How should you complain about a bad dish at a restaurant?

If you're not happy with your food, send it back ... but be polite.
If you're not happy with your food, send it back ... but be polite. Photo: Jennifer Soo

We recently had a bad dish in a restaurant. I did not know whether to complain or not. What should I have done? P. Dornier

We were thrown out of a restaurant in Paddington 18 years ago because my partner complained that the parmesan cheese they sprinkled on her pasta smelled like vomit. We may have been at a wedding prior and may have had far too much to drink and very little to eat.

However, Australian restaurants and businesses in general still don't have a great culture in accepting negative feedback directly from customers. Many managers become defensive or dismissive, therefore setting up a forum for conflict as opposed to conciliatory discourse.

If you are confident that you have a bad meal or wine, stop eating it or drinking from the glass. Bring the meal or drink in question to the waiter's attention. Ask them to replace the meal or drink then and there. Do not wait until the end of the meal as at that point, they will have considered that you have accepted the product. If you want to avoid any uncomfortable exchange, especially over service, put your complaint in writing the following day via email.

The more polite you are, the more likely it is you will get a good response and be invited back to a complimentary experience where the management can make amends. 

Eggs make any salad a meal.

Treat the miraculous egg with respect.

Why are eggs so complicated? Rev. B Wall

Because eggs are so bloody complicated. In fact, they are nothing short of a miracle! If you have chooks then you might have seen the expression of surprise on their little avian faces every time they successfully deliver that hard package of protein, fat, membrane and shell packed with their genetic precursors for the next generation.

If we humans had to pump an egg out every day, it would weigh almost two kilograms. Pause. Reflect. Ow!

When heat is applied to an egg, at around 60C, the protein ovotransferrin uncoils from its normal state and starts bonding with itself, trapping moisture and forming a white jelly-like substance. At around 82C the main protein ovalbumin solidifies giving a really solid white. Above this temperature the proteins form solid bonds, lose moisture and head towards rubbery texture and brittleness. Meanwhile the sulphur in the egg develops into hydrogen sulfide giving that lovely "box of farts" aroma we all remember from opening our lunch boxes on egg sandwich day.


Eggs are complicated but cooking them is a lot simpler when you slow the cooking process down. Make scrambled eggs as slow as you can. Slow poach with care and tenderness and fry them with respect. If rather than boiling an egg, you simply kept them in hot water at around 75C for 20 minutes, you would never have a stinky egg again. But who has the time? Have a good Easter one and all.    

Letters, Corrections and Apologies

Last week we were talking about foraging for fungus. Now that I have firmly planted the fear of organ failure in the back of novices' minds for harvesting poisonous toadstools that resemble edible mushrooms, I can pass on a highly regarded mushroom hunter working out of Sydney called Diego Bonetto and you can find him at

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to