An indescribably awful meal...

We were seduced by the cushions. They looked so 'authentic', colourful and inviting. We were choosing a restaurant last night in Istanbul. The dampness of one of the cushions might have alerted us to something amiss (as might the absence of any other diners). But most of our party were punch drunk after liberation from a four day workshop. The signs were ignored.

The waiter appeared cheerful, extolling the virtues of Manchester United and a stew baked underground in a clay pot and brought flaming to your table, where it is broken, liberating the said stew onto your plate. We ordered two of these.

Whilst waiting for the food, the dampness began to acquire an odour - of cats. They apparently liked the cushions and had made themselves fully at home in them, if not domestically trained to them!

We debated whether we should leave but the appetizers had arrived and were boundary acceptable.

The waiter had become yet more jovial. His favourite British TV programme, he declared, was 'Celebrity Tunes'. What did we think of it? None of us, though all British, had ever heard of it. He looked crestfallen, declaring that we could not be 'proper British'!

The cats pee was beginning to penetrate the noses of the sensitive (thankfully not mine) and two people found their trousers becoming suspiciously damp.

Like mesmerised participants in a horror movie, none of us moved!

The main courses arrived. The first - an indescribable splat of a grey-red substance claiming to be moussaka - was declared inedible and sent back. The second, a vegetarian casserole, seemed to be have been made with chicken stock. It was sent back. Third was a pile of 'meat' surrounded by cucumbers. This appeared to be edible.

The two clay pots arrived, surrounded by flames that appeared to be fuelled with diesel, and which the waiters showed no signs of knowing what to do with. Nor did the pots show any signs of having been buried. The flames swirled round. The waiters struggled. I thought one was in danger of self-immolation. A Japanese tourist took a photograph and hung around ghoulishly hoping for more. They were finally broken and a dark brown, watery sauce encompassing some kind of 'meat' slopped out. If you avoided the sauce and simply ate the meat, you could eat some for hungers sake. It was accompanied by a cold spoonful of rice and a mound of 'Smash' (re hydrated mashed potato, last encountered in our remote childhoods)! The waiter even called it 'Smash' in a tone that suggested it was some form of local delicacy!

At this point, distraction was needed, and we found ourselves recounting past experiences of terrible hotels and frightful meals, to much laughter. This episode could join them, eventually. At the time it was too disappointing (and frustrating).

The mesmerism finally broke and we paid (a reduced bill) and left. My last act was to warn off two Australian ladies who were about to sit down to 'dinner'.

We went elsewhere for dessert, and copious alcohol to drown taste, and dull the memory! 


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