Thursday 10 June 2010

A Pain in Spain....

Since the June issue of Grape Vine went out, several people have seen the latest list of wins worth over £500 and asked me "Who is Kevin Francis?" - in fact one reader has even offered to marry him.

Kevin is a very successful comper and the President of the London Competitors Club, having spent several years as club chairman. His lively wit and great way with words mean that he has always been highly successful in tiebreaker competitions, as you will see from this week's Guest post.

Let me set the scene for you....

The competition was in Harrods Food Hall andsponsored by Foods from Spain, and as you would expect from Harrods, the prize was very prestigious - a luxury weekend in Madrid staying in the Presidential Suite of the hotel, including one dinner and an Aqua di Parma goody bag. It was actually won by fellow LCC member Richard Hatchett -those of you who have been to an LCC meeting will have probably met Richard and me sitting at the welcome table as you enter the hall - and Richard took Kevin along as his guest on the trip.

Here is Kevin's account of the dinner that was included in the prize. Bear in mind that neither Richard nor Kevin eats meat.

So, I ask at Reception about the dinner we are supposed to have as part of the prize and the helpful girl books us a table in the hotel reception for 8pm. Big mistake. Nobody in Spain eats until 10pm so the restaurant was empty. No matter. There we were, waiting to look at the delicious menu and wondering what we would choose when a caprese salad turns up. Yum, one of my faves and what a nice gesture before we actually choose anything. Then the waiter returns with a massive hunk of foie gras. I tried to explain that we couldn't eat meat so he sniffed the foie gras and took it away. Out came another caprese salad. Yum, I thought to myself.

At this point I had requested a glass of Cava. We were supposed to have a welcome glass of champagne each upon arrival (which never materialised) so I thought I would treat myself to some Cava, hoping it wasn't €90 a bottle. One glass was poured and the bottle was snatched away.

Then the piece de resistance: back comes the waiter with two massive slabs of beef and a teaspoon of cabbage. I tried to explain that no carne meant no meat so the Manager comes along who completely understands and sends the beef away. I apologise profusely and say that I thought we would be able to choose from the menu. "No," says the Manager, "But you can have some fish". OK, I thought, fish is nice, let's have another glass of Cava. Along comes another caprese salad to show willing. What a relief that they understand and that we will finally get our main course. Mmmm, fish can be VERY nice...

Not this fish. This fish - hake - must have been found at the bottom of some elderly signora's freezer in Valencia. It was old, grey and very, very cold. And when I say cold, I mean still frozen and therefore completely undercooked.

Forget it, I thought. Roll on pudding and glass number three of Cava. Along comes the friendly Spanish waiter who picks up the plate of fish, sniffs it, frowns at it and disappears.

He then returns with another caprese salad. When I said, "Yum", I didn't mean that much "Yum" many caprese salads can a man eat in one evening???

Then the Manager returns and asks, "Would you like another caprese salad?" to which I said, "No, thank you, three salads are quite enough for one evening!" I picked up the menu on the main serving table and politely pointed out that we had (foolishly) assumed that we would have a choice. "NO!" snapped the Manager, "You will NOT choose! WE will choose!"

Alright, alright, ROLL ON PUDDING!

Pudding arrived and was quite nice. I can't really remember now. We were too keen to rush back to our suite to look for some food.

At least we weren't charged!

We also had to ask for our Aqua di Parma welcome gift. I couldn't wait to see what it was but they kept saying, "It is being prepared". Does it really take all day to put a candle in a bag along with two little tubes of bath salts?!

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