It sounded delicious. Curried shrimp, prawns and mango, with sweet potato, chilli and garlic. Everyone else was getting burgers but it was my last weekend with the gang before university and I was feeling adventurous.
My hopes were high after thoroughly enjoying a Caribbean inspired cocktail. I couldn’t wait for my food: it being 9pm and me having not eaten since noon. My friends reminisced of the times they had been to Turtle Bay before, how they held the restaurant in high regard. But oh, how the mighty will fall.
My meal was last to arrive, by ten minutes in fact. Something was wrong. I looked for the crustacean I expected and found only a big wedge of meat. I was scared, confused, disappointed. I had been promised the world and been given a sea bass. Or perhaps a Hake? I don’t know, I don’t know much about fish.
So little in fact, that I questioned whether this was in fact shrimp. When was the last time I’d had a shrimp? Had I actually ever taken a good look at a shrimp before? Was this some kind of giant Caribbean shrimp, whose 30cm calf muscle I was sampling? Suddenly everything I thought I knew was wrong. What else had I mistakenly identified? What was milk, for example?
So I googled “what does a shrimp look like,” turned to my friend Murray, and pointed at my meat wedge. “This isn’t a shrimp, is it?”
Laughter was his response, but in my world of doubt I could draw no conclusions.
The waiter came over to ask how our meals were. He was the kind of waiter that believes he can remember everything without writing it on a notepad; like a carpenter who thinks he can nail down a floorboard with his fist. In other words, a terrible carpenter. “Everything’s great” replied my friends. Meanwhile, I struggled with my inner Britishness. He began to turn away, this was my only chance. I said the first thing that came to my head.
“Is this a shrimp?”
He looked at my quizzically.
“No that’s not a shrimp”
Oh God this is uncomfortable.
“Okay, well, I ordered a shrimp… and this isn’t it.”
One awkward conversation later and he returned with another meal, telling me this time it was “definitely a shrimp,” which was suspicious, as that’s exactly what someone who was lying would say.
Nonetheless, there was in fact a shrimp. Just no mango or sweet potato.
“Is everything okay?” he asked. I sheepishly responded that this, again, wasn’t really what I ordered.
“I’ll get the manager for you” he said, walking away. No, no, I beckoned, everything is fine, don’t worry, I don’t want to cause any trouble. But it was too late. I was to meet the manager, the chief. I was Luke, he, the emperor. This was my boss fight.
It is safe to say I lost. He knelt patronizingly next to me. I told him how the meal wasn’t what I ordered, but that really it’s fine and I would have just eaten what they gave me if it wasn’t also so spicy I couldn’t taste anything. He implied that maybe next time I should get something from the kids menu. I paid and got a wrap from Tesco.
Published in The Gryphon, November 2016.