Monday, December 05, 2005


Valentino’s is a large, popular, even iconic restaurant in the very centre of Perth’s nightclub district, and I was invited there on Saturday night for a friend’s birthday.

The food is barely competent – the menu basically consists of large masses of carbohydrates studded with anonymous meats and vegetables then draped with inoffensive sauces - but Valentino’s didn’t get where it is via culinary expertise. It relies on calculated staff training, economies of scale, and its location.

Our waiter, a blandly good-looking twentysomething with a gentle, unplaceable American accent, was a master of both showmanship and crowd control. He managed our table of thirteen with discreet authority, being simultaneously friendly and aloof. He made sure that no one deviated from the script, announcing how each step of the ordering process would occur. There were no veiled threats about what would happen if we wanted to change the serving sizes or ask for different sides, because he didn’t allow anyone to even have such thoughts enter their head. The efficiency of it all was so subtly managed that it was quite marvellous to behold.

Further efficiencies were no doubt going on in the kitchen. As with most large restaurants with a fairly dismissive attitude to food, the kitchen at Valentino’s must resemble a series of production lines that would warm Henry Ford’s cold dead decomposing heart. There’s no other way to explain how my fettuccine was piping hot, but the chicken in it was merely warm, and the broccoli stone cold. The parmesan cheese had also melted in an uneven way, suggesting that the bowl had been microwaved at some point.

On the plus side, the two glasses of the house red I had were entirely beguiling.

Fortunately for me, my party was seated at a table on the sidewalk, so we could partake of the one thing that makes going to Valentino’s worthwhile – the passing parade.

Scenes from the world around Valentino’s

- a hard-faced Indonesian woman handing out flyers for a local club. The abandoned flyers littering the pavement around her show pictures of girls in bikinis.

- middle-aged men and women festooned with glowsticks and coloured lights, purposefully striding up and down the street attempting to sell long-stemmed red roses to any couple who look like they might be having a good time.

- a young man with a head full of gel, wearing what was once a rather nice rugby jumper, before some chain store designer splattered it with random text and graphics.

- a beautiful and anorexic Mediterranean girl swathed in scanty black silk, passively being towed down the street by her buffed and polished boyfriend, who seems more interested in talking with his mates than with her.

- a dopey teenager showing a good twenty centimetres of red checked boxers above his low-rider jeans, either drunk, drugged or slightly retarded, pacing up and down the footpath with his mobile clasped to his ear, routinely meandering out into the traffic and being blasted by horns as cars brake to avoid him.

- Innumerable pale, chubby girls moving in pairs or trios, wearing clothes that suggest they’ve been shopping at Skank on a Budget, walking fast and shivering in the cool night air.


Blogger Jack said...

I haven't been to Northbridge in a while but it sounds like it's the same as ever.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Dr. E. Scientist, phD. said...

"Skank on a Budget"

Just that name alone would be worth millions in retail. I salute you!

4:38 AM  

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