Monday, 20 August 2007

I Wish To Make A Complaint

I guess we’ve all done it at some time. You're in a restaurant having a nice glass of wine or a gin and tonic, waiting for your food to come. It's taking ages but you console yourself with the thought that it should be worth the wait. Eventually, the meal arrives on a plate the size of a dustbin lid, the artfully arranged tower of chunks teetering in a shower of green dandruff (sorry, would that be herbs?) drizzled with jus and presented with a flourish. So far so good. A feast for the eyes. But how does it taste?

To be honest, it’s usually disappointing isn’t it? The build-up has led you to expect some sort of gourmet masterpiece, the massive size of the plate hints at culinary grandeur beyond your wildest dreams, and the price? Well let’s say you expected Gordon Effing Ramsay himself for that kind of money. But in reality it’s just reasonably OK food stacked up to look trendy and squirted with some brown stuff out of a squeezy bottle. Not exactly ”muck on a truck” but nothing special. Let’s face it, you have, in fact, been conned by an over-effusive description on the menu and the candle-lit gastro-pub decor. Better order another seventy-five quid bottle of wine to cheer yourself up.

So over comes the waiter and asks if everything’s alright with your meal and you of course just nod, your mouth being full of food at the time. His timing is immaculate but it doesn’t really matter if you say anything or not, the question is purely academic. No one ever complains here. When the bill eventually arrives you reflect that a family of four could be fed for a week on that amount of money and still have enough left over for a fish and chip supper. But not in this restaurant, obviously.

Compare and contrast, my fellow gourmands, with what we expect from a different type of eating experience – the “Sunday Lunch £8.99” offered at most pubs throughout the land. Are the potatoes properly roasted or merely deep fried? Has the meat been freshly carved, or pre-sliced and stuck under a hot lamp? Are the Yorkshire puddings soggy? Answer yes to any or all of the above and what do we do – we complain! After all it is nearly nine quid when all is said and done!

There seems to be a rather strange sliding scale of complaint to cost ratio going on here. My dear old Dad used to call it “The Emperor’s Suit of Clothes Syndrome” and you know what, I think he may have been right – the fancier the restaurant, the more intimidated we feel and the less likely we are to show ourselves up by questioning the quality of what we’re eating. But down at the pub for a bit of Sunday dinner? It had better be as good as we get at home, or else!

21 comments:

Manic Mother Of Five said...

Like I've said before, don't get to go out for meals too often so can't really pass on any tips for complaining. However on one of mine and husband's rare forays into the world of haute cuisine, we treated ourselves to a meal at the renowned Morston Hall. Meal was flawless but one course came out and husband and I were were somewhat slayed as to HOW to eat it! It was served in tiny glasses so wasn't sure whether to use a spoon or simply slurp! Had to watch other diners to see how they tackled it. Think that says more about me and husband rather than the meal though!!

Rebecca Taunton said...

I don't go out that often these days, but I have to say a lot of pricey places are just over-rated. I've had far better meals in pubs and small restaurants.

I think you've hit a nail on the head: I've never noticed people complaining in expensive places. Perhaps we're more afraid of causing a scene in them?

RT

All Shook Up said...

Well observed, SM.

They rely on punters having no clue as to what Canard du micro-onde aux feuilles des champs is actually supposed to taste like.. whereas we can all spot a dodgy Yorkshire pud a mile off.

Bon appetit!

Swearing Mother said...

MMOF: I know just what you mean, I think they do it on purpose to appear posher than you, but always remember, you're the one parting with the money!

Rebecca, I agree with you entirely. We have a pub up the road that cooks the most fantastic grub and I've had some of the best meals I've ever eaten sitting at one of their scruffy old tables.

All Shook Up: Next time I see Canard du whatsit, etc., on the menu, I am having it and will think of you!

farming-frenchstyle said...

Took my sister to a local hotel restuaurant last week - we have eaten there before. To begin with it was packed - holidaymakers - and then I found a PEACH stone in my Salade de Chevre Chaud (Hot goats cheese salad). When I asked "what is that?" waitress and Maitre D gave the usual french shrug and disappeared. We continued with meal, and at the end end were given our coffees free - big deal!

Swearing Mother said...

They were lucky you didn't have to give them a bill from your dentist. A peach stone? How the heck did that get there? It makes you wonder ....

Good luck with your new blog, I'll be over again soon.

Best wishes.

All Shook Up said...

Don't think of me til you've checked what it is!

And thanks for the comments on my blog.

laurie said...

in those situations i usually figure if i don't care for the food it's because my palate isn't sophisticated enough. so i don't dare say anything.

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Laurie, I think that's what they're banking on - in more ways than one!

In my old age, I have decided not to take any more cr*p, so watch this space........

Swearing Mother said...

All Shook Up - ha ha ha ha ha! I can't find my French Dictionary but reading the component parts of Canard du micro-whatsit bit by bit, I think I'm getting your drift!

If you have read my post "That Bloke Sniffed My Doughnut" you will now realise why I always leave ordering food in French to my husband.

Tina said...

I have been known to complain in restaurants, but usually about the length of time it has taken to serve me. By the time it gets there, I'll eat any old junk they put in front of me. I worry that they'll spit in my food too.

It's easier just to eat at home, at least if anyone spits, it will be me...

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Tina: I'm glad that I am not the only person who suspects that spit is the secret ingredient of any dish ordered by someone who complains.

I always have a very close look for froth!

Yuk.

Mike said...

I often complain if stuff is not right, but would too feel intimidated in posh places. I still do it, though.remember years ago working as a waitress summer job in hotel, fiery chef. Someone complained about a steak they considered underdone, and he FLUNG it in the deep fat fryer and said "That'll teach them to complain. I was shaking bringing it back to the customer, but they ate every scrap!

The Rotten Correspondent said...

I agree with Laurie. We let ourselves get psyched out into thinking that the problem is us and not the food. Because clearly all these other people are enjoying their overpriced food. Arent' they?

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Mike and Rotten Correspondent!

It's such a con, isn't it? Have you ever noticed when one person complains, all the rest pile in and have a go too?

But why is it always me that takes the lead? I am definitely becoming a female Victor Meldrew :(

merry weather said...

I agree - the people in the pub are more like us, with similar expectations of a good meal perhaps. Having been on the receiving end of complaints in different places, I think the more reasonable the customer is, then the better the outcome. It's the fuming, vibrating ones that give the rest a bad name....

Reading your previous post brought me great joy! You have STYLE, could just imagine that big screen moment. Keep doing your thing - it's great!

Swearing Mother said...

Hi Merry, you're back! Lovely to read you again.

It's amazing how many people have suspected the same thing, the more you pay for restaurant food does not necessarily mean it is all that much better. I don't like complaining, but sometimes .......... you just have to, don't you.

Thanks for your lovely comments re my Beatles moment. It was such fun.

Jane

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Hi SM - thank you visiting my blog today! I enjoyed this post, it's so true. Give me egg and chips any day. I can't be doing with the oighty-toighty, need a magnifying glass, gourmet food that we are supposed to pay through the nose for anyway.

Crystal xx

The Rotten Correspondent said...

There's an award with your name on it over at my place. Come and check it out!

laurie said...

ha! and i have one for you, too! c'mon by the dogblog when you're done at rotten's place.

Swearing Mother said...

Thank you Laurie and Rotten Correspondent, both of you have made my day! Will be over to collect in the morning, a bit tipsy at the moment!

Best Wishes.