Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Thai Singha Boasts Mysterious Floating Toilet Seat, Stowed-Away Sponge

Thai Singha
863 N. Alafaya Trail
East Orlando, FL USA 32828-7049

Where is it?

From the front entrance, walk along the left wall of the place and down a short hallway leading to the back corner of the place. The bathrooms are there.

What's it like?

This is a great little Thai restaurant -- perhaps the best in Orlando -- that just happens to be set in one of the worst shopping areas in town, Waterford Lakes. Not that WL offers poor shopping, mind you -- just about every store imaginable can be found here. But the road layout and throngs of impatient young drivers who frequent the area makes getting around here seem death-defying at times.

For example, the other day alone, while driving through here, a young lady in a decked out Toyota Echo (ghetto-style Echo, that is, with rear spoiler, mag wheels, bass-heavy stereo, dark-tint windows and requisite Mardi Gras beads hanging from the rearview mount) backed out in front of us while we were making our way up the parking aisle and proceeded to inch along slowly towards one of the main intersection. Only, after about 50 feet, she turned into a narrow throughway that stretched between two stores and decided to stop her car in the middle of the road. No idea why. Didn't pull over, signal or anything. She just stopped in the middle of the road, and because we were behind her we couldn't move until the oncoming traffic went by! We honked. We motioned for her to move. Did she? HELL NO! A few minutes passed and no one moved. We honked again and then saw that the opposing traffic cleared, so we went around, and as we passed we gave her the "WHAT THE HELL'S WRONG WITH YOU?" motion, which in turn produced a confused look on her face, like she didn't understand why her stopping in the middle of the road was wrong in any way. That's Waterford Lakes in a nutshell.

Anyway, back to Thai Singha's bathroom. Yes, while this tasteful little strip-mall restroom houses a cozy little bathroom that's busy with decor, it's located a little too closely to the kitchen to provide much serenity. The walls display artful posters of Thailand, as well as some authentic-looking knickknacks. It's a clean bathroom, though on my visit (later in the evening) it had seen the wear of the day take it's toll on it. The floor was covered in paper towels and bits of toilet paper, and some stains could be seen beneath the rim and in the sink.

But most surprising here is the toilet, whose seat seems to float mysteriously between the all-the-way-up stage and the not-quite-all-the-way-down stage. And, of course, it's not that you can't push the toilet seat all the way up and have it stick there -- you can. You can also put the seat all the way down if you like (no, it won't float up on you, it's not THAT kind of toilet seat). However, if you bring it out a bit from the all-the-way-up stage it will stay there for an undetermined amount of time (I timed it at 3 minutes and it showed no signs of wavering!).

Just as eerie was the yellow and green sponge sitting alone behind the mysterious toilet. Was it there accidentally? Was it there, magically supplying the toilet seat with its special hovering powers? Was it there simply to confuse people who were already confused by the toilet seat's special hovering capabitlies?

Sadly, a knock on the door prohibited me from finding further information. Damn that spicy, all-too-delicious Thai cuisine served here and our wishy-washy American stomachs -- they always seem to ruin one's pursuit for answers to the world's many mysteries.

Marks out of 10:

6. While kind of dirty, the magic floating toilet seat does have its charm.

Comments to the Management:

Need to provide more janitorial maintenance throughout the day and not save the clean-up only after the place closes. Then again, perhaps you already are checking on the toilet throughout the day and the magical floating toilet seat enthralls your employs so much that they forget to clean up....

Sadly, Toilet at American Signature Is Only Room Not for Sale at Store

American Signature Furniture
730 Sand Lake Road
Suite #100
Orlando, FL USA 32809

www.ashome.com

Where is it?

Hard to find. Because this is s a furniture store, the showroom contains dozens upon dozens of different room sets, all of them placed against each other so that the entire place looks like a massive maze of couches, bedsets, dressers, easy chairs, tables and the like. There is a sort of path going around the perimeter of the store, which helps you get your bearings some, but even that winds its way a little too much through the decor. Worse still, the place's army of commission-hungry salesmen are found at every turn, waiting for you to ask them questions about the furniture.

If in doubt, or in a rush, just ask for directions. The salesmen will help you after they've been assured you won't buy anything. Otherwise, from the entrance, head up the middle of the store, trying to keep your direction as straight as possible through the sea of oddly angled furniture, until you get to the back wall. Once there, look for a small enclave with a small sign above it reading "Restrooms." If you reach the Customer Service counter, you've gone too far left and have to buckle back. If you reach the mattress area, you've gone too far right. Good luck.

What's it like?

Despite the hassle of getting there and the tackiness of the showroom, the bathroom itself is quite a classy affair.

The toilet sits apart from everything, almost like a regally standing throne. A free-standing toilet paper holder stands to its side, almost like a first mate. The sinks are embedded in marble counter, and the fixtures are well-polished antique-shaped chrome and look like faucets found in a cozy B&B in New England. A stack of paper towels sits on the counter for you to dry your hands, and a smart-smelling foam soap is offered for washing.

Better still, the walls are covered with art, much of it African in origin (or at least faux African), making the place seem both elegant, peaceful, and cool. The only drawback here was a lonely paper towel I found on the floor -- clearly someone had missed the drop off but didn't bother to go back for the rebound.

Having said that, it should also be noted that the bathroom decor is also the nicest of all the room layouts found in the store -- and it's also the only one you can't buy. There's something to be said for irony, no?

Marks out of 10:

9. Even with the stray paper towel, this is one nice bathroom.

Comments to the Management:

Perhaps keep a closer eye on the upkeep during the day -- your customers, apparently, aren't nearly as classy as your toilet facilities.

Also, perhaps you should display or sell more bathroom arrangements, since (sorry to say) they are much nicer than many of your showroom sets.

Behind the Red Door at Anmol

Anmol Indian Cuisine
12239 University Blvd
Orlando, FL USA 32817

www.anmolindiancuisine.com

Where is it?

From the main entrance, go down the little hallway to the right of the kitchen and service prep counter and journey down to the back of the building (probably a good 30 ft.) before coming to two red doors -- the men's room is behind one, the women's the other. And yes, signs are posted by the doors so you won't walk into the wrong place.

What's it like?

Anmol took over the space some years back from another Indian place, which specialized in cheap vegetarian cuisine. To be honest, I liked the food that the first place better, though Anmol is certainly more upscale in presentation, service, menu offerings and interior decor. The food is decent here, particularly the tandoori grilled items and the kabobs, though there are better Indian places in town. Regardless, it's still the kind of place that offers food that makes you sweat and your stomach churn from heavy spice, so expect to make a bathroom visit, or two, or three.

Luckily, the facilities are much nicer than expected. Strip mall restaurants tend to put little effort into bathroom decor -- or even cleanliness sometimes. That's not the case here. The loo is located behind a glossy painted red door, which of course matches the color of some of their more robust sauces (or perhaps what you'll extrude the following morning).

Inside, you'll find a tasteful, clean environment that's well-maintained and peaceful, even with it's generic white toilet and sink. The gentle pink paint and dark tile exude a sense of serenity, and blend well with the red door color scheme.

Even better, because it's located so far back from the dining room, and because that red door is colored in a way that increases your sense of isolation, you don't feel guilty for taking a longer sit-down than needed (and the food's so spicy and greasy here, you might have to do that).

Marks out of 10:

8. Would have been a 7, save for the location and that spicy red door.

Comments to the Management:

Perhaps increase the isolation factor by adding another red door at the head of the hallway leading to the bathrooms?

Monday, 21 May 2007

Fox Plays Game of Two Halves



The Fox Inn
Great Barrington
Near Burford
Oxfordshire
United Kingdom

http://www.foxinnbarrington.com/index.html


Where is it?

From the front entrance for the main bar you need to head left and you’ll see a door that allows you to double around the back. Go down the steps around to the left. On the left is a corridor that leads to an exit. The male toilets are to the right.

From the car park head to the left of the main building towards the river. Take the first door on the right. The Gents is to the left.


What’s it like?

This place has a great reputation for food and I must admit it is OK on the meat dishes but poor on the salads. The same goes with the d├ęcor. Authentic but a little too neglected to be comfortable anymore. Generally, this is a pub with great potential but in its efforts to cater for the local Cotswold country folk (not a bad thing in itself) it does half of the job well and forgets the other half.

No surprise then that the same is the case in the toilets. The floor has nice slate tiles and the walls are clean and OK. But then a trough urinal that is something out of the 1970’s greets you. This wouldn’t be too bad if it weren’t for the awful white residue over it. Then there is the dirt on the radiator under the hand dryer. Just look at that mess! It’s like Mr. Cigarette Ash Hands has paid a visit and against his best judgement decided he just couldn’t resist using the nice warm dryer. What is a surprise then is that the toilet cubical is one of the cleanest I’ve seen in a long while!

It’s a shame that the whole place screams of good intentions that are never properly carried through. It means that every time I use these toilets it is with trepidation. You find yourself rushing through, not because the next pint becons, but because you just want to get out of there.


Marks out of 10:

3 is a fair score here.


Comments to the management:

You need to decide if you really want to run a pub or play at it. Good management never did anyone any harm and you need to do some in the toilets if you are going to inspire confidence in your guests. I just keep on wondering about what state your kitchens are in!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Danger Danger! Toilet Roll Holder May Kill





Sainsbury’s
Mount Mills
Witan Way
Witney
Oxfordshire
OX28 4FF
United Kingdom

http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shoppingandservices/storelocator/store.htm?id=632



Where is it?

From the entrance head left past the cafeteria and they are on your left at the front of the store.

What’s it like?

I’ve never been one for using Supermarket toilets. I don’t know why – but the fact that everyone has to use the grocery store and you never quite know the type of clientele you’re going to meet puts me off. That’s not to say they’re all bad. I’d quite happily go out of my way to use the toilet in Marks and Spencer’s and I always know to avoid Borders (terrible toilets in every town in every country I’ve ever been in).

Well, a beer on the way home and a phone call that went along the lines of you’re late and meet me at the store or else, landed me in the situation of not being able to wait for the amenities at home.

What I was met with was OK. The first thing that struck me was that, bar the colour, the fittings were a doppelganger of those in circuit city (see Eyal’s review of April 10th). Still, this is functional enough and they were cleaner than I expected. A quick look around made me a little more concerned.

Looking in the first stool a danger sign met me. Placed on the toilet roll holder it was so large that the fault must have been really serious. The holder must have been able to kill. One wrong look and the mean thing would strangle you with a good dose of two-ply top quality paper! I decided to use the next stool.

The sinks were also pretty clean, but when you got to them you were again greeted with a long sign explaining the fault with the automatic tap had been reported and the management apologised. Moreover the hot water might be a tad too hot so be careful! I can gladly report that the taps were fine and the water was perfect. This led me to question whether the toilet roll holder was fully functional. Is this Health and Safety gone mad? Indeed, this was a particularly British experience.


Marks out of 10:

6 for functionality, but the paranoia about the killer toilet roll holder is going to stay with me for some time.


Comments to the management:

Good job on the cleaning, but maybe you should fix things quicker.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Offers Crammed, Intentionally Uncomfortable Facilities

Cafe TuTu Tango
8625 International Drive
Orlando, FL USA 32819

www.cafetututango.com

Where is it?

Kind of hard to find, considering the many distractions found here. From the main entrance, go straight, until you reach a central island where you'll find a local painter (or group of painters) hard at work creating new art.

From there, veer left of the bar and start working your way to the left of the building. While walking, look up, at the paintings on the wall, and look for one above a small hallway beside a waitress station that reads "Restrooms." That should take you there, provided a belly dancer or other free-floating entertainer doesn't lead you astray (which may happen).

What's it like?

This tapas bar chain offers inventive food, cool cocktails and a major bohemian theme -- best displayed in the countless paintings and other works of art hanging on the walls, and the many artists hired to create their works before you (which doubles as live entertainment here). Naturally, to give more authenticity to the chaotic bohemian mindset here, the place also houses an air of grunginess about it -- hey, this is a place supposedly founded by starving artists who want to pay $7 for a glass of domestic beer, so why not be a little realistic, right?

Ironically enough, nowhere is that better exemplified than in the bathrooms. The walls here are covered with a mixture of mosiac tiles and grafitti. The main area of the restroom, where the sink (really, just a large trough with oversized faucets) and urinals are located, is spacious and quirkly, but its also a bit too roomy, considering that most people stopping in for a pee aren't looking to be so out in the open when they want to do their business.

Also, an empty easel stands opposite the urinal in that main room, giving one the impression that a painter will be along shortly to capture the moment. Ick.

The stalls are the exact opposite of that front room: Exceedingly narrow. I imagine those of us who have larger proportions will have much trouble doing their business here, let alone fitting inside. (I'm not that big and I had trouble!) Then again, this is a place designed by starving artists, so perhaps the stall size is appropriate.

Marks out of 10:

4. Inventive, sure, but the thematic ties are way too involved, so much so that going here becomes more bothersome than relieving.

Comments to the Management:

I don't mean to sound like a codger, but can you tone it down some here?

Doubletree Castle's Elegance Will Surprise You

Doubletree Castle Hotel
8629 International Dr.
Orlando, FL USA 32819

www.doubletreecastle.com

Where is it?

From the back entrance, go towards the elevators, turn right and head towards the front desk, then head left, towards the front entrance. The bathrooms are found on each side of the door, men's on the right, women's on the left. (Or, if coming in from the front entrance -- facing International Drive -- they are to either side of you once you come inside.)

What's it like?

This hotel, located in the middle of Orlando's tourism district, is shaped like a castle, and from the outside you'd think it will be as tacky and ridiculously over-the-top as the ridiculous Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. But step inside and you'll find a place that doesn't let it's decor overtake its charm or practicality. Sure, it's filled with castle-inspired decor, but the presentation of those items is done tastefully, even understatedly, giving the hotel a touch of unexpected elegance.

The bathrooms extend that medieval decor but also mix in many modern flourishes -- which heightened the experience tremendously. Marble tile covers the floor and walls. The urinals are separated by thick barriers, offering plenty of privacy to anyone using them. The stall feels more like an isolated room than part of the actual bathroom, thanks to full-sized doors. The main sinks are automatic and covered with thick marble. (The stall sink had a pedastal sink with a classy "magic mirror" hanging above it.) Also, the place offers real towels to dry your hands with -- and you drop off your dirty towels (or picked up new ones) in a dark wood-carved hamper set to the side of the main sinks.

Marks out of 10:

10. Truly regal public toilets. Unexpectedly so!

Comments to the Management:


Keep up the good work.

Dinner Show's Toilets Offer Little Time for "Crime-Solving"

Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show
8267 International Drive
Orlando, FL USA 32819

www.sleuths.com

Where is it?

The restrooms here are easier to find than solving the show's mystery...... We attended a show set in the Sherlock Theatre (one of the business' three theaters). The toilets for it can be reached by following these instructions: From the entrance, cross the entire stretch of the dining room theater, keeping the stage to your left, and head for the small enclave in the back. Enter the enclave and you'll find the toilets.

What's it like?

This is a fun mystery dinner show with decent (albeit not great) food -- but skip that strange onion-cream-cheese spread, ick -- and an emphasis on humor over plot discrepancies. However, for a place that seats 250 people at a time, and one that offers free beer, wine and soda throughout the show's running time, you would expect there to be more toilets here, not just a pair of single one-toilet rooms. As a result, when going, you often find yourself at the back of a long line, which in turn means you can't pay attention to the show because you don't want to lose your spot. Intermission is worse since the line is exponentially larger.

Worse still, once inside, the impatient people waiting behind you knock repeatedly on the door because they are nearing emergency status. Not exactly a good place to make a long pit stop, if you will.

On the plus side, the bathrooms are clean and well-kept -- an impressive characteristic considering they were in constant use throughout my visit to the show -- a show that is 3 to 4 hours long, may I add! Kudos to the staff (and perhaps even the guests) on keeping it clean.

Marks out of 10:

6. Clean, sure, but all that hustle and bustle and those time limitations make it a sometimes-unnerving bathroom-going experience.

Comments to the Management:

Install more toilets -- or at least install speakers around the bathroom area so people in line for the toilets can hear the show while they're waiting in line. It might make them less cranky and impatient too.

Wood Obsession Nearly Goes Too Far at Oishi

Oishi Ultimate Japanese Cuisine
11025 International Drive
Suite A
Orlando, FL USA 32821

Where is it?

From the front entrance, head all the way to the back of the restaurant, staying just right of the bar/teppanyaki grill set up in the rear of the restaurant. Go through the hallway in the very back and you'll find the restrooms.

What's it like?

Very woody. The decor here contains countless variations of natural wood -- from glossed over tree trunks that serve as tables to natural looking wooden chairs to wall decor made of bamboo and bark... You get the idea. The wood here is made to look natural, not manufacturer. It's kind of neat as a conversation piece, and kind of cool-looking at first.

But it also makes eating here a little tricky because the natural wood gives odd shapes to the tables, and that means that one side of the table will often be wide or thick and the other narrow, thin and unusuable -- and that means one side of the table can eat in comfort while the other must eat with the constant fear that he or she might drop someting onto the floor by accident. Most of the food served here is delicate in nature already, so asking the diner to take extra care in eating it seems a bit too much of an imposition. My companion had soup here, and because he was seated at the narrow part of the tree trunk table he almost spilled it on himself several times before finally giving up and getting it to go. I, on the other hand, sat at the fat part of the trunk and had little to no troubles.

Given this, I was very fearful of what the toilets might look like. Would the toilet seat be wide on one end and thin on the other? Would the sink have unusuable faucets?

Thankfully, no! The toilet and sink were standard white porcelain, and the room itself was laid out nicely in dark brown tiles and dark wood trim. But the decor was still decidedly wooden, whether it was the authentic Japanese carvings or the odd-looking found-wood sculptures there. Either way, it made the restaurant's wood theme feel a little thick -- and that feeling continued when I returned to my table, where I started to get a little sick of the wood. Can we have a little practicality here, please?

Marks out of 10:

7. Imagination is there but the wood idea's a little too overpowering.

Comments to the Management:

Perhaps a little more understatement might help.

Fancy Wedding's Strategy of Forcing Guests to Use Port-o-lets May Have Ruined Wedding

Fancy Lawyer's Multi-Millions Dollar Mansion
(wedding of his son, an actor, to a hair dresser)
Winter Park, FL USA
(the wealthy part, with a nice view of a lake, not the crummy part)

Where is it?

It's not in the house, that's for damn sure. For this wedding, NO ONE WAS ALLOWED IN THE HOUSE except staff. That meant that the guests had to use a set port-o-lets set up in the back yard if they had to relieve themselves. Naturally, the guest list here included some of Orlando's elite (including past mayors, politicians, famous lawyers and more) -- none were allowed to relieve themselves inside the host's multi-million-dollar, multi-room lakeside mansion.

To make it worse, the trip to the toilets was difficult. To start, we had to hand our car to the private valet at the front driveway. Then, to get to the toilets, we walked up the long, winding driveway and headed to the front door, thinking we could go through the house to get to the reception.

BUT NO! Once we got there a very rude servant or wedding-staff member ran out the front door and told us "NO ONE IS ALLOWED IN THE HOUSE! THE HOUSE IS ONLY FOR AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL." Go figure.

Then, the servant grabbed our wedding gift from our hands (didn't even ask for it) and ordered us to go to the right, where we found a very narrow brick pathway through an overgrown garden of roses (ouch, thorns!) and sage brush that led us around the house (about a half-mile, I think) and into the back yard. The bricks on the path were rough and uneven, which made my companion's attempt to walk the path in heels all the more challenging.

Once there, we were greeted by an elegant garden filled with fountains, tables, tents (each one offering food and drink) and a larger covered area where the band and a dance floor were set. The port-o-lets were set behind the tent housing the dance floor and band.

What's it like?

It's a fancy house, sure, and the garden decor for the reception itself was quite beautiful. Given that, you'd think the port-o-lets would be special, and they were. The units were made so that the person using them didn't have to involve his or her hands much for operation. Sinks (which streamed in water from attached tanks) could be operated with foot pedals. And there even was separate areas for urinals and toilets, to make things more hygenic for male and female sharing.

Despite this, however, the toilets offered little comfort. This mostly was due to a lack of lighting. The wedding reception started at 630pm, so after an hour or so, the sun started falling and it began to get dark, and while this drew out the many candles set decoratively around the garden and made for a very romantic setting, there was no lighting near any of the port-o-lets, and also because they were set under this mammoth canopy of willow and live oak, it got very dark by them very quickly, so much so that if you entered the toilet after, say, 8pm, you found it hard to see where you were going (literally).

Mind you, this wasn't so bad if you were a guy, since you could just hope you hit something and then return to the fun. But women, especially those in longer evening gowns, had much more trouble -- not only did they have to slog their fancy shoes and low hems over the soiled floor of the port-o-let, but they really couldn't see where they were sitting when they had to go. I imagine more than a few of them sat in the wrong place, or in a pool of spillage.

Given this, at 830pm my companion said she had to go to the bathroom but didn't want to chance the situation at hand, so we chose to leave and pay a quick visit at the 7-11 down the street before heading home. We were not the only ones to do so at the same time, believe it or not. We found at least 50 people waiting for their cars at the valet by the time when we arrived at the station, and we saw many more behind us, some of them dancing about, preparing to leave as well. Collectively, I'd say about half the guest lists left before 9pm, which was when the cake cutting was to happen.

As my companion said when we reached the car, "I bet the 7-11 up the street will be packed."

Interesting side note: While waiting for the valet, we heard from someone that the pool house bath was opened out of necessity at around 8pm for people to use -- but the wait time was more than an hour to get in. Clearly, money can't buy everything.

Marks out of 10:

9 for the wedding decor. 2 for the port-o-lets, even with their fancy no-hands flourishes.

Comments to the Management:

I imagine the wedding planner had some serious 'splainin' to do after the fact -- would it have been that hard to put some lights by the toilets? That's all that was needed, really.