• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Why there's a big Melbourne welcome waiting for Scots coming to cheer on Andy Murray

Melbourne is a fantastic, vibrant, exciting city which regularly tops the world's most liveable polls.

Renowned for its agreeable vibe, cultural diversity and innumerable restaurants, cafes and trendy pubs, it's soon to become party central for thousands of Oz based Scottish ex pats, every single one intent on seeing if their boy - Big Andy Murray - can do the business in the upcoming Australian tennis open.

I'm not exaggerating. Even though tennis has never been our game - come to think of it, neither has winning - when the unbelievable happens - when one of oor ain turns out to be genuinely world class - and Big Andy is - when one of us is actually holding a world trophy in his mitts - we're all of us in there with the heid doon, the kilt birling and Lion Rampant flying.

And no better place to do it in than Melbourne, in all truthfulness.

This town has the lot - great weather - coolish by Aussie standards and all the better for that - quirky inner city suburbs, fabulous shopping if that's your designer polly bag, trams, the beach, sunshine and great, great food.

Yep, the food is damn good in this town. In fact, at the risk of sounding a bit like the great Harry Towb in those early Tartan Special ads, the municipal catchphrase could well be - 'Melbourne, your food is good'.

Greek, Italian, Abyssinian, Martian (I might have made that one up); every possible form of cuisine can be sampled here, including but not limited to: nouvelle, modernist, culinary, experimental and something called molecular gastronomy which sounds like a nasty stomach ailment but apparently isn't. (Or possibly is).

The point is - this town is a foodie's paradise. Rab Haw the Glasga Glutton would have burst his simmet.

Sounds great doesn't it?

And it is, by and large.

However, there's always a fly in the ointment, or in the tripe and saffron soup - and the big fat greasy blowie in this particular case is the standard of customer service.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Melbourne waiters and waitresses are rubbish.

Not all of them. Dotted around the inner city suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood are a goodly number of long-standing traditional Italian, Greek and Spanish restaurants where the service is as good as anyone who's dined in the eateries of Fuengirola, Corfu, Portofino or Saltcoats will readily testify.

The waiters in these places are generally older people, male and female, efficiently working away in the family business, servicing dozens of tables with nary a cock-up, waiters who really do know their onions, pasta and taramasalata.

The problem arises in the so-called happening cafes and boutique pubs, where your waitperson is likely to be a student or resting actor far more intent on checking out his (or her) profile, tattoos and whacky style of attire than he is in keeping the customer satisfied.

In one such establishment the other day, my waiter made a big play of not taking down my order, rather committing it to memory, because a pad and pencil is just not cool, dude.

Rob duly forgot to bring my main, no doubt due to the fact that he hadn't written it down.

'I'm actually an actor', he confided in us, apropos of nothing at all, which only leads you to imagine that if Rob ever does get a thespian gig, he might struggle to remember his lines, even if he only has the two words like, as in this case, 'steak pie'.

The Rob chap was consistently impossible to summon until a group of young good-looking girls came in, when he suddenly pinged on like a light bulb, giving everyone his full range of histrionics, which were basically a bit of flouncing, a bit of posing and a lot of me, me, shenanigans.

The girls, as it happens ordered up a table of lattes, which to Rob's credit (or something), he managed to get spot on.

Funny, that.

'I'm actually an actor' I heard him tell one of the girls since it was obviously a line he'd spent a bit of time on and which inspired my dining companion to suggest that maybe he could at least act like a half-decent waiter and bring us the dessert menu.

Sadly, this isn't an isolated incident in Melbourne.

With the few exceptions I've already highlighted, service is generally awful, a direct consequence no doubt of rubbish wages, non-existent training and the complete lack of a credible career structure.

Which doesn't really add up. After all, surely the hard part about running a food outlet is the actual cooking, the stuff that happens in the kitchen, getting it out is difficult, putting it on the table should be, let's face it, as easy as pie.

But no. Mistakes, forgotten starters, interminable waits, rudeness, ignorance and general disregard seems to be de rigeur in Melbourne, a major irritation which consistently spoils a pleasant evening far more comprehensively than an over or undercooked steak.

So, there you have it.

As Big Andy's Scottish fans congregate inside the magnificent Rod Laver arena, then spill out into the nearby animal fleshpots to (hopefully) celebrate victory, they'd do well to remember that when it comes to service, your average waitperson is about as effective as the big fella on one of his off days.

And let's hope he doesn't have too many of those.

Come on the big Crocodile Dunblane.

Contextual targeting label: 
Food and drink

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

204363