I live in a small town. A nice town, with a little history, a few beautiful spots and a tiny area we call ‘downtown’. Some might say it’s a wonderful city. To be honest, it’s far from fitting the generous term ‘city’ and there are quite a few reasons why the locals don’t see it as all that wonderful. It is, however, the very centre of the country and that bestows a particular aura upon the region. (Look for Sibiu on the map below for reference.)
Image source : http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/images/map-romania.png
I like going out, I enjoy trying out new cuisine, discovering drinks and flavours, I love pegging new restaurants, bars or summer parlours – it is always a unique experience. Not necessarily a rewarding one, but always unique. How is it then that I end up a steadfast customer of very few places? The reason is simple: because I usually go out with the expectation of good service, good food and good drink.
True, when I drop my bag of bones on a rugged bench in a hood joint or sit down on a crippled stool to sluice my throat with whatever is cold on tap, I have no expectations. That happens seldom, though. I usually do not let my self-esteem slip through my fingers quite easily. So then, when I choose a newly opened esplanade café in the ultimately central centre of the centre of the country, and several things twist my lips into angry muttering, I will of course go back to one of my old places.
Here is what I am not willing to gulp down as a humble, unprotesting client: the waiter cleans my table by brushing the crumbs off onto the wooden-plank floor, turns the table map upside down, and then smiles contently ‘All set up, table is clean.’ He then brings one menu for two customers, leaves me gasping for a glass of water half an hour without a glance towards our group and … when I finally ask for the ‘Crunch Frappe’ presented in their poorly organised, incorrectly written and black-ball-point-pen corrected two-page menu, and I hear ‘We only have normal Frappe, not the other two.’, I have the unprecedented reaction of standing up, thanking for their efforts and going back to one of the cafés I actually know and enjoy.
Why would anyone put up with sheer disrespect, unsupervised personnel, inadequately conceived menu and make a complete waste of their Saturday evening by sitting quietly and uneasily, drinking what the bar has, not what you like or what the offer advertises and tipping waiters who are clearly not suitable for the job?! Is that modern wooing of loyalty?! Why would it then come as a surprise that I remain a loyal client of the few restaurants, pubs and bars that provide excellent service, great dishes, interesting cocktails, exquisite wine and superb deserts?
What is the difference between these two worlds-apart places? Their staff selection. The investment in menus that don’t fall apart upon opening them. The pleasant music instead of a loud continuously bumping noise. The fact that you can order anything they list on the menu and you won’t get a bored ‘Sorry, we’re out of that!’. The flattering satisfaction that you do not wait for half an hour before you are asked for your order. The gracious recommendations of waiters who are comfortable doing their jobs when inquired about restaurant recipes, wine details or extra cream for your black coffee instead of retorting ‘Dunno’ and ‘Can’t do that’. The fact that they maintain the same food quality, the same courteous approach for their clients for years on end while not going berserk on their prices. Those are the items on my personal checklist when pinning my favourite hangouts.
To conclude with, here’s where you can spend a few amiable hours when visiting my town:
Image source : http://goo.gl/lSFHgb
*** I promise to update the list in keeping with new discoveries and/or experiences.