Was that dinner, or a vaudeville routine?

Alas, dinner at Meinl was a bust. The food was mediocre, but the service was appalling. And this, at one of the top restaurants in Vienna!

It’s a lovely place that looks out down the Graben (“moat” in German,
not “grave,” as I always thought), one of the beautiful pedestrian
streets in the city center. In the middle of the street there is a
great, ornate, baroque statue, erected in thanks for the city being
spared from the plague. I don’t remember exactly when that was, because
it did have at least 2 terrible outbreaks of plague. One of my favorite
(?!) sights in Vienna is the plague bones that are piled up beneath the
cathedral. They used to dump all the plague victims there, until there
were so many of them they couldn’t accommodate any more. I will spare
you the gory details of what they did next: suffice it to say they took
steps to make more room, and now the various bones are neatly
stacked–skulls in one area, femurs in another, etc., etc.–and you can
see them all on the guided tour. I do love bones and relics. . . .

The view turned out to be the best thing on offer at the restaurant.
The menu was more limited than I thought it would be. Skipped the
starter and went straight on to roasted lobster with, ever so oddly,
grapefruit risotto. The risotto wasn’t done at all; the rice was nearly
raw and looked and tasted like bits of chalk. Grapefruit is a nice
flavor to pair with lobster, but rice and grapefruit are a novel
combination, and that’s the best that can be said about it.

The Austrians are very proud of their wine industry, which is
becoming better known outside the country, so there was an extensive
list of Austrian wines. Since Sabine, my co-worker from the London
office with whom I teach this workshop here, was having beef, we ordered
a highly recommended Austrian red, a blend of Blaufrankish and cabernet
or some such thing as that. And it was delicious, dry and full.

The wine was, however, connected with the low point of the evening.
This, after we weren’t offered water or the wine list, and were rushed
to decide our order (curious, since the restaurant wasn’t nearly
full–that should have been a sign). As I was crunching my way through
the risotto, I noticed something in my wine glass that, well, didn’t
seem to belong. I called the waitress over and pointed out, as best I
could in German, a BUG. “Etwas fliegende,” said I, by which I meant,
more or less, “something that flies,” as none of my college German
extended to entomology.

Without saying a word, she took the glass and removed it to a nearby
table. Where she fished out the insect and set the same glass down
before me, otherwise intact, and again, without a word.

Clearly I would have done better by shouting, “Waiter, waiter,
there’s a fly in my wine!” and she could have taken up the routine from

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