The last few weeks have seen quite a flurry of best restaurant lists. From the Godfather, Restaurant magazine’s World’s 50 Best, to spin offs from Jay Rayner (The 20 Best Restaurants), The Telegraph (The Best Restaurants in the World), and Stylist (The Restaurant Hotlist 2013). Everyone seems to have been compiling a list.
And everyone seems to have an opinion. ‘Best’ lists are subjective, after all . And ‘best’ really depend on what you want from a restaurant: to flash your cash; be seen in the latest ‘it’ place; eat the culinary delights rustled up by your chef hero; grab a quick bite on the go; or simply to get a good feed.
Worst, however is a little more set in stone. No one wants a tepid dinner, soup slopped on their lap or to be made to feel that dining at the establishment is an inconvenience for the staff.
Which got me thinking about the worst restaurants I’ve discovered on my travels.
A raclette restaurant in Paris, where sizzling oil was dribbled on us at the table as we chomped through tough meat and over salted cheese. Eugh. The cold, fast food-style broccoli smothered in gloopy garlic sauce in Beijing which was pretty much was inedible. And a fixed price pizza restaurant in Venice, where we were cajoled into ordering extortionate wine and numerous extras, which was nothing short of dire (not to mention a rip off).
But one topped them all. Introducing El Galecon in Casilda, Cuba – the world’s best worst restaurant…
We were playing the yes game. Taking recommendations from locals and seeing where it got us. Beautiful roof terraces, dining on freshly caught fish in a granny’s farmhouse and a rather interesting Swedish-Cuban restaurant had lulled us into a false sense of security.
As our taxi bumped down the dirt track to what can only be described as a shanty town we should have known our luck had run out. And when we pulled up at a deserted pirate themed restaurant with a chef brandishing a cutlass from beneath his frilly shirt, we should have run away.
But we stayed. Forcing down overly fishy fish broth, attempting to chew over cooked (possibly) pork and recoiling in horror at the pound of cheese melted onto a fish fillet. All the time swatting away flies and plotting our escape past the pirate at the door.
Course after course of extras, tasters from the chef and, strangely, a few regulars kept coming. Dragging the meal out.
A few trips to the toilet, to dispose of the fish, and a handbag full of pork fillet later we made our escape. But not until the bill had been proudly presented to us in a miniature, mock treasure chest.