I was just congratulating myself on the resounding success of the previous nights seasonal festivities when I answered a very unusual call.
'May I speak to the manager please?'
'Oh hello,I wanted to talk to you as Im concerned about the levels of salt in your food..'
'Yes,we were in last night'
'What was the problem?'
'Well,we were a party of four,with all of us living in the same house and we've all had a raging thirst,in fact the tap was going ALL NIGHT..'
'Oh... did the food taste salty?'
'No it didn't taste salty at the time,in fact we all had a lovely meal'
'Yes.. the levels of salt must have been exceptionally high for us all to suffer the same after effects,though the meal was lovely we're just a little concerned that an old person or perhaps even a child might eat the food and that it could be quite dangerous to them..'
'Perhaps I could leave my number so that your chef could give me a call and I can explain my concerns to him so that he understands how dangerous high levels of salt can be to vulnerable people?'
Initially, it crossed my mind that this might in fact have been a hoax call,but as the conversation developed it became patently obvious that the caller was deadly serious.
As I put down the phone I was already reaching for last nights spiked orders to see what the table had eaten.
3 x Bombay and tonic
1 x Pinot Grigio (large)
1 x bottle Sauv Blanc
3 x Goats cheese and beetroot salads,rocket and hazelnut pesto
1 x smoked salmon
1 x Bottle Careener
3 x Lentil and root vegetable shepherds pies
1 x pheasant with braised red cabbage
3 x creme brûlées
1 x sticky toffee pudding
3 x americanos
3 x large mulled wines
1 dbl Talisker
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
It wouldn't be all that alcohol that dehydrated the feckers would it?
Lets just remind ourselves that as a pub one of our primary purposes is the sale of alcoholic beverage,strange though this may seem,over indulgence may unfortunately at times result in a condition known as The Hangover.
The presence of a Hangover might indeed signify that we have perhaps fulfilled our business aim.
Chef mumbled something on the lines of 'well there's another disclaimer we'll be forced to add to the menus,'the consumption of alcohol may result in dehydration which may be harmful to vulnerable groups..'
Christ All flaming Mighty.I wonder if we're the first pub to receive a complaint like this?.
I related the story with glee to The Cynical One when she arrived for lunchtime service.
'Didn't I tell I told you that lot were 'special'? Three vegetarians on one table is just not normal..'
We were still sniggering about it as we opened the door at midday.
With Turkeymageddon into its last few days the mood was jovial,I think we finally had the Christmas spirit.Just after opening a well heeled couple arrived,they'd already reserved a table and were promptly seated at a prime table next to the blackboard.
Pleasingly,the chap ordered our most expensive Rioja. As I released the cork from the bottle and gave it a discreet sniff to check quality I earwigged his lady companion comment flatly 'oh you've ordered red wine...'
Now, not wanting to give the blighters the chance to change their minds about the wine after I'd opened it I ignored the sentiment and poured Sir a little taster into his glass.
At this point he responded:
'But you told me to order this..'
'No..what I said was you know what I like'
'Yes you like Rioja...thats why I ordered it..'
'No I like Rioja in the evening,I like white wine at lunchtime,never a red... red wine is for evening,white wine is for lunchtime..'
She was speaking to him in the way a primary school teacher might address her class.I felt a bit sorry for him but admittedly,not sorry enough to offer to take back the already opened aforementioned expensive bottle of red.I ploughed on,ignoring the domestic as best I could and topping up his glass generously,then proffering the bottle to the lady.She didn't stop me as I poured out a further generous serving.
Rounding off the meal with two Irish coffees made correctly of course, with a double measure of Jamesons in each I was mildly impressed and pleased with the level of midweek lunchtime alcohol consumption/spend per head and all thoughts of the earlier complaint were far from my mind.
Both were in significantly improved spirits as they asked for the bill.Enquiring politely had they enjoyed their meal I was amused to discover they were in fact the previously reported Special Cheese Sarnie couple.
'We came here in the summer and sat in the garden,the atmosphere was awful-we felt we were seated at a roadside cafe but our friends encouraged us to come back and try you again.We must congratulate you on a most enjoyable experience,both the ambience and the food are much improved..well done..well done!!'
I fed back to Chef congratulating him on changing peoples perceptions due to his much improved food offering.
It would be fair to say there was a dearth of Christmas cheer evident within the confines of the kitchen environment on receipt of this particular snippet of information..
We had ourselves a break of sorts over the actual Christmas period,opening for drinks only on Christmas Day,though admittedly Chefs' mobile was permanently glued to his ear with the influx of Festive cooking queries.. The traditional hour and a half free for all on Christmas Day lunchtime resulted in a record number of champagne bottles being emptied in the give away and much jollity ensuing.Chef agreed it was a good thing to do despite the significant hole made in the previous weeks' profits.
Yesterday we resumed food service.
Within minutes of opening the doors we were engulfed in a tsunami of diners no doubt desperately seeking refuge from the seventeen pound turkeys they'd all ordered for Christmas day despite being parties of two and three.Theres only a limited timespan before 100 Ways with Turkey becomes a bit trying.
I manned the bar in an effort to keep track of what order needed to be taken next and to direct diners to available tables,of which there were few.
In the midst of the mayhem a larger lady(a bit of a Hyacinth Bucket lookalike)approached the bar.
'What drinks do you have?' she enquired brusquely.
I glanced briefly behind me at the small but fully stocked bar designed to sate the thirst of even the most discerning of Christmas drinkers.
'What would you like?'
'I just want an ordinary drink'
What would one deem an ordinary drink?Methinks I need a clue.
'Would you like something alcoholic or non alcoholic?'
'Just something ordinary'
In the absence of any hint or direction I decided to take the soft drink route which was a shame as a bit of alcohol might have loosened her up a bit..
'How about a fruit juice or one of the Fentimans range?'
By now the tidal wave of customers was backing up towards the door,I struggled to keep patience as her beady eyes scanned the back bar and fridge for inspiration.
She repeated 'I just want an ordinary drink'
I grabbed a glass,lemonade you cant get much more ordinary than that.I was already reaching for the drinks gun as I suggested the lemonade.
'No not lemonade,nothing lemony or limey like that'
The daughter standing two paces behind mouthed the word 'sorry'.She had that despondent look of a daughter well used to a lifetime of similar tedium.
The backlog stretching from the bar to the door now resembled a large seething human sausage with an outer casing of children,handbags and the odd walking stick.
In desperation I committed the ultimate crime in the Good Publicans Handbook. I suggested she have a glass of water.I offered to serve her a drink which wouldn't actually cost her anything.Lets be frank you cant get much more ordinary than tap.
'Ill have a bitter lemon.No ice or lemon.'
In her defence I suppose Bitter Lemon probably doesn't contain much actual lemon,radioactive in appearance and taste,it suited her well.
Finally they moved away from the bar.
The Cynical One had been stoically managing the floor but had come behind the bar to help with drinks due to the delay.
'Biff can you see if theres room for four in the dining room? I think theres a table just left.'
I quickly wiped down the just vacated table and noticing there were only three seats approached an adjacent table with what I thought was a spare chair politely enquiring if said chair was taken.
'Yes, it is ..yes'
One of her two gentlemen companions looked a tad puzzled,the three of them watched me hurriedly struggle to remove a booster seat from the only spare chair I could find and place it at the table.
I returned to the bar with the news the table was ready.
By now the four were seated in front of the bar.
The Cynical One advised that if they preferred they could remain where they were but no they wanted to sit at the bar for drinks then go to their table in the dining room to order.In effect taking up two tables.
Now.Normal service involves seating diners at tables then taking food orders in a controlled fashion.Due to the fact that we were heaving, unfortunately for a brief period it seemed that the rules of battle were redefined and God forbid, the customers seemed to have gained the upper hand,placing orders at the bar at will.
The kitchen was in its own private meltdown,a simmering cauldron of unbridled tension,peppery fumes and drowning in a sea of chunky chips.The number of checks on the board was in keeping with levels normally only seen on sunny Bank Holiday Mondays.At these times there is no banter to be had in the kitchen,no craic from Chef lest his thought pattern is disturbed.
But I had to speak.
'Table 2 have ordered starters now,but will be ordering main courses after two more people join them(7 in total ),Ive already explained that if they do that there will be a long gap between their starters and main courses arriving due to the number of orders continuing to be come on and the fact that you haven't put their mains on'
I didn't expect a response.
'What manner of hitherto unseen fuckwittery is this??They're having a larf aren't they?'
Chef has a way with words.
The fuckwittery continued with the revelation that the table in the dining room which had previously prevented me from taking a chair from their table had in fact reserved the chair to accommodate...THEIR COATS...
This is also a new phenomena,people reserving seats for random personal effects,bags,coats and other associated paraphernalia, which they care about so much that they generally leave it behind anyway. And pleease don't get me onto those new fangled baby chariots either,the ones more reminiscent of a Massey Ferguson tractor with inflatable wheels to match? Clearly not designed for convenience or for that matter,accommodation within a small Eighteenth century building.'We'll need space for a pushchair please' What they actually need is a small industrial unit..Whatever happened to the good old Maclaren candy striped buggy??
Are you wondering what happened with the table of four who wanted to be seated in the dining room?
Stay with me.
We'd forgotten about them.
So they'd sat at the bar viewing the pandemonium and watching other diners randomly place orders at the bar and said nothing.
As the tide turned and we began to take control I noticed them still sitting there.They weren't smiling.The Cynical One went over and asked if they were ready to order.
The woman was seething.
'How can I be ready to order??I haven't seen a menu yet..'
'Well' said the Cynical One 'as I mentioned to you earlier when I first asked if you would like to order,our menus are all on blackboards(much air stewardess like gesturing),so Ill just give you a few more minutes to decide'
We glanced at each other knowingly.She had been told 40 minutes earlier where the menus were.
'This is disgraceful,you've just left us sitting here with no menus and I've got two hungry teenagers here who haven't eaten breakfast..the service in here is terrible...'
They got up and left.The husband was apologetic as he paid the drinks bill..'I can see you're really busy..'
Which actually is no excuse for bad service.
Now,Im well versed in the eating habits of your average teenager,who lets be honest is a bottomless pit of unrequited hunger and constant fridge grazing.The Sensible One had already incurred Chefs wrath that very morning by frying up his own personal sausage fest consisting of a whole packet (eight)of gourmet examples ambitiously encased in two large baps.
'The greedy bastard ate the whole effing lot' said Chef..
The point is, at least he sorted himself out.
So.In addition to being expected to know what an 'ordinary' drink is we are now to be held responsible for the the fact that your teenage son hasn't had the foresight to cook his own breakfast of a morning.
I politely asked the Cynical One if she would mind watching the bar briefly whilst I went to slit my wrists..
So, only New Years Eve to worry about before we resume normal service.Thank God.The firework expenditure has again gone through the roof with the purchases cheerily described as being 'one step away from being classed as munitions' The sky above *small market town* will again be lit up like Beirut on a summer evening.
On a serious note,worryingly Chef and his firework buddy have jokingly expressed a desire to drive around the green setting off the fireworks from the back of the pick up thus creating the first mobile display.Oh and this year he'll be taking the blow torch from the kitchen along 'as the taper kept blowing out in last years high winds ..'
I think I'll be observing from a safe distance..