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Around the World in 80 Soufflés: Part 3


by horripilated

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Hello and welcome once again to one’s little corner of the Neopian Times! One hopes you brought your appetite with you this week, darlings, because we are off into the darkest and most far-flung regions of space to glut ourselves on the delectable offerings of Gargarox.

Indeed, actually getting to the Space Station in order to dine is somewhat of an expedition; although the process is made as bearable as possible by the kind persons manning the regular shuttles departing from Neopia Central. One travelled there first class (as always!) and found it somewhat difficult to resist the lure of the buffet cart. To silence the beckoning of a particularly delicious looking chocolate éclair, one busied oneself reading a tourist leaflet about the Space Station to better prepare oneself for the arrival. Having never visited before, one was eager to see if it would live up to all the tales one had heard told of it.

Stepping out onto the platform at the other end was rather like walking into a giant frumball machine; the entire landscape appeared to be made up of hydraulic machinery, huge hunks of metal clunking back and forth, and things that had no right to be mobile hovering around the place. Had it not been for the growling of one’s stomach, one would probably have tagged on to the back of a group of awed tourists and taken the guided tour of the station.

Grundo’s Café is situated in the far most corner of the recreation deck and is elevated above the rest of the leisurely hubbub on mechanical stilts, so as to offer diners some semblance of tranquillity whilst picking out their dinner. The set up of the establishment is somewhat... unique.

Rather than being seated at a table, guests are invited to perch upon one of the many stools which form a circle around the kitchen area at the centre of the café. From here they are privy to a culinary theatre of sorts, as the dishes on offer orbit before them in transparent boxes; all the while Gargarox himself stands proud in the heart of the action and orchestrates the parade with a spatula and a fork like a mad conductor. Instead of ordering from a menu, one simply plucks one’s chosen meal out of the air as it bobs and weaves its way around the circuit.

After the pomp and circumstance of last weeks failed visit to Kelp, one couldn’t wait to experience this fresh approach to dining, one where the emphasis was put on the food’s own ability to capture your attention and not on how fancy and intricate it can be made to sound on a menu. That said, after taking a seat at the round, deciding which of the creations to sample was an altogether difficult decision.

The first dish to catch one’s eye was an odd soup concoction that seemed to be swirling happily about inside its little box, oblivious of the fact that it was destined for one’s placemat. If one was of the inclination to attribute reason to insentient objects, one would have said it seemed positively overjoyed to have been selected and was entirely co-operative in drifting down to rest on the table in front of one.

Opening the container itself proved to be the next challenge, as one was certain that at the first sniff of freedom the soup would make a dash for it and explode across the café in an energetic waltz. After several moments of contemplation one decided this was too much for a novice to tackle and so guided it back into its orbit and awaited another offering that appealed to one’s palate.

It arrived a few moments later, in an appetising shade of pink surrounded by exotic-looking foliage. After coaxing it down, one found oneself once again contemplating how to liberate this tasty little prisoner from the confines of its glassy cell. A quick glance at a more seasoned diner revealed that the box melted away into nothingness with a touch of the fork (really, one has to wonder how those Grundos got a reputation as being a collective of dimwits when they can invent such marvels).

The inedible shell dealt with, one was about to plunge one’s fork into the delightful, gelatinous mass when suddenly, it quivered. Then, a slimy eyelid peeled back to unveil a glassy, green eye. Then a second. Then a third. All three of them stared at one as though one had just arrived at its house, knocked on its door and offered to sell it a double glazed spaceship. It then promptly stood up and waddled off one’s plate; in perhaps the oddest moment of one’s life, one felt compelled to tell the creature that it had a sliver of vegetation stuck to its heel, as one had an unfounded but strong inkling the said creature was female and would be mortified upon finding out after she had made her grand exit.

It would appear though that one was not the only diner present having trouble with one’s meal. Glancing to one’s left one saw a Kougra trying to beat back a wave of advancing Obliteratoes using a Space Kabob, and having precious little success in his attempt. To the right, a poor and unsuspecting Aisha had been lifted clean off her stool by a Tentacle Burger and was being toyed with in the air by it whilst Gargarox whacked at its limbs with his spatula and a second Aisha (one assumed to him be her brother) stood yelling orders at the thing to put her down.

One’s attention was ultimately distracted, though, by the procession of food once again, as a box crammed with what can only be described as ‘colour’ drifted by. Curious as to what it was, one reached out and claimed the box it was in and then tapped it with one’s utensil to let it out. Relief washed through one when it didn’t move or attempt to make a dash off one’s plate, although a few cautious prods with the fork were necessary before one was satisfied that it wasn’t about to grow a set of eyes and mount a stand to keep itself from being eaten.

Plunging one’s fork into the still square-shaped mush released a plume of hot air with a thick scent of vegetables laced into it, which served to dispel any wonders of exactly what it used to be before Gargarox got his hands on it and transformed it into what sat before one. By all accounts it was hardly the most appetising-looking food on offer, but the mish mash of such vivid colours had captured one’s fancy and so it was that one’s fork came to be loaded with a wad of ‘green’ before beginning its journey up to one’s beak.

The texture was not unlike mashed potato, although the flavour was of freshly plucked peas. Sampling of the other blobs revealed that they used to be pumpkin, sweetcorn, aubergine and beans... before having been roasted for several days on end it seems. In spite of the apparent length of time they’d been languishing in a dish under a rocket booster, they tasted as though they had been sunning themselves in a field somewhere just minutes before. It was only at this juncture one came to wonder exactly where the ingredients had been procured from, since one hadn’t noticed any rolling expanses of fields and shrubbery on the journey in. Perhaps it is true what they say about ignorance being bliss.

Having spotted a box go by containing a similar concoction, one decided to try this as well and soon the mounds on one’s plate were joined by two more, a green and a purple one. Expecting them to be pea- and aubergine-flavoured, one speared a forkful of the fresh purple blob and began eating heartily; however as soon as it hit one’s tongue it became apparent one was mistaken. Belied by its odd colouring, the new globules appeared to have started out their life as Cheese Manicotti before receiving the special Gargarox treatment. Delighted by this surprise, one hastened the fork-to-mouth movements and polished the whole lot off in record time.

One was about to pick out a dessert from the rotating line-up, when one suddenly realised what had been going on around one whilst engrossed in dinner. The nearby Kougra was now standing on his stool, deep in a sword fight of sorts with a column of Oppressor Onions that the Obliteratoes had freed and recruited to their cause; meanwhile the poor Aisha lay in a heap on the floor nursing a bruised jaw where the Tentacle Burger had taken the request to “drop her” rather literally. Said burger was now trying to disarm her brother as he beat it with a rolled up copy of the Neopian Times. Gargarox, content that he had fulfilled his duty to his customer, had once again donned his welding equipment to add the finishing touches to a Metal Cheese Burger, seemingly oblivious to the drama behind him as the hapless Kougra was marched off along the counter on the shoulders of the combined food ranks.

It was at this point that one decided discretion is indeed the better part of valour and so took advantage of the option to order courses to take away. After selecting a cube of Dehydrated Ice Cream, one was given instructions on how to free it from the travel case provided once at home before settling one’s bill and leaving. However, the portion sizes offered by Grundo’s Café proved to be ample enough that one has yet to have room for dessert, and it has been a good few hours since one arrived home from the Space Station.

In summary, Grundo’s Café is an excellent establishment for those who yearn for something new and experimental; for those who aren’t content with the mundane and the safe, with the tried and the tested. If that sounds like you, then one would greatly recommend a visit to the Space Station. It may be a little off the beaten track but one guarantees it is worth the journey to sample the bizarre and sometimes dangerous creations on offer there.

Although a safety warning is necessary; you might want to take along something large and dense with which to defend yourself should you choose certain items from the menu (and by that one does not mean you should take your younger sibling). So it is with great pleasure that one awards Grundo’s Café four galaxies out of five for their stellar performance. Stellar, get it? Oh, one kills oneself sometimes. Now, there is a cube of ice cream with one’s name on it. Ciao bella!

- Madam Tobik x

 
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