Saturday, June 21, 2008

The art of complaining

When do you - or when should you - complain in a restaurant?

Some people never complain.
I do when the situation is very clear-cut -- the service is very slow, the wrong order is brought, the wine is off, that kind of thing -- and it can be well worth doing.
But what about occasions when there is nothing badly wrong but it's just not that great?

At The Larder, my starter of lentils, anchovies and poached egg (£4.90) would have been far, far nicer if it was hot (who serves cold poached eggs?),

the orange sauce with the duck terrine (£5.90) was sickly sweet

and to my taste the main course meat was overcooked to toughness, both my roast guinea fowl (£14.50)

and my friend's pork fillet (£13.50).

The very friendly waitress duly came up and asked if we were enjoying the meal, and we duly nodded and smiled.
Was that wrong?

I wasn't not enjoying the meal -- the home-made olive bread was good, the guinea fowl came in a nice wild mushroom sauce, the roasted new potatoes (£3.50) were beautifully crisp (though the mayonnaise I asked for inexplicably tasted of mustard), the parmesan croquettes which came with the pork were a heaven-made match of cheese and carbs, and the house white (£14) was nicely zingy.
Plus we were highly entertained by the next table whose gentleman was very indignant about being served lime cordial instead of wine (apparently they'd filled up the empty bottles with cordial to decorate the wine racks, but one of them accidentally got served to a customer).

And yet somehow those nods and smiles to the charming waitress felt false. Should I have said something??

The Larder, 91-93 St. John St, EC1M 4NU; Tel. 020 76081558; Tube: Barbican or Farringdon;
Toptable is currently doing 50% off food, which with house wine is slightly better value than its other offer of 2 courses plush half a bottle of vino for £19.95.

PS: I've reviewed The Larder before, when it first opened last year.


Anonymous said...

I agree it's a really difficult one. I complained to The Diner, Soho, on Wednesday and, as yet, have received no response which has made me even more cross about the experience. I am sure restaurants would appreciate constructuve criticism of the type you outline here.

Anonymous said...

Personally, as someone who works with restaurants and who's better half is in the trade, I would definately pipe up when something's not right. Not to say you should be aggressive or whiney, but a simple "actually, I didn't really enjoy this" or "would you please mind reheating this" would not only result in you getting what you want (most of the time), but it also gives the kitchen some all-important feedback so they don't continually make the same mistake.

EdibleLondon said...

Thank you - your comments have made me think that I probably should say something next time the meal's not up to scratch.
Cheesybellybutton, it's nice to know that restaurants actually pass on feedback to the kitchen and that it can lead to changes.
hc, hope you get a response from The Diner.