Michel Roux Jr would have torn his hair out …

I went out to eat tonight for the first time in over a year. It was a special occasion, as it was last time and, coincidentally, we were going to the same Chinese restaurant where we were had one of the best nights out for everyone involved.

Oh, how things change!  The evening was a total shambles; five minutes after taking our drinks order we’re asked if we’re ready to order food. We’d been so wrapped up in conversation that we hadn’t even looked at the menu so asked a bit of time to look.  Whilst perusing the menu it dawned that, having been avid watchers of the Michel Roux ‘Service’ programme on the beeb, being asked for food order prior to receiving drinks is a bit of a faux-pas! Okay, so we’ll let them off that one – it’s not a posh joint after all!

Starters came and went without incident and the ‘drinks thing’ had been all but forgotten, so on to the crispy duck course we ambled. It’s at this point that myself and my dad ordered two more beers, being almost done with the first lot. Crispy duck was quickly disposed of and plates cleared. Tick-tock-tick-tock … 10 long minutes later still no beer so I’m starting to get agitated but ask nicely about the beer. Waitress disappears.

Main food comes – still no beer, but momentarily I’m blinded by crispy chilli beef, beef in black bean sauce, king prawns etc., so I load my plate and start eating. Five minutes into this and now some 20 or so minutes since the beer was ordered I again collar the woman and make it clear that I’m not happy at having to wait 20 minutes for a damn beer. Off she trots.

I finish up my plate and reload with some more crispy chilli beef. Finally after another 8 minutes the beer turns up but I’m now no longer interested. My evening has been ruined but for the sake of everyone else I stop myself walking out in disgust. I should mention at this point that my agitation had been increased by the fact that the table next to us obviously had some sort of problem with their bill.

At the end of the mains a waitress come to clear the table – one end gets cleared and she trots off. Nothing to be concerned about, after all it’s Saturday night and they’re quite busy and obviously stretched but we expect her back after depositing the dirty plates and serving dishes to the kitchen. How stupid we were. Without word of a lie, ten minutes pass before the rest of the table is cleared. Then we go on to pudding. My little 9 year old niece wants some toy with ice cream in it; all us adults request a coffee. Lady returns with the bad news … they don’t have any of the toys left, so we ask for a chocolate ice-cream. Off she goes, returning in short order with the coffees. It’s at this point that we decide it would be prudent to order the bill.

As you’d expect the bill arrives but we have still to see the ice cream. Worried look from the woman shows they’ve obviously screwed up again. She checks the bill. It is ‘sans ice-cream’ – “surprise, surprise” think I, and I voice the fact that this is the last straw and they better not be expecting a tip from this table. After another couple of minutes the lady comes back – they haven’t got chocolate ice-cream (give me strength!).

And so, dear reader, we reach the endgame. The bill, duly updated with the ice-cream – which wound up being vanilla – has the immortal line ‘service not included’ across the bottom. The woman brings the card reader and a big fat nothing is entered in this box. Dirty looks ensue but I’m having none of it. I mentioned that I had witnessed the problems at the table next to us, as well as rattling off all the stuff that they’d screwed up on our table tonight (in a nice, calm way) by way of a reason. I felt a bit sorry for her so I didn’t mention that there was another table that they’d caused chaos at by bringing their mains before they’d cleared the crispy duck stuff – there was no surprise (at least from me) when stuff was dropped all over the table!

If you’ve made it to this point I suppose you’ll want to know the name of the joint so that you can avoid it in future? Having eased my anger by writing this piece I realise that this could have just been a bad night for them. After all it’s been a year since I was there previously, and that had been a good night. So at this point in time I’ll save the name-and-shame for another day. In the meantime I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground and if I hear similar stories in the next couple of weeks then I’ll stick the name up for all to see, so watch this space …