So there we were, sitting in a corner, on a table full of people we didn’t know, under a loudspeaker, an hour late, and looking conspicuous. Great start.
We were on a table of strangers because we decided that instead of choosing to sit with other parents we knew we’d take pot luck. Actually we could have been worse off, the small crowd we were with was quite chatty and we all got on quite well. Unfortunately for all of us, I think we were stuck in the corner because none of us were exactly major players in the schools political life. Such is life.
Anyway. When we booked we were asked what dietary requirements we had. The wife is allergic to shellfish, and I’ve been on this odd low carbohydrate, low fat… well low *everything* diet so we notified the restaurant in advance of this… and whilst we expected an expensive salad… we thought we would be reasonably well catered for. The Crowne Plaza, Baulkham Hills is after all part of a substantial hotel chain and has a reputation to maintain – you’d think. The couple sitting next to us were vegetarian so their needs were even stricter than ours. The guy to my right was a restaurant owner himself… and the others were just plain hungry.
The first course was served not long after we arrived and followed a new pattern of ‘meal delivery’ that essentially serves two dishes to alternate patrons. The ‘selection’ turned out to be chicken ravioli and/or rare beef with Thai salad. Now for me this wasn’t an issue I quite liked what was served… but of course I am on a diet so three pieces of rare beef the size of my top thumb joint was quite adequate. The wife was ok since she likes ravioli, but the restauranter began a grumble that was to continue all evening. The guy across from me wondered if it was a joke… and the vegetarians were gobsmacked!!
After complaining, the vegetarians were served what looked suspiciously like dishes of the sauce the ravioli was served in. The restauranter declared there was no chicken in the pasta parcels so they probably needn’t have been concerned to begin with.
After the entree the Junior School Captains and Year Six Student Reps began a presentation of life for the cohort of children that had been in Junior school from Kindergarten to date. It included a couple of PowerPoint presentations which were quite well done… if you could see them.
Where *we* were was probably at the maximum acute angle possible and still be able to see. Some of our table were sitting *behind* the screen so had to view the presentation by staring into a small mirror on the wall which of course made the writing totally illegible. More grumbling ensued.
Slowly the evening rumbled on to the main course which turned out to be a choice of steak with mashed potatoes vegetables and prawns or chicken with vegetables and Hollandaise sauce.
I pointed out to the waitress that neither option was acceptable and our dietary requirements had been made etc. Eventually they appeared with steak sans prawns for the wife… and steak with salad for me… so I enquired where *my* prawns were and they arrived later. The ‘vegetables’ by the way turned out to be a one inch round of courgette (zucchini) hollowed with a couple of strips of carrot and a broccoli floret thread through. The hungry guy opposite wasn’t impressed that my plate seemed to be full whereas his was empty in comparison! The vegetarians had been served first and their dish was the subject of several unsavoury comments about the virulent yellow colour and what it actually consisted of. Suggestions ranged from creamed corn to cat vomit… but after making hurried enquiries our new vegetarian friends discovered it was actually some sort of risotto and they continued to pick at it with little relish. Ah the joys of catering.
You’d think being a hotel with its own restaurant that it would have been easy to have called to the main kitchen to request a special meal for them since there were only two people who’s needs hadn’t been catered for… but this must have been too difficult a concept.
The night moved on and the disco started for the kids… and this is where the loudspeaker we were sitting under really came into its own blasting all thoughts of mutiny out of our minds… along with conscious thought of any kind. Gee it was loud!
We were supposed to getting a dessert of some sort as well… a choice of profiteroles or cheesecake… so again I again forced to point out neither was something I could eat. Eventually however, a plate of fresh fruit arrived… which I was then (sadly) forced to pass on to ‘the hungry guy’ since my diet doesn’t contain fruit as well! By now of course the vegetarians were getting militant and the wife stormed off to the kitchen to demand parity since they’d brought her and her partner nothing at all for dessert! Eventually they two were provided with a fruit platter.
The restauranter was still whinging about the food… the portion size… the temperature… and the cost. We’d paid $85 per person and he estimated the total cost of the food (ignoring overheads) was in the region of $4.
By now I was getting a bit weary. Partly because of the incessant unremitting noise of the music, and partly because of the continuous whining noises emanating from the table, so I went off to chat to the father of one of the daughters school friends who we know quite well.
My timing wasn’t so far out. Within 15 minutes the music came to an end and kids all around us burst into tears… well the girls did anyway. Slowly the evening drew to a close.
My daughter arrived at the table, face flushed from dancing, her eyes bright and shining with pleasure and looking like a million dollars. The traumas and problems of getting there… the odd seating arrangements we’d suffered and the strange catering issues that had arisen were almost forgotten and the point of it all came back home.
We’d been there for *them* to enjoy their final day as Junior School students, and to watch as these kids changed into adolescents. We’ve seen at least 40 of the 72 who were there, grow and develop from ‘miniatures’ in Kindergarten to these blossoming young men and women who will hopefully be tomorrow’s movers and shakers of Australian society.
I honestly would not have missed it for the world. It really was an evening to treasure. 😀