Steve Steinfeld, in the kitchen.
Steve Steinfeld, in the kitchen.
Image: Supplied

Following the official word from the president that we all had to stay at home and practise social isolation, I couldn’t wait to try out the new spot everyone seemed to be eating at, The Kitchen. An impressive rollout has seen one of these eateries pop up in almost every home across the country. Each with unique designs, layouts, and types of cuisines.

It’s a dreary Monday afternoon when I decide to visit my local Kitchen — tucked away down a passage to the left of the lounge, opening up onto the dining room. I wait in the doorway for a good 15 minutes before realising no one is going to seat me. The service patently way below average, I decide to settle myself at the counter. This new joint is open-plan and has adopted the trendy open-kitchen design seen in many top restaurants around the country, allowing diners to view the chef in action. No sign of him yet though.

There’s not a single waiter in sight, there seems to be no menu, and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps the establishment has closed. It’s at this point that a fellow guest walks in; they seem to have been here before and know how it works. They look at me oddly when I remark on the lack of staff, menus, or welcoming bread course. They make their way to the fridge next to the stove and open it themselves. It seems this place operates on some sort of do-it-yourself concept — another trend of late. I follow suit and do the same, opening said fridge. I’m pleasantly surprised by what’s inside — there are definitely no signs of panic buying but it’s well stocked and I see plenty of things I can’t wait to order once the chef comes in.

Considering the evident lack of staff, I don’t even consider looking for the sommelier. I rifle through a few drawers and find a corkscrew. I was eyeing the perfect ingredients for a puttanesca pasta in the fridge (hoping it’s on the menu), so decide to choose a wine to match. I take The Valley 2018 pinot noir out of the fridge. It’s been kept chilled — just how I enjoy it — one saving grace of this place. A few minutes later and I locate the wine glasses. All this is proving to be far more effort than a dining experience has been to date.

Overall a rather under-whelming dining experience. Shall return begrudgingly and out of desperation

It’s now been almost an hour and I have not been attended to once, nor does anyone seem to work here. I decide to take it upon myself to cook my lunch. Unearthing the dried spaghetti in a pantry behind me (the layout of this eatery has me baffled), I gather the olives, anchovies, capers, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and a wedge of Parmesan from the fridge before locating the olive oil and salt in yet another cupboard. I bring the pasta to the boil, throw together the sauce and plate it up myself, amazed at how a place that demands so much from the customer has managed to amass such a large and loyal following. One can only imagine my surprise when another guest walks in and helps themselves to my meal, but I let it slide, considering I’ve made far more than one person can eat.

I finish the meal. All hope of any assistance has been lost at this point, so I take it upon myself to clean up. I make myself a single espresso from the unmanned coffee machine and take a (hopefully) complimentary biscuit out of the jar next to it — it’s the least I deserve after all the effort I’ve been through.

Overall a rather under-whelming dining experience. Shall return begrudgingly and out of desperation.

This piece is the result of one restaurant critic’s desperation at not being able to get his weekly dose of dining out. Stay safe, stay home, look after one another, and spare a thought for the hospitality industry, which will be one of the hardest hit during this time of crisis. Please support them in any way you can.

 From the April issue of Wanted 2020.

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