Getting back to normal & Bero Restaurant review
V and I both left Nairobi on March 30, she in the afternoon on Emirates with an overnight hotel stay in Dubai and me at midnight straight through via Brussels. We both arrived in Toronto within 90 minutes of each other so I waited for her and we both took the same limo home. Jet lag is one of the few things that doesn't get better with practice. I awoke with a dreadful cold and bronchitis but am committed this evening to attend an event that I wouldn't miss for worlds. The company that I retired from as President a couple of years ago and whose Advisory Board I now chair, was awarded as one of Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies and tonight is the gala awards dinner.
Fabulous evening with Jim Cuddy and Blue Rodeo entertaining but by the time our award was given I was ready to sleep on my plate. Nonetheless It was moment of real pride to see a company that I had been part of almost from its inception grow and and succeed and be recognized for its accomplishments. Thrilled for my successor and the management team and thrilled to be part of the evening.
Long grinding week and jet lag and a bronchitis never far away. Daughter Di's birthday was on March 2, two days before we left for Ethiopia but her birthday dinner was cancelled as she was down with the flu at that time, so we decided to have a joint birthday on April 5 to celebrate both hers and mine. We picked Bero in Leslieville because the new restaurant reviewer who has replaced Joanne Kates at the Globe and Mail swooned about it. My first frisson of warning came when I called to say it was a dinner to celebrate a birthday and asked if they could put a candle in the desert or something to recognize the event. I was told that, "We don't do that sort of thing" and when I insisted that there must be something special that could be done I was curtly told that I should try telling the server at our table as they might be able to come up with something.
Put my nervousness down to jet lag and general crankiness and so we all showed up at the appointed hour to find the restaurant filled and our table waiting. That settled my nerves, after all if it was a less that pleasant experience, surely all these people would not be here. I should have paid attention to the fact that with the exception of V and I, no one else was older than their mid-30's.
Menu was a grid of 3 items in a row by 4 items long, so you picked one of the 3 dishes in each of the 4 rows for your 4 courses. Service was slow and the restaurant was noisy and my alarm bells were now louder than my surroundings as I watched dishes pass me on the way to other tables. As was apparent from the menu and passing dishes, emphasis was clearly on plating, food design, and some weird kind of ingredient creativity. Further the large, disheveled and sweaty man whose only duty seemed to be to take the plates from the kitchen to the tables and mumble an incantation over them as he delivered them was not in fact the cognitively-challenged relative of one of the staff who was allowed to do this only to integrate him into the world of low-requirement service jobs, but the chef. He never ventured into the kitchen except to pick up and deliver dishes and for the rest of the time he loured at the back of the room not making eye contact nor helping the busy servers.
Food was an unmitigated disaster and one of the worst meals that it has been my displeasure to eat, and remember we have just returned from rural Ethiopia. Chef delivered the plates, mumbled something about the ingredients and left as if he was embarrassed or ashamed. He should have been both, as well as Chris Nutall-Smith the putative reviewer for the Globe and Mail. All four diners at our table were appalled and none of us could understand how a reviewer could have been so high in its praise nor why so many people would continue to patronize it. It was clearly a hot spot, earning its reputation with reviewers presumably based on the interesting combinations of beautifully plated messes of discordant ingredients, and weird and unpleasant enough to be cool. This too explains the patrons who as a group needed to give themselves a good shake, wake up and cry, "He doesn't have any clothes, he really doesn't!"
Had I been alone I might have put it down to ill-health and jet lag but the feelings at our table were universally shared and we all left disappointed at a wasted and very expensive evening. It's a classic problem in child-rearing, the teaching profession and management; how is anyone supposed to improve when they are praised for abysmal performance.
Couldn't get out of there fast enough.