We had just settled down when the kitchen exploded. It broke with a noise, well, a noise not unlike a high-end restaurant kitchen exploding.
The waiter, who had but five minutes earlier taken our orders, rushed out into the throng of startled customers. “Everything’s fine”, he said, his British instincts kicking in. Being British ourselves, we didn’t question this statement; these were the words of authority, released through a stiff upper lip. Which was, coincidentally, what I had as a main course.
You see, the kitchen staff were, in typical British fashion, mortified that they might not be able to provide for their diners. Falling on their swords wasn’t an option – swords weren’t allowed in the workplace (some nonsense about health and safety), and besides, very few chefs owned swords, what with it being an archaic piece of weaponry. And so, partly in desperation, partly in ’96 Cabernet Sauvignon, they were cooking their late co-workers.
The couple on the table next to us were presented with a pile of waiters’ fingers, served on a melange of plaster, shrapnel, and wedding rings. I was surprised to find myself feeling almost jealous; my lip of sous chef in a sauce of red wine and tears paled in comparison. And in tone, as it sat there untouched.
“Is everything okay, sirs?”. The waiter had returned to our table. Until this point, the patrons had been silent, watching the specs of concrete that had formed the main wall of the kitchen fall to the ground.
“Erm, no, actually” Michael started. The tension in the room was palpable, electric, elastic. “I would quite like some salt and pepper.” The waiter breathed a huge sigh of relief.
“What did you say that for?” I hissed “You aren’t seriously going to eat it?”
“Look,” said Michael “If they’re going to pretend that the situation is perfectly normal, the least I can do is play along.”
“You’re going to eat it?!”
“Yes, and then I shall order desert and settle the bill. It’s British fashion – you have to be polite”.
In the deathly silence, Michael’s comments had been heard by all of the other patrons. There was a murmur of agreement – they were, indeed, British and it was their responsibility, nay, their duty not to offend their hosts. Conversation resumed, punctuated by the clatter of steel on ceramic, and the occasional cough as someone bit off more alabaster than they could chew.
Michael was true to his word. After finishing his braised waiter, he ordered a slice of chocolate gateaux, which he ate despite the dusting of particulate concrete, and settled the bill. As we walked out onto the street, I was shaking slightly. Michael looked at me with a mix of pity and contempt. “Look, mate, trauma is so not in. Blasé’s where it’s at. Also, think it’d be a good idea for you never to mention this to anyone.”