Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The end of an era

Well, last night’s Italian experiment – a dish combining fennel and lambs’ kidneys – didn’t really produce a sense of culinary excitement, so there isn’t really much to report on that front.

If I manage to cook much this evening, it’ll be late and simple: in other words, probably pasta.

The reason for this is that after a little swap to help out a fellow bar steward, I have a shift in the staff bar this evening. Not just any old shift, though: my final full shift before we all move to a bright and shiny new building with a café-bar that will be run by the same people that currently run the ‘deli bar’ here and will running a rather more ambitious food service over the road.

The new kitchens are incredible – I had a chance to look around a couple of weeks ago. And it will certainly give the team vastly improved facilities. Having just a single hob at present is ridiculous.

But I remain sceptical, and not vastly encouraged by scatty little back-slapping comments on a company Facebook page about the new ovens meaning that they can bake bread and cakes: for goodness sake, they cannot currently ensure that the slices in a bag of factory bread are not stale when they get them out to make a sandwich! And they spread pizza bases with marg – a piece of knowledge that makes me tremble in horror every time I recall it!

I feel a kind of guilt complaining about the canteen, because I don’t want to seem to be ‘nasty’ to the staff, who are themselves close to being colleagues.

But that’s actually rather poor, because however well-meaning and pleasant they themselves are, the service that they provide is generally pretty dismal. I did raise much of this in a survey that I mentioned here last year, but have had no feedback on that and have seen no indication of positive change.

And it’s not just me. A colleague observed earlier today that she won’t even have a basic sandwich from there now as they’re so poor, even when made in front of you, while another colleague noted recently that, if one of the staff goes to open a new bag of bread to make him a sandwich, he asks for the third and fourth slices down in order to avoid the stale ones that invariably seem to be at the top.

If things really do not improve, then complaining will have to happen.

But back to my bar shift. I may have an odd hour to do next week when we bid our final farewells to the bar with a couple of big socials, but this is the last time that I will spend three and a half hours (if I have customers!) playing my choice of music.

This is often an eclectic selection, ranging from pop/rock at the beginning of an evening, when I’m more conscious of what the majority will appreciate, to show songs as sobriety recedes and bursts of Wagner, played loud, as an aid to clearing the place at closing time.

For anyone who has not been visiting this part of cyberspace long, here’s a little description of a typical Friday night in the bar. It gives a useful flavour, I think.

So we will miss the place – and have to find ways to put our stamp of bonkerness on to the blank, corporate space that awaits.

In the meantime, tonight I shall blast the air full of a variety of tunes – including some that possibly should be classed as ‘guilty pleasures’. But I shall do so with nary a note of embarrassment – armed with a bottle of proper Czech Budvar close to hand.


  1. The prices - and or course the inestimable service - are being commented on longingly here in Liverpool docks.