinner Nightmare
When my colleagues in Bremen booked dinner for a group of 16 of us at Bolero on the Schlachte, the city's trendy waterfront, a couple of weeks of uninterrupted sunshine meant they were probably quite confident that we'd be able to eat outside. Unfortunately the day before we went the good weather 'broke' and the heavens opened, consigning us to the inevitability of a table inside.
We planned to walk to the restaurant so that those members of the party who'd not been to Bremen before could have a look around but when we saw the weather, we threw everyone into taxis and drove to the restaurant. My first impressions were not good at all. Bolero looks more like a dark and gloomy bar than a proper restaurant and the place was so dark that we could barely see where to go. Luckily our table was right next to the windows so the lighting was better than elsewhere in the restaurant but it was still pretty gloomy.
Our table was split in half with one group on one side and the rest on the other. I suppose this was necessary for those of us seated by the wall to actually be able to get to our seats but it did restrict the discussions somewhat. Bjoern and Birgitte who had arranged the dinner had pre-ordered starters so nobody had to make any difficult choices other than picking their main courses. The bigger challenge seemed to be choosing cocktails since the list was extensive. A translated English menu was offered though this subsequently turned out to be the cause of a personal disaster for me. After about fifteen minutes, we all placed our orders and settled to our drinks.
Why are we waiting?
After about half an hour more we were starting to wonder what had happened to the starters. Having pre-ordered the food, nobody could understand why nothing had appeared. Bolero staff seem much more interested in selling as many drinks as possible rather than actually providing food. Eventually when everyone was starting to get annoyed about the lack of food, someone asked the waiter what was going on. He said that the kitchen wouldn't start preparing the food until everyone had arrived. One person had just turned up after riding across town on her bicycle and their excuse was that they didn't start until the group was full. Now I could understand that if we had placed a complicated order with lots of different dishes including some that needed to be served at exactly the right time – imagine an order for a dozen cheese souffles and it would be understandable but this wasn't the case. Another 20 minutes or so passed and the food eventually arrived and really wasn't the type of stuff that could be considered particularly time-sensitive.
First to appear was a large platter of nacho chips with melted cheese (preparation time surely about 5 minutes). Next were large platters of mixed starters – chicken skewers, garlic bread, giant green olives which tasted absolutely 'not right' (my boss said they tasted like spinach and she was right), bruschetta, strange cheese-stuffed dumpling type things, mushrooms and other bits and bobs. It was all a bit too much like a kids' party with lots of cheap, unhealthy and unsophisticated junk food. "Looks like Mum's been to Iceland", I thought to myself.
I had picked my main course off the English menu. I'd not especially wanted an English menu but the waiter insisted. It's a shame someone hadn't insisted on checking the damned thing. I chose the dish number 100 called 'Pasta a la Herzblut' which was apparently named after a particular restaurant in Hamburg. My English menu told me that it contained grilled scampi, basil-pesto, red chillies, peppers, onions, rocket salad and fresh parmesan cheese. It sounded lovely. What I received when the food eventually arrived a long time later didn't seem to match but by then I'd forgotten the details. My dish had no scampi and the sauce was cream based which really didn't seem to match my memory. The Polish colleague next to me told me she thought it was salmon and wondered if they'd run out of scampi. I poked at the lumps and they were white – I assumed some kind of white fish. The dish was much too big and too rich but since all I'd remembered of the description was scampi and rocket and I couldn't work out why those were missing, I just thought it was a pretty poor dish. I ate about a third of the food after I gave up trying to get the attention of the waiter to ask why there were no scampi. He wasn't interested in a Brit wedged across the table, trapped against the wall - he seemed to only be interested in selling cocktails and speaking German.
After dinner nasties - very nasty
The restaurant was really loud and unpleasantly so. My ears were hurting and I had a headache by about half way through our visit. These things were enough to make me reluctant to ever go back but when I got back to my hotel things went downhill rapidly with (sorry – too much information perhaps) explosive diarrhoea. Next morning I was still feeling bad about the mystery dish and so I went online to check the menu again. Sure enough, my memory hadn't failed me and the dish really was listed as having scampi and chilli. Then the shock hit me when I spotted the dish described next on the menu. It was an exact description of what I actually received and the nasty realisation hit me that I had been given a dish that contained chicken. I then double checked against the German menu and spotted that they made a horrible mistake and transposed the two dish descriptions. Off the English menu I had ordered scampi pasta. Off the German I received a chicken dish.
You may say "Well how can you be so stupid as to think it was fish?" and the answer is simple. I've not had meat in nearly 23 years. Not surprisingly I don't easily recognise it when I'm not expecting it. My colleague telling me she was sure it was fish had lulled me into a false sense of security. Clearly more than two decades of no chicken meant my poor guts went into explosive shock - hence the nasty explosive icky diarrhoea when I got back to the hotel. I cannot beat myself up over this mistake or I'd be really upset at being tricked like this. I have to put it behind me and I have written to the restaurant to tell them that they really must change the menu and that I'm really disgusted at the mistake. Two weeks after writing, they've completely ignored my mail so I feel absolutely no guilt at all about pointing out that this is a lousy restaurant that gave me chicken and can't be bothered to apologise.
Recommendation? Stay away
Even before knowing about the menu mistake, I would not have chosen to return to this restaurant. The food was cheap and nasty in style, the noise level was ridiculous and I didn't like the extraordinarily slow service but the nail in the coffin of any prospect that I'd go again was the chicken.