Chelpblog -What do you fancy for dinner?

“My Caesar Salad hoved into view like the magnificent green prow of a ship. Its lettucy sails were plentiful and took some disposing of. It’s a good job I like lettuce! A less lettucy person might have struggled.”

This was my review of a meal from the new menu of a local eating establishment recently, and I hope they took my words to heart. It was a polite way of saying “My plate contained two whole Romaine lettuces sprinkled with dressing, chicken chunks and croutons”. Maybe I wanted to do a wordier review, as much a mouthful as the frills of crisp verdance which I’d just chomped through. A memorable meal. I had to prove a point, me v lettuce, and I won.

Confused catering

Eating out is often an experience. You can order something, and something else entirely arrives, even if that something else is in fact what you actually ordered. A lot of places now serve their veg AL DENTE. This doesn’t go down too well with some of the older folk I’ve dined out with, born in a time when vegetables were boiled to within an inch of their lives. Having them arrive half-raw is an almost impossibility for some of them to chomp through. I’ve been with friends who’ve had to send back to the kitchen for softer veg, only for them to be returned no different, with an embarrassed “I’m sorry, we don’t cook vegetables for longer.” Whyever not? Five more minutes in a pan of boiling water, is that too much to ask? They’d take your steak back if you’d asked for well done and it was still bloody and bleeding. Maybe it’s me. I don’t work in catering, perhaps there are rules about what a customer should or shouldn’t be eating, whether it’s wanted or not.

“Garlic bread is included with this meal.”

“But I don’t like garlic bread, could I have salad instead?”

“Sorry madam, we don’t serve it with salad.”

“But you do salad. It’s with other stuff.”

Questionable customer service

As a nation, how good are we at declaring dissatisfaction with food we’ve ordered and paid for? My grandad knew how to. Many’s the time I’ve shrunk into a cafe seat as he’d call out a disgruntled “Ohw! This tea’s not reit warm.” or “Ohw! This ere food int ‘ot enough.” Oddly enough, he’d be quite nice about it – but make it quite clear it needed to be right.

If we do complain, I have noticed differing levels of customer service. Most try to put things right immediately, if it’s possible. Others are just bloody grumpy.

In a cafe (yes, a percentage of my life so far has been spent in them) with my auntie, she’d spied cakes in a cabinet, and fancied a vanilla slice. There were two left. The front one was a smidge dried up, its custardy bit congealing. It looked like it had been stood out a week. The back one looked fresh and delicious. The woman serving us naturally went to grab the oldest first, so my auntie said politely, “would you mind if I have the other one, please?”

The woman plonked the acky vanilla slice back down (it may have even fallen apart at that point) and growled “whatswrongwithit!”

My auntie got the cake she wanted, and a chunk out of her ear to go with it. Next time we went there again, the cafe had changed hands – and staff!

More whining, less dining

Several years ago, at a well-known chain dining pub in Scarborough, my fella and me slipped in around midday for a bit of dinner. He brought me a filter coffee over from the bar to go with the lasagne he’d ordered for me, and Cumberland sausage with creamy mash for himself.

Now I could be wrong here, but to me, part of eating out, and indeed the whole culture surrounding the supping of my favourite beverage, is to take time with it. It is to enjoy the steam drifting up, bringing with it the deliciously roasty aroma, all the mouth-watering anticipation of that first sip, then lingering over it, slowly delighting in each rich mouthful right through till the final dregs.

Yes, it’s a gushy way of putting it, but I love coffee, strong and black, and the coffee which was placed in front of me was barely lukewarm. So cool in fact that I immediately knocked it back like a vodka shot at a hen do, and said “well, that’s that!”

Well that wasn’t quite that. Long-suffering aforementioned husband stomped back to the bar with my empty cup, to announce loudly the lack of decent temperature therein, and received an equally lukewarm and unapologetic “oh the coffee machine’s not working” from a pimply youth in a waistcoat, and nothing further.

After some pushing, same said pimply youth shuffled off to put the kettle on, and Instant had to do. Nor was that the only instance of instant. When our meals emerged, an instant later, it was noted that there was an unsurprising, by that time, synthetic element to the creamy mash, and that, at a guess, my lasagne had been popped straight out of the freezer into a microwave and instantaneously onto my plate. Fair enough, I suppose, in a busy, reasonably priced place. But to make matters worse, I had to locate a spoon and drink my instant lasagne!

Being my birthday an’all, t’other half had had enough, and again stomped off in search of an authority figure, returning almost instantly  with an assistant-manager-type lady who stood patiently and listened to the unsavoury outpourings (or was it regurgitated liquid lasagne) of our rather useless dinner. Typical of someone who’s lived Up North for a long time, he added as a final flourish, “was them mash potaters Smash?”

The lady did not deny it. Her expression told us she knew they’d been rumbled. She did however apologise about the coffee and the lasagne and the pimply youth and the whole experience, and assured us that there would be nothing to pay. She even gave us vouchers we could use on another occasion.

On our way out, we noticed a table of folk near the door who’d obviously had similar problems. Another member of staff was cheerfully informing them that their meal would be fully refunded.

“Oh dear,” I smirked, as we wafted outside, full of sloppy pasta and pretend spuds. “‘appen t’chefs gone down wi food poisonin'” and we giggled like the TV smash martians heh heh hee hee.

Now then, I may have two money off vouchers for YWL going spare if anyone fancies them.

Above – Jill v Lettuce

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