Around the World in 80 Soufflés: Part 1
Greetings, common folk of Neopia! It recently came to one’s attention, whilst dining at one’s private table in the Gourmet Club, that the general Neopian public has long remained ill-informed about the vast range of gastronomic experiences that can be had in Neopia. As one is sure most of you will earmark in your calendars the single day of the year when you will venture into the echelons of the elite (the day that you spend the rest of the year saving and preparing for, no doubt), one felt compelled to do one’s part in ensuring that you enjoy it to its fullest.
As such, one will be sampling the delights and disappointments of a number of fine establishments and then chronicling the experience here for all of you to share in, saving you the wrath of potential food poisoning and the embarrassment of being seen in completely the wrong place. No need to thank me, dearies; knowing one has helped make your special night that bit more special is all the reward one needs. So, shall we get on with today’s culinary adventure?
If you don’t mind braving the bracing sea air and rubbing shoulders with a bunch of weather-hardened, peg-legged ruffians, then today’s dinner date might be right up your dimly-lit and somewhat uninviting alley. One arrived for a late luncheon at the Golden Dubloon with a twinge of apprehension; whilst one could only hope for something approaching gentlemanly conduct from the waiters, one did try to bear in mind that they are just simple and lowly pirates and so one didn’t expect too much of them in the way of manners or basic hygiene. Once seated, one took a moment to peruse the menu; as expected, there was the usual repertoire of safe dishes, though a few of the main course electives had a distinct sparkle of the unusual to them. Being unsure of the standards, one was rather conservative with one’s choosing, but couldn’t resist being a tad adventurous with one’s beverage.
First up was the ‘Crusty Clam Surprise’. One had been rather wary of ordering something that seemed to have such a flagrant disregard for proper etiquette when naming a dish; calling something ‘crusty’ hardly sets one off salivating, now does it? But, sometimes one must brave new territory in the search of something truly magnificent and so one was willing to give it its chance to enthrall the taste buds. One was internally debating whether the ‘surprise’ in the title referred to the spicy kick of the sauce in which the clams had been marinated; then one’s fork went to skewer the pearl in the heart of the shell and discovered, with a mixture of surprise and a childish delight, that it was in fact a small marshmallow. In all, it was a pleasant taste experience; the soft and tender meat of the clam itself with the aforementioned subtle spiciness (one detected a hint of turmeric) and the melting sweetness of the mallow made for an interesting parade along the tongue.
Unfortunately the parade came to an abrupt halt with the departure of one’s appetizer and the arrival of the main course. The only dressing in sight appeared to be the overly-lavish title, where one’s starter had opted for subtle and understated this dish went for all the pomp and circumstance it could muster, boasting itself to be ‘Cap’n Threelegs’ Cutlass Crusade’. What was meant to be a luscious extra rare steak announced itself with a slight hiss when prodded with one’s knife, then just remained there on the plate as bland as a wet weekend in Maraqua. The accompanying artichokes and baked potato put one in mind of the Lost Desert; not because of their immense beauty and mystery but rather because of the complete lack of any sort of moisture. Quite frankly how they had the gall to title this with such boastful arrogance is a mystery to this humble critic.
The dessert menu initially left one with the sinking feeling that the only option was to round off the meal with some sugary, iced concoction on a stick, best suited for keeping the Baby Neopets quiet for a few hours on the journey home after the meal was through. However, a cheeky little number called ‘Forbidden Plunder’ caught one’s fancy before one wrote off the entire selection. The waiter arrived at one’s table (though not before a great to-do at the serving hatch, seemingly arising from the staff’s sub-par communication skills) and it immediately became apparent that one’s waistline was in for quite the punishment.
A heavenly and most inviting scent curled up from the pudding mingled in with the steam, a scent that was so thick with the aroma of copious chocolate that it alone must have been laden with its fair share of calories. One’s spoon didn’t so much cut through it as sink luxuriantly into its heart, as the moist cake rose to embrace it then impart its gooey goodness. The texture was every bit as divine as the aesthetics promised it to be; first a soft sponginess of the cake itself, then a slight cracking as one of the dark chocolate curls hit the teeth and finally a drawn-out melt that encased the tongue with the thick richness of the sauce found at the centre of the dessert. After a single spoonful, one felt an overwhelming giddiness similar to the feeling from childhood of unwrapping the perfect gift on Christmas day.
One couldn’t help but wiggle one’s tail with sheer glee (though one does hasten to add that this is not a regular habit) as the second and then the third spoonful provided a similar rush of exuberance. It was rather a sad moment when finally the dish had been devoured, leaving only a few smudges on the flatware. If it hadn’t been riddled with quite so many calories, one might have been tempted to order a second just to revel in that sugary ecstasy a little while longer.
As is the growing custom in Neopian eateries, the Golden Dubloon offers a range of cocktails to cleanse the palate after your meal and their list is somewhat extensive. Albeit reluctant to let go of the residue of dessert on one’s tongue, one ordered a ‘Cannon Fodder’ to round off the meal. Arriving in a bowl with what can only be described as a reduced-scale firework jutting out of it, the surface of the drink was visibly bubbling away rather energetically to itself. Deciding how best to attack it was somewhat of a quandary, though eventually one chose to enter into the spirit of the eatery: abandon all airs and graces and just dive straight in!
Oddly, the flavour appeared to change the deeper you slurped; whilst the surface had a juicy cherry tang to it, farther down the bowl that blended into a punchy raspberry flavour. One thing that remained constant throughout, though, was the way it fizzed and popped on the tongue, opening one’s beak resulted in a unique aural re-enactment of a chorus of cannons firing in unison. By the time the last drops had been drained the inside of one’s mouth felt as refreshed as it had before the meal began, only now one’s stomach felt decidedly less empty!
As is the norm at this point, one supposes one should draw a final conclusion about how the evening went. The décor of the place is in dire need of being reviewed; somebody should really tell the owner that when it comes to the storm-weathered timber look, less is most definitely more. And the service does leave a fair amount to be desired, although only in that there was no idle conversation during the passing back and forth of dishes; everything was served promptly and arrived hot and without any creatures doing the backstroke in the sauces. However, for family-orientated Neopets, the Golden Dubloon is surprisingly well-equipped, with a wide range of food options for the young ‘uns and a scale rendering of the Black Pawkeet for them to clamber all over in between courses.
All importantly, though, the Golden Dubloon is a prime destination for all those adventurous sorts who yearn for something fresh, creative and inspired to be plated up before them. If you long to be served a side-order of surprise with your meal then steer a course for this long-overlooked restaurant on Krawk Island to bear witness to some truly one-of-a-kind recipes. One is still unsure if the mastermind behind them is just brave, insane or a mixture of both, but either way it certainly makes for fine dining! To conclude then, one awards the Golden Dubloon a total score of four and a half cannon balls out of five, having narrowly missed out on the perfect five due to the shameful mediocrity of the main course.
Next time, one shall be venturing to the depths of the oceans to sample what has long been touted as the finest dining that Neopia has to offer. That is, one will be dusting off the diamante flippers and snorkel to sup at Kelp in order to report back to all of you as to whether that claim still rings true. Unfortunately, though, when one inquired about the possibility of having a seat at their establishment one was informed that their waiting list was somewhat lengthy. One had them promise to get back in touch as soon as a space arose, though, so hopefully one shan’t have to wait too long! Until then, take care, my darlings; may only the divine pass your lips.
- Mademoiselle Tobik x