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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A Comedy Caller and duck that was only fit for the farm cats..

Would you believe it the complainer mentioned in the previous post did indeed do us the 'favour' of coming back again.The Cynical One and myself clocked her immediately as she walked through the door,docile hubby in tow,disconcertingly wearing some kind of floral bandana type headgear.
Our hearts sank,people like this can physically drain the life force out of your body in two seconds flat.
The odd peculiarity about these two,which we hadn't immediately noted,was the fact that they always order duplicate meals,so true to form they studied the board then predictably ordered two identical meals.In this case slow roast duck leg.
The Cynical One glanced at me and sighed,checked the ticket on,at the same time forewarning the kitchen they were in.
In due course the meals were sent and we kind of forgot about the two of them as the lunch service kicked off and our attention was diverted elsewhere.We had a couple of tables booked but people tend not to book at lunchtimes so you can never predict how many will rock up on any given day.There was a four booked in midway through service and were directed to the table we'd chosen for them.It doesnt matter which table you decide to reserve, it wont be the right one.People have lots of requirements in terms of which table they want to sit at.This four eyed the table disdainfully but with most of the other tables now taken their options were kinda limited.They reluctantly sat down,shuffling irritably in the seats.The Cynical One shot me a surreptitious eye roll and headed over the extract the drinks order.Presently the 'leader' called me over.
'Excuse me do you have any seats suitable for bad backs?'
Now,not being in possession of the aforementioned bad back nor being an effing chiropractor, I had no idea what kind of seat would be suitable for a bad back ..I decided to put the ball back in her court.
'What type of seat would you like? We have lots of different chairs as you can see'
The woman looked annoyed then scanned the immediate area for a bad back chair eventually
swapping her chair with one at an adjacent table then continuing to fidget.
As the drinks were delivered the chair problem was again raised.
'I'm sorry we're really not comfortable here,can we move to another table please?'
As it happened a table had just become available in the dining room and OH JOY with six different  mismatched chairs to choose from,I invited the party to follow me.
The leader was having none of it.
'Stay where you are and I'll go and check out the table out first'
I smiled encouragingly,placing my hand on a high backed chair with a wicker seat.
'I'm sure this one will be good for a bad back,its nice and firm and will give a lot of support'
I patted the seat like some over eager salesman at DFS on the last day of the 14 day permanent sale.
The woman stared at me as if I was an absolute nutter then turned away.
'Its ok we'll stay where we are'
'If seating arrangements are such a bloody deal breaker,why don't they just effing sit at home in their orthopaedic armchairs' said Chef helpfully..
Just then I remembered the serial complainer sat with her duck by the window.I glanced over.Her arms were folded,and in an odd but increasingly popular trend, with the husband sat beside her.
As I approached the interview panel,I could see that both plates were empty(hurrah) but on closer inspection all was not jolly.One plate was COMPLETELY empty and I mean COMPLETELY-no sign of the bone.
I went to grab the plates.
'Was everything ok for you?'
The woman was visibly shaking.
' it was terrible,in fact it was only fit for the farm cats so I've wrapped it up and put it in my bag to take home for them' and then almost as an afterthought and pointing at the husbands clear plate 'and he didn't enjoy his either'
I like duck

I observed the husbands very empty plate, duck bone as clean as a whistle displayed prominently.
The husband sat and said nothing,less life in him than a dead granny.
'Well I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it-would you like something else instead?'
'No No No'
She was shaking her head in disgust.
Thank God for that.
I retreated from the table and planned my next move.
As I cleared the table adjacent to the table with the bad back and they requested the bill, the very pleasant woman leaned in towards me and nodding toward the problem table in a stage whisper uttered 'That lot are going to ask to move to this table'
Which was a problem as the table was booked out for another party in five minutes.
Sure enough I was waved over
'Excuse me would you mind if we moved over to that table-we really aren't comfortable here'
I smiled.
'I'm sorry that's just not possible as a table for 5 five are booked here shortly and unfortunately I cant give them your current table as its only for four'.
They were already on the up in a presumptive table move but stopped dead in their tracks on receipt of this information.
I noticed the duck woman heading over to the bar.I'd already told the Cynical One not to accept any payment for the meals.
I sidled over to watch.
The woman was insisting on paying.
'No thats fine' said the Cynical One 'but just to let you know,if you had let us know earlier we could have offered an alternative meal'
The woman stood there looking embarrassed,the balance of power neatly shifted in our favour.
That's going to take the wind out of your complaint with the bulk of a meal that you haven't paid for tucked up neatly in your handbag.In fact I'd call that THEFT.
 I haz the upper hand.
I smiled a smug smile as they shuffled out of the door sheepishly,her with the stolen duck breast in her handbag and him with a very full tum,just as a couple of Irish fellas at the bar were having a very loud and much more entertaining conversation about a mutual friend who had 'pinched their MOTHER'S arse'
I've already briefed all staff with our policy for dealing with them on their next visit:
'Are you absolutely sure you'd like to order food? You've already tried fur,feather and fish and it appears our food really is NOT TO YOUR TASTE..'
And rest assured the fuckers WILL BE BACK..
Further portions of the farm cat duck continued to 'fly' (groan) out for the rest of the week,despite this with no sign of any outward feline activity or miaowing from the customers.
Next day we had further seating problems.
The Actor motioned me over to the bar.
'See those two booked on table 2? Well the woman is the size of two houses and she just isn't going to fit on that table so Ive had to move her to table 3 but it's booked out for three in 45 mins'
'God yes  I can see what you mean,at least a metric tonne, should be another table free by the time the next lot in come in.Good call'
All of the above delivered through well practised fake smiles.We'd all make great ventriloquists... I nervously eyed up the chair she was about to sit at, a pastime I'm increasingly finding myself occupied with.
Later that night just as snifters were in sight the phone rang.I'm constantly surprised at how late people ring and make bookings sometimes even after 11 at night.'Oh I'll just ring the pub before I finish my cocoa and book a table'..
I picked up.The male caller had a deep guttural voice,I couldn't quite place the accent but could have been Mackem.
'Can I speak to my Dad please,his name's Peter'
What's his surname I enquired.
The caller sounded muffled,I couldn't make out what he was saying so passed the phone over to the Blonde.
'Here, can you hear what he's saying' I passed the phone over disinterestedly.
I could hear the Blonde trying to establish the fathers surname as she headed over to the remaining five tables in search of the Dad.
I thought I heard her repeat the word 'file'.
Surely not.
I watched in amazement she approached each table in turn asking each if anyone at the table was called
At the last table unfortunately there was indeed a chap named Peter.I was rooted to the spot as I heard her then politely enquire was his surname "File"
The chap looked momentarily stunned then smirked nervously shaking his head.
I kid you not.
The Blonde headed back over to the bar.
'Please tell me you didn't ask that fellow if his name was Peter File..'
Now normally The Blonde is very quick on the uptake but it'd been a very long day..
'NOOOOO..Why didn't you stop me??'
She grabbed the phone and dialled 1471.
We have the comedy callers' number and are already planning a late night call for next Saturday.The options are endless:
Hugh Jars
Brothers Warwick and Mike Hunt
And of course our old friend Pat McCrotch.

'I bet that was the Actor' said Chef who was nearly crying into his well earned Fosters 'ringing up with one his Actory voices'
Next morning we were still giggling about the comedy call.The Actor (I swear to God it wasn't me) denied all knowledge but did arrive laden with Sunday chocolates for the girls..
Watch this space.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Sometimes people are bloody unpleasant.

The other weekend I had to deal with a particularly unpleasant complaint.
From time to time Sunday lunchtime seems to bring out the most venomous of complaints,all usually linked to people's own idea of what their meal should consist of.
We'd had a similar complaint last year from a party who'd made a forty five mile round trip to visit us for Sunday lunch without actually bothering to find out what was on offer first.Being of a vegetarian mindset was a bit of a problem given that the pub is in a rural farming area and with the Sunday lunch menu consisting of a predominately meat based menu of a traditional and non imaginative nature.All of which is clearly specified on the web site.The whole sorry business ended up on Tripadvisor in spectacular form.
Being on kitchen duties on the Sunday in question,it was late afternoon as I emerged  just in time to see a youngish woman approach OCD boy.I could tell by the cut of her jib that all was not well.OCD boy isn't the best at dealing with complaints given his tendency to repeat back what the complainant has said with the result that a protracted conversation can continue for some time without any actual progression being made.Which often has the effect of magnifying and compounding the original problem .
I steamed over 'Is there a problem here?'
"Well yes,we've eaten here before but never on a Sunday and I'm afraid we were underwhelmed with the menu'
'Really?' I say 'we do serve a traditional Sunday lunch'
'Yes but that's nothing like what you serve during the week'
'No' I repeated 'we serve a limited menu on a Sunday-roasts and of course the usual starters and puds'
'Well I've brought all these people because we love your food and we didn't expect to only have a roast dinner for choice.'
'Well I'm sorry that's the case but it is specified on the web site,I'm sorry if its not what you expected but it is what we serve on Sundays'
'well that's really disappointing..don't you think that compromises your food offering??'
I glanced around the packed pub,over 100 plus diners pass through the doors every Sunday with many more being turned away every week.
'NO look round,can you see how busy we are?people love our roasts on a Sunday,we use very good local meat '(I'd like to know of anywhere else serving beef rib for 9.50).
At this point the woman seemed to accept what I was saying, I reiterated that it was a shame she hadn't checked out the on line menu first and to smooth things over I agreed to knock one of the meals off the bill as a gesture of goodwill.She took the bill and returned to the table.

*Have you been watching Russell Norman on The Restaurant man? Please refer to his excellent advice 'whilst nobody goes into the restaurant trade to make money,it is a problem of you don't make money'
(ie :why would we not offer what the majority of people want on a Sunday.)

At this point I returned to my original purpose-giving instructions for the rest of the afternoon.
Immediately, a chap in his early thirties from the problem table shouted over 'scuse me-we're waiting to pay the bill' He looked furious .
I headed over with the PDQ machine in my hand,he was already waving his credit card.
As I went to put the payment through the machine I was subjected the the most sustained and angry attack I've had the pleasure of fielding in the whole time we've been at the pub.The rest of the table looked slightly embarrassed but no one intervened as he vented his anger.He was going on and on about the meal being terrible.I stood my ground remained calm and told him 'look, as I've explained to your friend, I accept that the meal wasn't what you expected but it was not a terrible meal,its a traditional Sunday lunch using good quality local meats with everything freshly cooked today'
Its not often I'm lost for words but his comment that 'the vegetables were flung in some water and boiled' floored me momentarily.
He was like a flaming Rottweiller,after he'd slagged every aspect of the meal off for a good ten minutes whilst I stood there quietly with the PDQ machine in my hand,he finally rounded off with 'and the service WAS DISGUSTING'
'Oh really,what was the problem with service?'
I could hear the rest of the party muttering that there was no problem with the service,they were looking increasingly uncomfortable but not one of them tried to shut him up
'Yes there was, I'm waiting to pay the bill and you're standing over there CHATTING amongst yourselves'
At this point something snapped.
I calmly put the credit card on the table and pushed it slowly towards him.
'I don't want your money'
I turned and walked back over to the till and continued 'chatting'
The bill was £180.
The woman who made the original complaint came over to me and apologised for his behaviour and asked to pay.
I refused but in the end she ended up paying a portion of the bill.
As they got up to leave I made a point of going over and thanking them for coming, the knobster kept his head down,hopefully he'll have had some grief over it after he left.
Its not often I beal (well not more than once a week, but not usually in a work related situation)but much later as I began to relive the verbal attack  I began to blab like a baby and could barely get the words out.
"Calm down' said Chef 'Why didn't you come and get me?'
'What difference would that have made?'
"I could have come out and twatted the bastard'
Which of course would have helped the situation ENORMOUSLY.
I'm still awaiting the whole sorry business to erupt on Tripadvisor and I'm pretty annoyed with myself for accepting any payment whatsoever as now there's the awful prospect that they MIGHT COME BACK.
And yes complainers do come back,that's when they become that most loathsome of customers: The Serial Complainer.

Fuckwittery of a more lighthearted nature was restored through last weekend.I thought I'd come across every conceivable complaint,but the general public never disappoint.
With the trend for arriving prior to opening time growing in popularity,last Saturday morning the slow conga around the beer garden had started around half an hour prior to opening and by ten to twelve a snake of around a dozen people were on their second circuit of the perimeter in the search for an alternative means of access,unnervingly brought up at the rear with what appeared to be a teenager clutching a teddy bear.
As I pushed open the door I managed to avoid flattening the throng queued up on the other side (why do they never expect the door to open outwards?) and being trampled underfoot in the stampede to the bar to be served first.There's a particular couple who win this race every week without fail,their seemingly frail outward appearance belying their apparent athletic prowess.They also manage to bag the table nearest to the fire before anyone else gets a look in.They seem to like order in their lives,you will know the sort of dullard who has their own glass (in this case a MUG) and if his favourite beer isn't available, there's hell on.In the same vein they only eat smoked salmon so even if its not on the menu we have make sure we've got some in.Its an easy order:Two smoked salmon,bowl of chips, a pint of Timothy Taylor's Landlord,and a weak lime and soda(no ice).
Sometimes we don't even bother to write it down.
On this particular Saturday,in a break with tradition, for some reason the kitchen decided to plate the smoked salmon on rectangular shaped plates.As I went to put the plates down the chap raised his hand and shook his head slowly.
'I am sitting at a ROUND table,therefore I require a ROUND plate...'
For a moment I thought he was joking but then I noticed the wife was smirking as if it was obvious that a round table required a round plate.I stood there gobmacked for a minute before realising that they were indeed deadly serious.I glanced around wondering if there was a suitable rectangular table nearby that I could move them to.Sadly not.Unbelievably I took the plates back to the kitchen to get them replated on round plates.This news was not received with warmth in the confines of the already hotting up kitchen space.
'You're having a laugh' said Chef.
'Do I look like I'm laughing??"
I was just heading back through the door with the newly ROUND plated salmon when Chef called me back.'Hang on a sec you've forgotten this'
He was standing in front of the hot plate, arm outstretched with a medium frying pan in his hand.
'What's that for?'
'Its a round pan for you to whack them over their round heads with....'

Good Plan

NB I'm considering applying  the same rationale to the customers; '`I'm sorry I can t serve you as your outfit doesn't match our soft furnishings..'

Presently, the couple who always order a bottle of house red and then leave it to 'breathe' on a hot radiator came in.They both ordered fish and chips and the requisite bottle of house red,which as usual was left to warm up on the radiator.Which reminds me of the couple a few weeks ago who asked us to microwave their bottle of red for 20 seconds to warm it up...and I'm not even joking.
Much later,when they came to pay the bill and as the usual enquiry 'have you enjoyed everything' was made,I was surprised by the response.
The wife leaned in towards me(at close range turned out to be a surprisingly whiskery specimen-must book an eye test) and whispered as if fearful anyone would hear.
"Well my husband enjoyed his but I didn't enjoy mine at all'
'Oh really ? what was the problem?"
'Well I really don't like fish and chips'
Which of course begs the question why the feck did you order them.
"You see I had to order them because there was nothing else on your menu that I like'
Erm,but you don't like fish and chips either..
'Out of interest what do you like?'
'I don't really like meat or fish,I like salads and vegetables '
'Well we do have some salads on the starter menu..'
'No. I wanted something hot today,so I had to order the fish and chips'
Well.Not quite Missus. Ordering food isn't compulsory...
'Yes last time we came we ordered the rib of beef and my husband ate it all as I don't like beef,and today he's eaten his own fish and mine too as I really don't like it'

Just before she left she grabbed my arm..'but don't worry wont stop us from coming back..'
Well.. knock yourself out Missus...


Monday, 16 December 2013

The Christmas Rant.

There really has been a dearth of Christmas cheer this year.
I accept that that lots of people are forced into going out with colleagues/acquaintances that perhaps they wouldn't normally be inclined to socialise with but dear God why on earth it becomes acceptable to take out frustrations on service staff I have NO IDEA.
There must be some sort of pack mentality at play here..
The first of the biggish groups consisted of a party of females who had opted to choose from the regular menu.Usually this bodes well the implication being they're willing to try more than just the bog standard Christmas stuff.
We happened to have mallard on the menu.
When three of the group went ahead and ordered this particular menu item I was feeling slightly nervous.
Please note I am not a snob..but I would have put money on this lot not enjoying this particular dish.I thought I'd try to dissuade them and influence them towards something I knew they'd appreciate.Something inoffensive and slow cooked.
'The mallard is served pink-will that be ok for you'
I smiled and waited expectantly for the alternative orders to fly in..
'Well as long as it's not raw that's fine'
A determined lot.What else could I say other than 'listen mate, you're not going to like it'?
To which the only rational response could be 'well why's it on your menu then??'
I accepted defeat and hoped for the best.Though my heart sank as I just caught the comment 'I love crispy duck, I always order it at the Golden Dragon'
When the meals were sent initially all appeared to be well,there was much cooing and positive comments.
A couple of minutes later,predictably I was called over to the table.
There is a good and bad way to make a complaint,what follows should really be classified under 'Obnoxious complaint'
'This duck is DISGUSTING.I can't believe the Chef has sent this out of his kitchen.I eat out all the time and I've never been served something as disgraceful as this' (repeated stabbing of the poor breast with knife)
'Ok let me take that away for you,can I get you something else instead'
'We'll all have the braised beef'
The offending duck..

Note the absence of any P word but Eureka they'd identified something I knew they'd like.
You will know by now the score with the kitchen and the standard response'Tell them to get out' so I wont bother to go into any further details,suffice to say three braised beef were put on.Job done as far as I was concerned.
When the substitute dishes were ready I thought I'd better take them out myself in order to do a bit more grovelling just to avert any possible future TA assassination.
As I approached the table the ring leader raised her hand.
'We don't want that now its too late and we've waited too long,everyone else is nearly finished now'
'Well I'm very sorry about that but  we cant make the  food cook any quicker than it takes'
'Well its just NOT GOOD ENOUGH is it????'
She was shaking her head so vigorously in disgust that her Christmas Pudding earrings gave her the look of a living maraca, I momentarily became concerned that the make up she'd meticulously applied with a catapult a couple of hours earlier,might unwittingly slide off.
'Look I'm very sorry but I don't know what you expect me to say,you didn't enjoy your original choices so we've prepared alternatives as requested,which you are more than welcome to eat now,what more can i do?'
I stood there expectantly with the three plates of steaming food in my hands.
'No its too late,we expected to eat together.The service here is a disgrace'
'Have you eaten here before?'I enquired politely.
'What's that got to do with it??I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between a good and bad meal,I eat out all the time and to be perfectly honest we WONT BE BACK'
'Thats the truest thing she's said all night' said Chef as the three untouched meals were flung unceremoniously into the bin.
Next day we had 'whole plaice' on the menu.You'd think we'd have learned by now with all the problems we've had over the summer with 'whole' fish but we're nothing if not optimistic and doggedly determined to the last, so on it went.
A couple of old dears came in for a 'special Birthday lunch' which they hadn't bothered to book for so despite wanting 'your best table' ended up sitting on the small table in front of the bar,normally left for drinkers.
They both ordered the plaice.Seniors like fish.Not much chewing effort involved.
When I took the plates over there was a an audible gasp.
'My goodness they're big'
And no it wasn't my Christmas baubles they were referring to.
I have to admit they were more akin to small whales than your average bottom feeder,we'd already commented earlier on their gargantuan proportions and at only £1.20 per portion Chef was rubbing his hands with glee at the prospective excellent GP.
A couple of minutes later I heard a sharp 'pssst'.I jerked my head towards the perceived direction of the sound.There it went again,a definite and most determined psssssst.
Now normally this sort of attention seeking action gets my goat almost as much as the clowns who tap on the bar and then wonder why they get served last, but coming as it did from a couple of tweedy spinsters, I found it unexpectedly amusing and had to stifle an inadvertent giggle.
'Can you find me some mushy peas in the kitchen,dear, preferably marrowfat?'
'Im sorry we don't have peas on the menu today-I can get you a side order of vegetables if you like?'
'Only green veg Dear, anything else gives me terrible wind'
And so it came to pass(joke) that the only green vegetable available in the kitchen being 'sprout' the plaice and chips had a somewhat untraditional if not Christmassy feel.
Much later,when I went over to clear the plates and on enquiring had enjoyed their meal I was unprepared for the content and ferocity of the response.
'Well no not really,I didn't expect the plaice to fill the whole plate..'
This is all wrong.How could you not expect the plaice to fill the whole farking plate?The plate could have been so tiny that even a very small fish would still have filled it.Good God shall we fish to order?Yes that's a bit too big, lets throw that one back and catch a smaller one..
Yes. The Plaice was too big yet you still went ahead and ordered a massive bowl of the least flatulent inducing vegetable known to man to accompany it...
Next day being Saturday and all indications being for the Shit to hit the proverbial fan we girded our loins and drafted in extra troops in the form of a particularly efficient seventeen year old who normally only works Sunday lunch.
At 11.20 we were nearly set up and planning to grab a quick coffee before opening when the phone rang.As I answered it I noticed in my peripheral vision a couple appear at the side of the bar.Sunday Girl was furiously hoovering and hadn't heard them approach.As she turned around she screamed very loudly as they unexpectedly appeared right in front of her face.
The couple were unruffled.
'Are you open?'
Yes, we always welcome customers with a spot of impromptu hoovering..
'No I'm sorry we aren't,we don't open until midday'
'Well, why is the door open?'
'The door isn't open, its locked'
'That door isn't locked we just came through it' (pointing at the back door)
'Ah yes thats the back door,thats the entrance over there'( pointing at the front door)
'Well if you're not open why is that door unlocked??'
I was quite pleased with her response.
'So that the staff can get in...'
The couple turned and headed towards the locked entrance.
'Ahem,excuse me.. that door is locked...'
This scenario kind of set the tone for the rest of lunch.
Within twenty minutes of opening all but two tables were taken and things were definitely hotting up in the kitchen.With every new check pinned on the board Chef was becoming increasingly annoyed,when the latest check to hit the board was welcomed with the comment 'this is effing ridiculous' I thought it was time to take diversionary action.With two tables remaining to order I thought I'd forewarn the punters that the kitchen was very busy therefore the food wouldn't be appearing any time soon.
Christmas Production line in full swing

I approached the first table.
'Hello,just to let you know that the kitchen is very busy today,a lot of orders have just gone on therefore there is a bit of a wait for meals at the moment'
Second beam.
The younger of the two women scowled.
'WELL that doesn't make me feel very welcome at all in  your restaurant,I've just sat down and now you're telling me that I'm going to have to wait and I haven't even ordered any food yet'.
To say she  was seething would be putting it mildly.
'Well I'm really sorry about that but there is a wait,so rather than letting you go ahead and order, then having you sit and wait for longer than you expect I thought I'd make you aware of the delay in advance'
'But we've ordered drinks now..'
'Well if you prefer not to stay, I can cancel the drinks for you..'
'No we're here now and we're hungry so we will stay but I don't feel welcomed into your restaurant AT long will the wait be?'
How long is a piece of string?I didn't dare ask the kitchen for an estimated delivery time so used the tried and tested 'Well that depends what you order' i.e. if you end up having to wait its your own fault because you ordered something which takes a while to cook.
As it happens the other table yet to order were within earshot of the table which I'd just had the exchange with and they'd earwigged the whole debacle.Complainers usually have either a beneficial effect or an infectious effect,on this occasion the woman's demeanour and attitude went well in my favour.I was greeted with the level of warmth and affection usually only reserved for the return of a long lost relative..

'That's no problem AT ALL we're in no hurry, just sitting here enjoying our drinks and soaking up the lovely atmosphere'
I did a quick circuit of the bar to assess the situation and noted further Christmas revellers streaming in through the front door ready to pounce on newly vacated tables.I clocked a couple being directed to the only table for two,a smallish one squished into a corner,one you don't dare book out, but reserve for walk ins. I thought I'd better get another order from a table of four who'd been sitting for a while.
'Is that all you have for vegetarians?'
Please God no.NOT that old chestnut again.I decided to take the direct approach.
'Yes I'm afraid vegetarian food isn't really our thing,though if you had let us know in advance that you were coming we would have offered an additional option.'
'Ok well I don't like your veggie option so can I have some of the bubble and squeak and some vegetables please but no pork chop on there because I'm a VEGETARIAN'
You don't say.
As I checked the order on and explained the lack of a pork chop I didn't dare ask for a veggie gravy due to the volume of checks already on the board and no craic being available in the kitchen at all.It was one of those rare occasions where the pressure out front was greater than that in the kitchen and being the perceptive fellow he is,Chef had cottoned on and clearly feeling sorry for me offered of his own free will to make a veggie gravy..!!
As I turned to leave with a new found spring in my step I was called back.
'Whilst you're here take that starter to table 3'
It was the difficult table.They'd ordered one starter between the four of them.
'Your kipper pate'
'No I ordered the Craster kipper'
'Yes the kipper pate,this is it'
'NO that's not what I ordered,I ordered the Craster Kipper'
'Yes the Craster kipper is in there, its been made into a pate'
Pointing directly into the pot.
'But that's not what I ordered'
'Well there's no whole kipper on the menu...would you like me to take this away?'
There was a minor disturbance going on as I passed through the bar en route to the kitchen,the couple allocated the small table were now standing, the woman's voice raised.'Im not happy sitting there CANCEL my drinks' I could see Sunday Girl already on her way over with the trayed beverages.
'Would you like this table instead?' I overheard her say pointing at a just vacated bigger table.
'NO I'M NOT HAPPY now, Cancel the drinks, we're leaving'
The husband mouthed sorry as he scurried out of the door behind her.
'Drink?' said Sunday Girl as we both headed back to the bar where OCD Boy was busy issuing a Gift Voucher in the midst of the mayhem.
We both eyed the vodka and coke enviously as the Human Christmas Cracker extended back to the front door,resplendent in Festive sweaters, M & S carriers and the odd set of antlers.
'Next time you ask me to work a Saturday Biff,the answers's NO'
We plonked the drinks tray down and both rushed to the kitchen to answer the bell which was ringing increasingly impatiently now.
'How long is the wait time now?' I asked with further diners continuing to appear.
'Well with the grill temperature at around 4 degrees I'd say around teatime today,if not later' said Chef sarcastically.
I could see The Apprentice standing behind,red faced and holding a pan full of bacon topped with grill stones,no doubt the result of an over enthusiastic pan grab..
I made a sharp exit and headed back over to the bar.

(Have I ever mentioned I hear all these voices in my head?Every twitter user has a voice which I read their tweets in.In the same vein I hear music according to situations,the current situation had Queens 'Don't stop me now' along with the visuals from the fight scene in Shaun of the Dead playing on a constant loop in my head.I walk around to the pace of the music.I'm weird I know ....)

By now,OCD boy was bent over, pen in hand,meticulously filling out the Gift Voucher Record File in beautiful evenly spaced tiny writing.Oblivious to the impatient crowd eager to be served.A chap at the end of the bar called out for his bill.Without even raising his head from the beloved file which is indeed an exciting and irresistible prospect for someone with OCD,with all those little columns and lines to be completed with delightful accuracy and precision,he muttered:
'Just give us a minute mate..'
He was so engrossed he hadn't seen me approach.
'Forget the fucking calligraphy practice and get the bloody bill for the customer'
'Yes Biff'
I'd make a great ventriloquist.

As things calmed down, the kitchen caught up with orders and with 2pm and last orders about to pass,a couple entered the bar.
'Are we too late for food?'
Due to the hammering we'd had at lunchtime and with the afternoon chip restocking about to commence I thought I'd do the kitchen a favour and tell the latecomers they could only have starters or sandwiches.The last thing they would be wanting would be a chancer coming in and ordering a leisurely three course meal just after 2pm.
I imparted the bad news.
'So basically we're stuffed?'
'Well no,we can offer sandwiches any starter,a hot soup and chips,what were you wanting'
'Well as I said we are happy to offer any starter or sandwich as we have finished serving now'
I resisted the urge to tell him it wasn't compulsory to stay.
'I can't read those boards,the writing is terrible'
Following a prolonged description of the dishes on offer I managed to extricate an order and pass it to the kitchen.
What is wrong with people??' I later enquired of Chef.
'I wouldn't worry' he said thoughtfully 'its all relative innit?? The more people you do,the more fuckwittery you get,two weeks today it'll all be over..'
At least someone was happy..


Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Good, The Bad and Those beaten into submission by a bit of rare beef...

Serving the public is a constant battle of wits and a daily struggle to gain the upper hand
Its true that most people come out with the intention of enjoying themselves,but there's a minority who will do everything within their power to make life difficult for you,their sole purpose being to catch you out ..
I've mentioned before how regularly people arrive prior to opening time yet still expect you to open the door and serve them.If the front door is locked they will leave no stone unturned in their search for an alternative means of access.We even had a couple find their way around the back through a bolted gate and were on their way through the kitchen door before entanglement in the fly screen finally halted progress.
I have more conversations akin to a Fawlty Towers script than any normal exchange.
Anyway,just before 12 (thats opening time to me and you) there was a couple repeatedly trying the front door.Feeling in a generous mood and it being only a minute or so before 12,I thought I'd let them in.As I approached the door the woman tapped impatiently on the window and mouthed 'I can't get the door open'
I refrained from quipping 'thats because we're not open yet' and proceeded to open the door.
As I unlocked the first of the two mortice locks the woman impatiently rattled the handle again.
'I'm just unlocking the door' I shouted.
HINT:If anything's going to make me take my time,let me tell you *that* is. I've even known the lock to become 'stuck' on similar occasions..well you have to get your jollies some way.
As I pushed open the door I was greeted by a stern looking woman,hair as inflexible as her attitude,set in purple broccoli florets and held like concrete with a generous layer of Elnett. The apologetic looking husband was tagging along two paces behind,muttering sorry in her wake.
At this point I thought I'd offer her a bit of helpful information,for future reference if you get my drift.
'Just to let you know,we don't open until 12' I beamed my most welcoming smile just to deflect any possible forthcoming aggression.
'But its 12 now..''she frowned.
'Yes' I said slowly 'THATS why I'm opening the door...'
There was a faint whiff of Yardley Apple Blossom and mothball as she pushed past shaking her head in disgust as she went,intent on bagging the best table..

Last Saturday we had someone turn up one hour before opening and demanding access..She was tapping on the window and wouldn't take no for an answer 'But Ive a table booked...'
Yes Missus but you're table's not until 12.15...
As Chef says 'You wouldn't turn up at Marks and Spencer and expect them to open the doors an hour early would you??
Then you get the late comers.The ones who turn up way after you've finished service yet still demanding food and getting angry if they cant get it.
Last Sunday a couple arrived about 20 minutes after we'd finished Sunday lunch and with an elderly and infirm relative in tow.I don't know how old she was but I wouldn't have been surprised if theyd started the ascent from the car park at sunrise,just as Chef had put the roasts in the oven.OCD boy had already told them we'd finished serving,but I could see from my lookout point next to the coffee machine that they were giving it big lips..
I went over to see what the commotion was.
The 'son',probably in his Sixties and doing a good impression of an over enthusiastically Brylcremed son of Reg Varney,was dripping in gold chains,and wearing a three piece plaid check suit with overcoat on top.
Moderate Brylcreme usage
His companion was a heavily botoxed,bleached and beshoulderpadded 80's moll who would have made a great ventriloquist as her lips barely moved when she requested a straw for her large Chardonnay.
I felt a bit on edge.He had a bit of a look of a Kray twin or at least a distant cousin twice removed.He was as welcome Chez Nous as a drunk at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve..
And Reader,in addition,it was duly noted that the ear lobes were barely perceptible and obviously its a well known fact that convicted cons all have teensy weensy ear lobes.

(Ray Winstone voice):''S'cuse me darlin. ...can we get some food here..I don't care what it costs..?'

This came across as less of a question and more of a statement of fact.Not wanting any trouble I decided to incur the wrath of the kitchen and offer him a starter.This idea was not received with warmth...Lets be honest they didn't look like the sort who went out to nibble on parma ham and shrimps.
They looked more pie and mash sorts.
He pulled a thick wad of elasticbanded  tenners from his inside pocket, displacing a distasteful cloud of pocket fluff and stale crumbs,then waving the prized bundle a smidgeon too far within my personal space
That did it.
'Ok let me just check with the kitchen..'
'If you would please,I've just caught a plane and FIVE TAXIS to come here for lunch today'

'And you didn't think to ring ahead and book......??'



I didn't bother hanging around to wait for the answer to this particularly ill conceived of questions,The bar fell eerily silent as the theme music from a famous spaghetti western came on the CD player and OCD boy grabbed the whisky bottles before scarpering into the cellar, a ball of tumbleweed hot on his heels...

I wouldn't say the air in the kitchen was blue, what with the weekly deep clean already being well underway but at least the London mafia were going to get their grub,which was the lesser of two evils as far as I was concerned.I grabbed a probe wipe and gave me ears a quick flick over and lived to fight another day.

I was relieved to impart the news that two roast beef dinners(seemingly the corpse wasn't eating but  being kept alive instead though an intravenous supply of Malibu and coke),would be shortly forthcoming,I triumphantly slid two fingers of red eye across the bar to Reggie as the pub miraculously sprang back to life.

Later,when the meals were sent and the required condiment 'red sauce' had been delivered,I hung around at a safe distance just to keep an eye out in case things kicked off,you never know what these London sorts keep under their overcoats...
Presently,I could see they were gingerly pushing the food around the plate..prodding the meat almost as if they expected a reaction..I sensed all was not well..they looked a bit..well... erm..frightened...
*Lightbulb moment*
Reader,in the excitement I had forgotten to warn them that the bloody(did you see what I did there?) beef was rare.

Northumbrian beef-fighting crime since 1842

OCD Boy was glancing furtively at me,nervously fiddling with the tea towel in his hands and polishing the same wine glass for the twentieth time,when simultaneously the three of them downed their drinks,slamming the empty glasses on the table in unsion. There was a collective sharp intake of breath as we all anticipated their next move.
Reggie did that weird and incredibly annoying air handwriting thing.The bill signal.
For some reason I expected a large gratuity due to the trouble we'd gone to and the previous glimpse of the available funds.
There was none forthcoming.

We waved them out the door to their sixth taxi of the day and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 Who'd have thunk it eh?Beaten into submission by a bit of rare beef.

Next time I might tell you about the ones who don't bother to turn up at all.....


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