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Monday, 21 November 2011

The Children from Hell

I'll thcream and thcream until I'm thick...
Sometimes I wonder whether diners fully understand the purpose of a bookings system.
You see, contrary to popular belief the booking system isn't actually for the convenience of the diner.
Its for the kitchen.
Think about it.
What miraculous cooking invention do you think we have in the kitchen that would enable us to cook for a whole evenings bookings should they all choose to rock up at the same time(8o'clock)??
The booking system enables the kitchen to cope with cooking a diverse range of dishes,to order and more importantly hopefully send the finished dishes out to a consistent standard and to the satisfaction of the customer.
Its clear lots of diners don't get this.Many will come in without a reservation,which is fine (but please have some flexibility),then when you politely explain that we cannot accommodate due to being fully booked they will look across at empty tables and say 'why cant we sit there?' with no thought that in,15,30,45 mins there will be a people sitting at the table who have had the foresight to ring ahead and book.
Strange though it may seem we do actually want diners,without them we would be bankrupted pretty quickly.
Yes,surprisingly we don't want to turn you away,we want your cash.
Which brings me to the anathema of the vacant table.
The availability of a table doesn't mean you can sit down and order immediately.Making a table reservation isn't a strictly accurate term,what you are actually waiting for is your slot in the kitchen for the food to be cooked.
Which brings us to the most common problem.
Diners ringing to reserve a table at a specified time will often be offered an alternative time should their preferred slot be unavailable.They will then accept the alternative time,but invariably arrive at the time they originally requested,be this early or late.
This is very rude.
It usually causes least inconvenience to the perpetrators,with tables being booked later who have had the decency to turn up on time bearing the brunt of any delay.

Last Saturday night we were very busy.
At 6pm a table of five arrived who were not due until 7pm.Their original request had been for 6pm,I know this because I had taken the call,I had sensed they were a tad disgruntled at not being able to be accommodated at their chosen time. Grandpa,Grandma,Mother and two girls aged around 10 years.
As the table was ready they were seated and served drinks.
As I walked past at around 6.10pm,Grandpa called me over and requested I take their order.I politely explained that their reservation was for 7pm and the kitchen was very busy with orders but I would fit them in as soon as I could,hopefully before 7pm.
Now at that point I could have taken their order,but they would still have had the same wait time for food.Experience has taught us that its better not to take orders too early otherwise you get into the 'I ordered over 40 minutes ago'scenario.This is best avoided at all costs.
What is the point of a bookings system if you don't adhere to it??

Unbeknownst to Table 6, one of the girls was on her break and was eating within earshot of the table.
Grandpa was not happy.'We've already been sat here for 10 minutes' he grumbled.
'Lets be as awkward as possible when they come to take the order' said one of the velvet dressed girls'they're not getting away with treating us like that'
It was agreed I would take the order.
For the record,I am not anti child,I am a mother myself.I like it when parents bring out their children to eat.
It was before 7pm.
I aprroached the table.

Precocious child:'At last...We want the steak(pointing at sister)but cut in half on two separate plates,not one meal with a spare plate,do you understand??'
'What vegetables does it come with?'
Self:'It comes with watercress and roasted tomatoes'
'I don't want any of that'
Self:I tell you what we have a sandwich steak on the bar menu,how about I do two of those for you instead of cutting one in half'
'What's a sandwich steak?'
SELF:'Its a rump just as the same as the one on the menu,just a smaller one'
Then why are you calling it a sandwich steak?Is it a sandwich??We don't want a sandwich..we don't want it in a bit of bread,we want it on a plate,I told you that before..and how much will it be?'Rolling eyes.
Self:'Yes that's fine we can do it exactly the same,on a plate with chips,would you like a sauce?'
'I don't know,I don't know what the sauce is,how should I know(tutting)what is the sauce??' Then without allowing me to answer: 'look,put the sauce in a separate jug and we'll make up our minds when we see it...'
Self(smiling):'How would you like the steak cooked MADAM?'
At last a fleeting flicker of panic,She didn't know how to ask for the steak to be cooked.
Mother came to the rescue'both medium'.
The rest of the table rattled through their order uneventfully.
As I retired from the table I overheard 'well she wasnt very clever was she..'
At some point they had managed to swap their dining chairs for two high back antique Chinese chairs which are really only for decorative purposes.
As I took out steak knives for the table the two girls grabbed theirs and bizarrely thrust them up and down in a stabbing motion whilst rhythmically repeating 'look, sharp, knives'
This unsettled me somewhat.
As we took the meals out,a loud voice emanating from one of the thrones was heard to say 'here come our miniature steaks,they had better be up to standard....'

The adults made no attempt to silence or apologise.
I recounted events to Chef later.
'you should have told them to get out, they're interviewing for the ugly sisters in town..'

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Road Trip

I recently accompanied Only Daughter on a brief road trip over the border.
Experiencing gale force winds and biblical rain(typical tartan weather),we decided to break up the journey with an overnight stay,heading straight for the dining room on arrival(lets get our priorities right..),it was busy with proceedings already in full swing.

Don't be misled,I snapped this photo at breakfast,we were first up and RAVENOUS,note clutch bag centre above fireplace.

We were met with a strange mismatch of an identity crisis.The obligatory high back(faux)leather dining chairs teamed with cast iron bar tables(watch your knees on the iron legs) and patterned bench seating a remnant from the days this was clearly a bar not a pseudo posh pub hotel.
'Look over there' says Only Daughter,'someone's stuck a handbag to the wall'
'That's a sporran' I say
'Really?Its huge,looks more like a clutch bag'says Only Daughter.

Rudolph kept a watchful eye over proceedings.
The menu boasted the usual suspects,fish n chips,steak and ale pie,Steak n chips,Bangers and mash.
A pleasant Polish fellow came over to take our order.
There then followed a lengthy wait for food,in the interim a slice of (Co-op?)bloomer and some butter appeared at our table perhaps to stave off the hunger pangs.
Supermarket slice.
As we waited,OD noticed a strange coincidence.The dining room was manned by two be-suited chaps of Eastern block origin,assisted by a very able young Scots lass who exclusively delivered drinks.
Every time an order was taken by either of these two, they then disappeared behind the swing door to the kitchen never to reappear for several minutes.
'They're cooking the food' said OD 'they're taking the orders,then going in the kitchen to put the food in the stove'
We both observed the next few orders being taken,then the disappearance into the kitchen despite the very busy dining room.We were both mesmerised.
OD was highly amused.
I must admit it did seem that the waiting staff were putting the food on.

The elderly couple at the next table requested their bill.Twenty minutes later the same was not forthcoming,the lady donned her coat(always a sure indication to bring over the bill).She sat for a few more moments then stood up muttering to hubby 'I've lost patience..'
Pastry crust displaying crumpled paper bag characteristics,please note a similar effect can be achieved by leaning over a mirror(over 40's only..)

OD opted for the pie.The sad bit of parsley perched atop the sallow and wrinkled pastry crust said it all.As the unappetising  crust was declared inedible and flipped off,a congealed glutinous interior was revealed.Clearly insufficient time in the oven to break down the gelatinous gravy.
'Just pick out the meat' I say 'It'll be fine'
OD is not a fussy eater.The meat required the teeth of a far more primitive specimen than she to masticate.

Steak and chips,a minimalistic presentation.
Not very attractive but in fairness the actual steak was nicely seasoned,it had a bite of a bite but was quite tasty.It was advertised as sirloin.Looked more like a sausage.
The presentation was basic to say the least and did nothing to dismiss OD's theory....
We passed on puddings,we had far too much empathy with the waiting staff/chefs to impose even more pressure.
We retired to our room to catch Inspector George Gently,me with a small Talisker and OD with a consolatory packet of Cheese n' onion crisps.
View of Ben More
'Look' I say as we traversed the long corridor to our lodgings,'There's Ben More '
'Where?' replies OD(looking around nosily) 'Who's he..?'
We had just settled down when an unearthly buzzing disturbed our relaxation.OD was quicker than the Quickest  McQuick in Quick town.Out of those covers and into the hotel corridor in her PJs, I've never seen her move so fast.
I stood still maintaining some sense of decorum in my M & S Winceyettes,observing the monster hovering in a circular motion before alighting on the wall light above OD's bed.I grabbed the very useful hotel information directory(which obviously I had previously read from cover to cover including the very important fire evacuation procedure....)I swatted the critter with a force previously unseen.It dropped to OD's bed and took refuge in the pillow case.
I flung the pillow into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
OD tentatively re-entered the bedroom.
'Its your turn' I say'Its trapped in the pillow slip-go in there and whack it with the hotel directory'.
OD retired back outside leaving me with no choice other than to re enter the bathroom .The force with which I tackled that pillow was phenomenal.Norman Bates( EE EE EE EE) didn't have a look in..
Flushed with success I exited the bathroom and beckoned OD's return.
'NOW its your turn.Dispose of it down't loo please...'
Several flushes later and the creature refused to die,still swimming determinedly but unable to get airborne.
'Cover it with loo roll and close the lid'  I say 'just in case it escapes.'
Finally.'Its gone;' shouts OD triumphantly.
Thanks to the mobile I pad which Chef had kindly provided me with, we were able to identify the intruder as a Carrion Beetle otherwise known as an UNDERTAKER BEETLE due to its habit of capturing and burying small mammals then subsequently making itself a cosy nest inside...
OD was inconsolable.'What if there's a nest of them under my bed??
'Don't be ridiculous' I say(convincingly)..then stayed up all night keeping vigil whilst reading ODs current book of choice..
OD slept like a log.
Next morning,propping my eyelids up with matchsticks I encouragingly advised OD there was nothing like a good Scottish Breakfast...

Microwaved bacon.
How wrong I was.
Microwaved bacon.A plastic wrinkled sausage which had clearly been flung in the deep fat fryer ,eggs as rubbery as the wellies we needed to make the hasty foray to the pick up.And self help toast via the automatic machine which provided the most entertainment of our stay due to burning every slice.
I was asked if everything was OK as we checked out.
We never complain.
Didn't you mention the smell of gas in the bedroom corridor?...enquired OD.
Now here's the thing.
This place has an AA rosette for food.What does that mean??
We wondered how long it had been since the AA Inspector had chanced by.
Continuing with our journey.
Palm tree in the rain

Further heavy rain
Next day there was a break in the clouds.
Spot the deer

If you look closely you can spy two deer in the above photo.

Perfect light for artists methinks

Stunning scenery
Seriously,autumn is the best time to visit Scotland, gold and garnet across the landscape, dramatic weather and stunning scenery.

On my return an email popped into my in box from the hotel we'd visited.
Asking for feedback on our stay.
I replied very politely that the room and the staff were very good,but the experience as a whole was let down by the standard of the food(I even e-mailed the photo of the bacon).
To date no reply.
Perhaps they were only looking for positive comments.

OD remains convinced the Chef had been locked in the walk in freezer and the waiting staff had forgotten to let him out....


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