Bah Humbug! Christmas Restaurant Ripoffs.


OK, so it’s a first world problem. Many terrible things happening in the world etc etc. I get that. But I came on holiday to get away from all that and relax.

And so this is Christmas in Launceston, and so far, a bit of a mixed bag. I like the town, but it keeps falling short. Especially in the restaurant department. Lots of minor niggles at various establishments, but I want to talk about the biggie.

Christmas dinner. No-one opened Christmas night serving traditional Christmas dinner. Chinese or Indian were the only options. Not even the hotels had anything to offer.

I may as well say at the start that this is the same everywhere in Australia. You go away to have a proper traditional Christmas dinner, expertly served and cooked and – the important part – washed up by other people, and nowhere can you find it. Puff pieces appear in the press about what a wonderful option this is – but no one provides it.

Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns – on Christmas Day the so-called service industries stop serving anything worth having.

OK, what about Christmas lunch? Surely you could manage to hang around to do that, and then scoot to the bosoms of your families in the evenings? By which I mean, a proper traditional Christmas lunch, with ham, roast pork, roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, gravy, brussell sprouts and crisply roasted potatoes.

No, no luck there either. The top chefs, restaurateurs, sommeliers, waiters, maitre d’s and f— off home and leave the second and third stringers in charge. While charging top drawer prices. We get gouged.

I found one place claiming to provide a traditional Christmas lunch, and it sounded Ok-ish – no sprouts, no roast potatoes, no stuffing, but it did have the requisite three meats. In practice, however, it fell well short

When I say roast turkey, roast pork and ham, I mean a roasted turkey, a crisply roasted leg of pork in its crackling, and a gleaming ham, with a smiling chef standing behind them, carving slices on request.

I do not mean a boned rolled chopped and shaped mechanically recovered meat product shaped into a cylindrical turkey/ham/pork roll, ready sliced and lying on a plate under a hot lamp, awaiting its carrot batons, parsnip wedges and al dente broccoli floret, all luxuriating in a dense mudbath of Gravox.

And when you say you have traditional Christmas pudding for desert, I expect a generous slice of steaming hot moist rich fruit pudding drenched in brandy custard. Not an ice cold inch thick puck of extremely dense, dry fruit bread, lightly glazed with a teaspoon of equally cold yellow sauce, fresh from the refrigerator.

So, a bit of a disappointment. Not a huge one, since it was every bit as bad as I imagined it would be, as bad as it has been in other years and in other places.  The entree of mussels in sauce normande was spectacularly good, which took the edge off a bit.

But, listen up, restaurateurs of Australia. Many many of us would love to get away from the chore of providing a full-on Christmas dinner, and would love to pay you handsomely to do it for us. In fact, we do pay you handsomely – the above feast of disappointments cost us $125 a head plus wine, coffee, etc. But you do not deliver.

In return for said payment, I expect the carvery as described above. I expect the head chef / owner in the kitchen cooking. I expect your very best wine and food waiters on the floor. What I get is cheap processed food easily microwaved – and sometimes you even forget to do that – see above re Xmas pud. At premium prices.

If you don’t like working on Xmas Day, if your best people refuse to work Xmas Day, I understand. Just don’t bother opening and ripping us off.

Thank you. I won’t be seeing you next year.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)