The Worst Restaurant in Earlingdale
Dear Sir/Madam/Creature of the night/Witch/Wizard/Living dead/Misunderstood monster/Other,
I am writing in reply to your sincere and unambiguous concern about the standards upheld here at The Earlingdale Eating House. I understand that you write to us as a high-ranking senior from the Department of Hospitality Standards and that you saw our recent review in the local newspaper, The Earlingdale Times. I understand and appreciate fully that the reports on the cleanliness of the premises, the manner of the staff, the questionable ingredients, the atmosphere and more might fill such a person of your stature with a sense of agitation.
Let me first accept your invite to attend our restaurant for an inspection next Thursday, being the twenty-first day of this month of April. Let me assure you that your presence will be welcomed with warmth, amiability, and a complimentary and hearty bowl of our famous squashed squachit with butternut squash broth. In the case that you might be uninformed as to what a squachit is, allow me to briefly detail:
The squachit is a small creature found close to the river and in the marshes of Earlingdale. It slightly resembles the sea creature known as the squid, which is partly where its name comes from. The story goes that upon the discovery of this creature, the man who wanted to name it could only think of the word “squid”, and began writing it down on a small piece of parchment but only got as far as the letters S, Q and U before one of the squatchit’s tentacles whipped out and wrapped itself around the man’s ankles, dragging him towards its mouth which can open to three times its original size when swallowing humans. It just so happened that the man belonged to the unruly group of monster hunters known as “Blighty’s Beaters”; they were out hunting with their ghastly and primitive weapons (wooden clubs) when the squatchit attacked. Looking on in horror as their comrade was swallowed whole, it is said that upon the same instant, one man shouted “watch it!” and another shouted “squash it!” and the name squatchit was born.
The men beat the creature to death with their clubs and carried it back into the town where one of them had the idea of boiling the creature and eating it. Thereupon they found to their utmost delight that the creature tasted very good indeed, and these day’s “Blighty’s Beaters” have a separate business selling squashed squatchits, and indeed, this is where we buy our own supply from.
It can take a little getting used to the fact that although the creature has died, its tentacles still wriggle and can even be felt within the stomach for some hours after consumption, but it’s delicious in our broth with butternut squash.
Before you grace our restaurant with your presence, it would only be fair for us to reply to the stories found in our recent review in The Earlingdale Times and to present our view of things. Firstly, calling us the “worst restaurant in Earlingdale” can be considered a shade misleading as there are only two restaurants in Earlingdale, being the quaint small town that it is. And for what Le
Grand Bistrot offers in culinary expertise, The Earlingdale Eating House matches and often exceeds in quality customer experiences, and above all, equality.
You see, you may have read in the news of late that Earlingdale Town strives to become a completely equal-opportunities settlement: “One Town, Many Peoples”. In striving to accomplish this, our mayor recently announced a new policy (voluntary at the moment in its trial period), in which employers should guarantee an interview for any job applicant who comes from what is known as a “disadvantaged background”. This focusses on individuals who are largely discriminated against, and as you will be aware, Earlingdale currently has a high volume of people who are thought of as
People with unusual characteristics.
For example, you may have heard about our head chef, Edward. Ed is a lovely fellow. He doesn’t engage in much discussion of any sort and has roughly half the wit of a fully squashed squatchit, but he’s dedicated to the restaurant, shows up almost on time and carries out his duties with professionalism. We’ve only had a handful of complaints (largely from other staff members) about his hygiene but we’ve had a meeting to discuss this and senior management decided that it was not within our values and aspirations as a business to point these things out to Ed.
You see, Ed is a zombie. He’s been working with us for almost a year now. He didn’t apply for the position himself; his mother, being in the midst of grieving for the death of her son, dragged him along to the restaurant and demanded that he should be considered for head chef. I remember explaining to her that we already had a head chef, Isabel, who we were very happy with, but perhaps we could consider Edward for a cleaning role. She then demanded to see Isabel, who made the mistake of extending her hand out to Ed’s in offer of a handshake…
Well, if you know much about zombies, I’m sure you can imagine what happened next without my having to detail at any great length.
As Isabel lost her hand that day, she was no longer able to perform her duties as head chef. We advertised the position and it just happened that Ed was our only applicant. You will have no doubt read the ludicrous article in The Earlingdale Times which suggests that other potential candidates were “hunted down” by Edward’s mother, “chopped into pieces with an axe” and “buried in a remote part of the forest”, but there’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that these bold claims hold any amount of truth.
So Ed became our head chef, and soon thereafter, resulting from the bite she received, Isabel also transformed into a zombie herself. Sadly, she attempted to consume one of the local lumberjacks, who swiftly chopped her head off in self-defence. Ed’s mother had the idea to commemorate the lady for her time at the restaurant by mounting and displaying the head above the diners with a plaque that reads: The departed head of our departed ex-head chef. You’ll see it when you arrive. It’s a lovely tribute to our dearly departed.
Since then, Ed has been a valued member of our staff. I will admit, sometimes he needs a bit of a shove to wake him up a bit during our busy times, and we often have to have several windows open (even in the middle of winter) to ensure fresh, odourless air circulates in the kitchen, and yes, he has had an occasional accident where he has bit customers and other members of staff, but like Isabel before him, I would give my right hand to keep him.
You will also have heard about the recent incident at the bar area. I must say, the way the incident is described in that dreadful newspaper is not quite how I remember it. I was behind the bar myself when it happened, and I’d like to take the opportunity to put the story to you in my own words.
It was late. We had a handful of regular customers in and we had just rung the bell for last orders when a stranger arrived in the bar. He was a young man, no older than twenty three or four. Pleasant enough fellow; I apologised to him and said that we were just about to close, but that we could offer him a single, quick drink, whence upon he ordered a Bloody Mary. We had another new member of staff on that night, Shirley, a young girl of only eighteen years. I had no reluctance in asking her to fix the man a Bloody Mary, and when I did I thought nothing of why she went down into the cellar. Probably needing to replenish our supply of tomato juice, I thought.
She arrived some ten minutes later with a filled glass before pleasantly setting in in front of the young man who had ordered it. He thanked her, took one sip of his drink and then spat it out all over an innocent bystander at the bar.
‘What’s the matter?’ I remember asking him. And then I saw for myself; the red liquid in the glass didn’t look like tomato juice at all.
‘It’s blood!’ the young man roared. ‘She’s given me a glass of blood!!’
Shirley was startled by this. She looked confused. She was staring at the man with an expression of sheer bewilderment, like a dog trying to work out where its owner had suddenly hidden a treat that was in his hands a moment before.
And then she said: ‘Well, that’s what you asked for, wasn’t it? A Bloody Mary?’
This was the moment I realised with shock and horror what might have happened.
‘Oh no!’ I said. ‘Shirley, where’s Mary?’
Mary had been preparing a barrel of whisky for opening in the cellar when Shirley had attacked her and collected a glass full of her blood. I found her down there gasping and panting, obviously in shock from the incident.
I never did explain to Mary that Shirley is a vampire. It’s often hard to find people who are willing to work late nights but the position suited Shirley perfectly for obvious reasons. She had only been trying to help the young man; nobody had asked her for a Bloody Mary before, she had never heard of the drink. But being a vampire and hearing the words “Blood” and “Mary”, her mind instantly went to where a vampire’s naturally would.
As for poor old Mary, well naturally she turned into a vampire herself but I’m sorry to report that she’s now dust; on her first day in her new form, being quite advanced in age and slow of mind, she completely forgot about it and walked out of her house into direct sunlight. But we still get the chance to chat now and then; if we stand in front of the tall mirror in the cellar and say her name five times she appears, but I wouldn’t recommend it as she’s become rather angry and violent of late (Especially since we filled her vacancy with a lovely chap who just so happens to be a poltergeist).
Lastly, you may also have heard about one of our waiters, Gnarles. At least, that’s what we have so named him. We found it a better name than “Snarls”, which was repeatedly suggested by other members of staff. The reason for all of the above is that Gnarles does not speak, but can often be heard snarling or growling beneath the hood he wears at all times. Indeed, none of us have ever seen his face nor heard him speak, and in truth, we cannot say for certain that Gnarles is indeed a he, except that his low growls sound more masculine than otherwise, so we refer to him as such. His entire body is veiled beneath the long, grey hooded cloak that he wears, but I somehow imagine him to have very long, slender arms with sharp pointed nails on the end of his hands.
Whatever he is, we know that he is certainly one of the beings which we would consider worthy of a guaranteed interview and adds to our number of staff members that we could classify as coming from a group of people who are discriminated against, which in turn makes us look good is good for a diverse community.
You will have heard some of the gruesome stories circulating around about Gnarles, and to be honest, it did take us a little while to really work out how to utilise his talents safely. Not knowing the type of creature person he was, we didn’t know what sort of situations that we might place him in could end up beng potentially hazardous. For example, we’ve learned not to allow Gnarles to take the order of any woman wearing a particularly pungent perfume; on more than one occasion this has seemed to set something off within Gnarles and he has unfortunately consumed the unsuspecting lady. On the first occasion of such an incident, the lady concerned was with a man who we presumed to be her husband (now widower). He was of course furious about the incident but we managed to calm the situation by offering him a complimentary dessert and fifty percent off his next meal at The Earlingdale Eating House.
We’ve also learned that Gnarles is attracted to those who chew with their mouths open, and this has turned out to be something of a double-edged sword; while our customers have been shocked to witness somebody disappearing up the dark passage of Gnarles’ hood, quite often the resulting mess of blood dripping out from his coat has been met with enthusiastic rounds of applause from customers who had been slowly losing their patience while being subjected to the slurping, lip-smacking sounds of open-mouthed chewers.
A final note to end my letter to you with concerns the type of clientele we receive at our restaurant, which again has been criticised in both the press and the community. As well as hiring people from all sorts of backgrounds, we here at The Earlingdale Eating House welcome customers from diverse and often marginalised groups. And in these changing times I think we all must learn to adapt and accept that these different cultures are now a part of our town’s society. When a group of zombies arrive for a meal it should not be frowned upon when our servers offer them a plate of boiled brains. Or when our basilisk friends appear it should be known, accepted, and expected that they must eat live food; sometimes this will happen at the table and sometimes they will have to chase down their meal. We should all learn that we must simply grasp hold of our own food and drink when this happens to avoid it being knocked over and spilling to the ground. We must be prepared for the screams of banshees, the wailing of ghosts and the howling of werewolves when dining among such a diverse range of peoples.
In closing, I would like to remind you that while you may have heard such terrible stories about our wonderful restaurant, I would encourage you to make up your own mind upon your visit here, and to remember that our staff are now made up almost entirely of people from marginalised backgrounds, and that this should be celebrated. In fact, it’s now only myself that doesn’t belong to such a group, and I am proud to lead such a colourful cast of workers in our fine restaurant. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised during your visit.
I must end this letter now as it has been a lengthy one and my hand is aching a little after a small accident with Ed. I have bandaged the wound and I am healing nicely but it pains me to be writing for too long. It’s funny, all this talk of our wonderful restaurant has made me quite hungry…
I do ever so much look forward to meating meeting you in the flesh person.
Brains. Sweet brains.