When I went out to review a restaurant in my newspaper days my essential items were a notebook and pen. And, later on, when things got hi-tech, a camera. But on one occasion I slipped a ruler in my pocket.
To be exact, it was one of those tape measures which slide in and out, much loved by small boys doing ‘sword swallowing’ tricks. My mission was to check out the rumour then widely circulating on the net that Pizza Express had shaved off an inch or two from their 12 inch pizzas.
I can’t say I gave this much credence but I had a review to write and there are only so many things you can say about a pizza and certainly nothing which hasn’t been said before. Journalists always look for angles and here was one – and dinner sorted.
Pizza Express no longer advertises the 12 inch pizza on its menus. Instead you can have things like the leggera, with a hole in the middle. These were more innocent days when restaurants didn’t make a virtue out of giving you less pizza. Pizza measuring is not the easiest thing to do in the middle of a busy restaurant. It’s bad enough taking a notebook out of your pocket let alone a measuring tape. Suddenly everyone seems to be looking.
Somehow we managed it, my wife keeping cover and acting as look-out, and we completed the mission. The two pizzas ordered measured up to the mark, for taste and inches. Pizza Express’s integrity was found to be intact.
That tape measure went back into my pocket but a few years later I wished I had it again when my wife was served up the smallest piece of sea bass we’d ever seen on a mains menu, in a city centre restaurant. As I didn’t have a ruler I made a template with a torn page from my notebook. It measured later at 3 ¼ by 2 ½ inches, hardly bigger than my business card.
When we protested the manager said the immortal words: “It slipped through the net.” At that size, it wouldn’t have had any difficulty, would it?