I have often heard sterling recommendations for the Cuckoo restaurant and for a number of years have desired eagerly to return to this restaurant to check out what all the fuss is about. I say return as I have distinct childhood memories of having dined at this restaurant, though to say dined would be putting too fine a point on the matter given that as a child – and a boy child – I would have spent most of the time running around, or making a nuisance of myself. Stepping into the Cuckoo restaurant was like stepping back in time. It reminded me of childhood: a place to revisit but never return.
The decor and ambience pay homage to European villages, with a rustic exterior, dark colours and royal tapestries. The overall atmosphere however, like much of Europe these days I suppose, is brooding and decayed. There was a strange musical accompaniment, wherein the musicians, or yodellers, for that is what they were, would play an arrangement of traditional songs for 10 minutes before taking a 10 minute break. During this break, a smiling accordionist pandered to the crowds of tour bus tourists, playing burst of Vietnamese anthems much to their delight, and to the chagrin of the other patrons. It was especially nauseating to observe the obsequious smile which signified the immense pleasure he felt in being able to produce at a moment’s notice the national anthem for any given country. I had the same feeling that (was it Thomas?) Mann described in his Death in Venice, where he is observing the smiling musician at his hotel. Wow, life really does imitate art.
This distraction alone would not have been sufficient to dull the pleasure of the occasion, but would have possible rendered a memorable dining experience with the kind of bizarre affectation that heightens rather than detracts from the pleasure of the experience. However, the service and the food were such that there was precious little to enjoy in this quaint little establishment.
Firstly, the service. When I talk about stepping back in time it does not simply mean the décor, the strudel or the ten minute intervals between yodelling and accordion smiling. No, the workplace relations also harked back to the middle ages or at least to the mid-seventies, when sexism was rife, and where women’s only right was tho be used as a sex symbol. The waitresses were all in their early to late twenties and all of them were dressed in what I would describe as French maid garb with low cut tops to reveal more than what was on the desert menu. As a conservative male it was difficult to know where to look and one had to wonder at the wisdom of a restaurant with a uniform policy that forced young women to promote their wares so shamelessly. For some patrons this would be incredible gratifying, however to me it was cheesy and cheap, and not conductive to me enjoying a romantic escape with my wife. Their appearance could have been forgiven too if they did anything on initiative other than clearing plates. Because it was a smorgasbord menu, one had to serve oneself, which was all very well, but the drinks had to be ordered through the waitresses. These waitresses were so enmeshed in conversions with the tourists who stared resolutely at their breasts, that it was nigh on impossible to call one over to order a drink. And after our 100 step walk, a drink was greatly to be desired.
In part 2, which will follow when I can be bothered, I will relate the paucity of choice on offer in the Cuckoo buffet.