The last few months have been a bit chaotic for me and mine so I have not posted anything since November.
Christmas was an absolute disaster. Last year (2014) TOH and I booked our Christmas day lunch at a hotel just outside Ringwood on the edge of the New Forest. It was fabulous. The atmosphere, the food, the staff, everything was excellent.
This year(2015) we invited some friends who had had a bad year health-wise, to come with us so they did not have to do anything except rest and enjoy the day. OMG what a disaster!
When we arrived there was no one there to ‘meet and greet’ (Had we come on the right day?) There was hardly any decorations to be seen. The place seemed deserted. We eventually found a member of staff and asked for some coffee as we were a bit early. He was not sure if they could do that as they(?) were busy. Eventually some lukewarm coffee arrived.
We drank our lukewarm coffee and waited – and waited – and waited… A few more people arrived and as still no member of staff appeared they ambled off in the direction of the second dining room. We followed them as we were getting rather hungry and felt that we should do something.
I wish I had taken my camera. The room was normally used for functions so was quite large but there were way too few tables to fill it and we and we all had tables so far apart that inter-table conversation was impossible.
Our waiter appeared and took our drinks order and checked our menu choice and duly produced both. When the starters arrived – pate’ and melba toast – it seemed quite clear to me that the chef was having an ‘off’ day! Wasn’t melba toast supposed to be thinly sliced toasted bread? Not a chunk of extremely dry brown bread.
First course cleared away led to the arrival of the main course. Now, I don’t know about you but I hate red cabbage. The plate was served with slices of turkey, pigs in blankets, stuffing, extremely soggy red cabbage, sliced potatoes in cheese sauce(!) all covered in a large slick of gravy.
I was now convinced that the chef must be possessed by the devil himself. No-one serves a main meal in this state. Especially not a Christmas lunch. The young waiter arrived with side dishes of broccoli, carrots and roast potatoes. He asked us if everything was ok. What could we say? It wasn’t his fault.
During this situation I looked over to the kitchen doors and through the round glass windows I could clearly see a lot of rushing around and frantic arm waving and gesticulating. All was not well in the kitchen.
The next course was the pudding. Guess what? It was actually edible – but to be honest there is not much that anyone can do to catering portions of Christmas pudding and custard. So, were we pacified? No we were not. And by the look of things neither were a lot of other people. We, and a few others, decided to leave before the cheese and biscuits and mince pie.
Our waiter came to clear the dishes and asked us for the third time if everything was ok and we decided to tell him what we really thought. We did assure him that under the circumstances he had done a sterling job and we put no blame on him, after all it was his Christmas day as well. We gave him a good tip but insisted that he put it in his own pocket and not in the ‘pot’.
Still in all this time not a single member of the management had shown their faces to ask if everything was ok or at the very least to wish everyone a happy Christmas. They just left the waiting staff to cope with everything on their own.
We and several others left early. We were so embarrassed for our friends as we had all been so looking forward to this day with great expectations and it was such a disappointment – especially for Christmas Day.
Our only explanation was that possibly the chef had not turned up at all that day. At the very least, if that was the problem, the manager should have come out and explained the situation and asked everyone to bear with them and offered us all a complimentary meal at a later date.
The following day I was straight on to Trip Advisor to vent my feelings, it appeared that I was not the only person to do so. Whilst £60 per head is not a fortune it is enough to expect a decent meal so I also sent a letter of complaint to the hotel and their head office.
I received nothing from the hotel, not even an acknowledgement for my letter. Eventually I did receive a letter of apology from the head office with a £50 voucher towards a meal at the same hotel.
I duly returned the voucher with a letter asking the customer service manager why on earth he thought that we would want to return to the same hotel for another meal and that my idea of customer service would have been a full refund of the money we had paid. I posted my letter and told our friends to say goodbye to their 50% of the £50 voucher.
I was very pleasantly surprised when a week later I received a cheque for the full amount. This Christmas we shall be booking our Christmas Day lunch….. Somewhere else!