2007/07/21

CAFÉ LA TERRA - TWO FEET ON THE GROUND?



I guess Café La Terra on Böszörményi út would like to have two feet planted firmly on the ground as the name would suggest. It implies modest, straightforward cuisine with hints of Italy and the Mediterranean blended in in a sophisticated way. It occupies a spot in a busy intersection full of people rolling down from the 12th and 2nd districts towards Erzsébet bridge and the BAH csomópont. We visited the spot a couple of times before with colleagues as it is close by to our headquarters, but I never felt that it can make me regular like Arcade, which is only a short walk down the road.

In my mind The Terra is a prime example of a Budapest restaurant trying too hard to satisfy but then failing to come up with the goods in the end. The location is great – a huge terrace charms the Summer outdoor guests – the interior has a homely Mediterranean feeling, the prices are high and the service ’looks’ good.

But take a closer look and you find that the service lets you down by leaving a company of six unattended on the terrace for at least 10 minutes, the menu too broad and complicated to be good and the experience an overall let down. To start off, I came off the street –without a reservation - asking for a table of six inside. The sun was shining, but there was a fierce wind blowing outside and no one dared to venture outside. The place was full and the waiter immediately said that there is no place inside and we’ll have to wait at least half an hour to get a table. He never mentioned the option to eat out. When I brought it up, even saying that we don’t want to go anywhere else, he seemed reluctant to give us that table and then left us sitting outside for a long while before another colleague ventured out with the menus. By that time the sun was shining brightly and we felt that it was a good decision to stay outside.

The soups and hors d’oeuvres were forgettable and I didn’t take any shots of them. After that we waited approximately 55 minutes for the main courses to arrive, but had little chance to ask our waiters where they were as they felt it was a serious blow to their day that they had to serve guests outside. Finally the meal came along and we had a bunch of interesting looking and sounding, but seriously medium tasting dishes. Take the riesling poached salmon with taglietelle (a strong ok), or the spicy chicken pieces on a skewer with mixed salad (very average) or the ironed chicken fillet with a tzatziki type, super garlicky side-dish (below average).

I always find it strange how a waiters assertiveness and his -supposed - knowledge of gastronomy makes him forget the ultimate rule of serving a guest: "the customer is always right". You just don't argue, you just don't point out that guest is maing a mistake UNLESS and only unless if you happen to be Michel Troisgros or Paul Bocuse and some American wants to eat his terrine de foie gras with ketchup. Then you can throw the guest out. But here in Café La Terra you just don't say that the calamari is supposed to be really chewy, because that's what calamaris are like. Because I can quickly draw the conclusion that he has never had a sublime, butter-like, melting baby squid or calamari ring in his life and the chef has no idea that if you overcook the thing even by 30 seconds you can throw it away. Well that's what happened here.


After the lunch I didn’t see too many happy faces at the table. Perhaps the only positive points were the sun, the breeze and that bottle of white we cracked open to wash away some of the business woes. But then we had to run.

Café La Terra
Overall: 4/10

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