Saturday, September 3, 2011
Since I live in Brussels, I try to bring visitors to good restaurants. I asked around and was told that Aux Armes de Bruxelles was a classic Belgian brasserie, so I brought two friends from London there for dinner, as it was their first time in Belgium. We were seated next to two English gentlemen who were eating moules. The lady in my party ordered them. Some minutes later the waiter returned to say that it was not the season for moules and that he would not recommend them. So she ordered another (more expensive) dish. I said nothing, but I know that almost all the mussels served in Brussels restaurants are farm-raised and are always in season. At the end of the meal, which was mediocre at best (we ordered expensively, including two bottles of fine wine), the gentleman in my party asked the waiter directly if service was included. The waiter looked him in the eye and said no. After he left our table, I told my friend that, yes, indeed, service was included — and it was even written so on the bill. He asked if he should leave anything additional, and I replied that I wouldn’t. So he left nothing. As we were leaving, the waiter fixed us with a malevolent stare, and I resolved then and there never to return and to warn others of this tourist trap.
Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more common. A recent survey indicated that at least 75% of well-known restaurants use frozen or pre-prepared food. And if you ask your waiter if what he’s serving is “fresh,” he will smile and say, “Yes, of course” — lying to your face.
So now I’m making it one of my causes to expose these criminals and put them out of business. I’m always interested in hearing others’ experiences as well.