Four days prior to my midday reservation I am contacted by Clara – a member of the restaurant's social media team: A woman whose Sloan-Ranger-esque tones make her sound like she has a hand-grown, artisan plum in her mouth.
“As curator of your set lunch I just need to know whether you want me to take into account any of the erotic content you have browsed, when I design your menu,” she enquires breezily.
On the advice of my friend David, who elected not to activate the restaurant's adult content filter and was served a llama's vagina stuffed with apricots and spiced mincemeat, I ask Clara to disregard any pornographic material that shows up in her search.
“I don't visit those sites anyway so it shouldn't be an issue.” I assure her, adding: “Actually there was an incident recently when my girlfriend went to visit her mother for a few days and I think I must caught a computer virus or something because some pornography did end up on my computer, and I've absolutely no idea how it got there...”
“Yes, of course. That kind of thing happens all the time,” replies Clara, the sincerity of her response curdling as the words leave her mouth.
Upon my arrival at La Cale de Halage I am greeted in off-hand fashion by a slovenly-dressed, 40-year-old man-child with a neck beard.
Front of house staff here are well-schooled in the complex meme-based etiquette of the famously unfiltered, frequently offensive 4chan message boards: My host immediately enquires whether I would like to have my picture taken with a shoe on my head. My female companion meanwhile is asked to either expose her bare breasts or GTFO. She chooses the latter, leaving me to dine alone in a room full of individuals wearing Guy Fawkes masks, seated alongside vaguely-familiar people who I barely know any more, and haven't spoken to in years. For reasons that I am unable to recall, a large number of these fading friends and acquaintances have deliberately positioned their chairs so that they are facing away from me, and spend the afternoon studiously avoiding my conversation and eye-contact.
My first encounter with the waiter staff comes in the form of Kyle – the bratty 14-year-old sommelier – who, encouraged by his mother, grudgingly approaches my table and immediately identifies me as a “summerfag”: A derogatory term which he later supplements, upgrading me to 'n00b' status after I fail to order an appropriate bottle of wine for my meal. In an unforgivable faux pas, my mispronunciation of one of the restaurant's more mediocre reds shows me up as a pitiful "beta" specimen who can neither “Triforce” nor “Green Text,” and who is “made of fail.”
My food waiter (identified on his name-tag as 'Bush/Cheyney_2000') turns out to be an angry tollbooth operator from Nebraska whose culinary tastes run counter to my own. We end up arguing at length about my choice of courses, whether they tacitly endorse Obamacare, and what they will mean for America and the future of the 2nd Amendment.
Our heated debate turns out to be moot. The lobster tank, I am informed, has been “closed due to AIDS.” Furthermore, my selections from the menu have been moderated for being in breach the restaurant's nebulous terms and conditions. Subsequent requests for food are placed in a pre-moderation queue, to be reviewed by the head chef, as and when he has the time. This arbitrary sanction translates into significant delays between me ordering a dish and it arriving at my table.
Four hours later my starter finally appears, served alongside special 'Instagram dining lenses' – a pair of tinted glasses that take a jpeg every 30 seconds, and make everything look like an over-exposed 1970s photograph, printed from a badly scratched negative.
Because of time constraints I elect to forgo both main and dessert courses. I demonstrate my minimal appreciation for the service I have received by paying using the lowest domination bitcoins at my disposal. The cashier, upon noticing that my bill ends in a pair of fours, compliments me on my “doubles.”
I grudgingly tip my waiter with a framed A3 photo-print of a whale's tail, captioned with the inspirational quote: “Success is defined mostly by people like Donald Trump or Bernie Ecclestone.”
The following morning I receive a curt email:
You are banned ;_;
You have been permanently banned from La Cale de Halage for the following reason:
Spamming. You were caught by a member of our waiting staff eating a tin of spam with your fingers.
Your ban was filed on April 12th, 2014. This ban will not expire.
According to our server your name is backwards7. The name you were reserved a table under under was Anonymous.
Please check back in 7 days when you may appeal your ban.