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A waiter saved my life

Forgive any exaggeration, for the seriousness of the situation is moot, but I was in a fish restaurant on Exmouth seafront whose name I’m withholding to avoid a rocky dispute, when as fork approached mouth a shriek of “Stop!” from across the kitchen averted a potential medical episode.

All hospitality venues are understandably careful to keep clientele safe from covid, but this fish chain is especially concerned about its customers’ wellbeing. Hardly is one over the threshold before one is quizzed over who you are, what your relationship is with your fellow diner and whether your lunch may kill you.

My dining companion, a seafood aficionado, can shovel down anything that swims; cooked or raw, dead or alive. By contrast, I’m a fruit-de-la-mer wuss with a sensitivity to some shellfish. Mussels or oysters can leave me writhing in pain, screaming for my mother, hopeful for a quick end. Only lobster is safe; a crustacean I can eat in prestigious quantities subject to price and the willingness of someone else to pay. But as they’re not in season, lobster is not an option.

The next best thing is monkfish, the poor man’s lobster, though you may not appreciate that from the price, and one of seafood’s ugliest specimens. My companion chooses gurnard,  and, happily, both dishes come with unlimited chips. Quite frankly we wonder whether the question “chips or salad?” is even worth putting to anyone male.

As fish go, monkfish aren't the prettiest (courtesy: naotakem/Creative Commons)

Both dishes are perfectly cooked by a young gentleman with a fascinating array of tattoos covering every inch of one arm but who, being completely ink-free on the other, appears a little unbalanced. (“What does your mother say about that?” I ask, to be advised she is the tattoos’ financier.)

But here’s the impressive bit. Although I’m not usually one for trying one another’s dishes, my fellow diner is one of those types who can chop up and interchange portions while you’re still calling for vinegar. That means I have gurnard on my plate.

And when a sliver of that fish is spotted by the waiter on its way to my mouth, she shoots across the dining room at speed to avert tragedy. “The gurnard’s diet is shellfish,” she warns. “You could end up writhing in pain, calling for your mother, hoping for a quick end.”

This is hugely commendable. A place that not only stops you eating the things you say may harm you, but also prevents you eating the things that have eaten the things that can harm you.” Customer service at its best. Rock on.

Article first published by the Exmouth Journal.

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