When Good Service Makes Your Meal.

I do love my food as anyone will tell you. And I do love dining out. The food is important of course but just as important is the service and I do hate bad service.

Not so long ago Liz and I were in a local pub and I noticed that on the next table there were a couple finishing off their meals. One meal was half eaten; the other looked to be almost untouched. What was wrong with it I wanted to say? Had any staff member been over to ask if it was OK? If so, what did the two diners say? I think we, the English, tend not to like to complain. I’ve had poor meals and eaten more of it than I wanted just because I didn’t want to leave a half full plate. Even so, the meal I mentioned above was hardly touched. Why hadn’t the staff done something? Most pubs these days have someone who comes round and asks ’is everything ok with your meal?’ The thing is, a lot of those people are not prepared or trained when the answer is ‘well it wasn’t very warm’ or ‘the steak was overdone’ or ‘the chips are cold.’ In Wetherspoons not long ago we were asked just that question, was our meal OK? Liz replied that her steak was cold and the waiter just said ‘sorry’ and went away. Was he doing something about the food? Evidently not as he never returned! Why ask about the state of the food if you are not prepared to do something about it? These days I just won’t stand for bad food or service. Complain! We British should complain more. We owe it to the subsequent customers to complain so that the pub or bar or restaurant will get it right.

One little bit of advice I will give is if that if you want a decent meal and decent service, go for a restaurant rather than a pub. No matter what anyone may tell you, a pub is all about drinks, and food is just secondary. A restaurant on the other hand is all about food and it seems to me that staff in a restaurant know more about service than staff in a pub who are used to standing behind a bar. OK, there’s the cost factor, but when you add it up I believe a restaurant is better value in the long run.

Anyway, enough about bad food; I’d much rather talk about good food. One of my favourite meals ever was at a restaurant in France. I can’t tell you the name of it but it is on a winding road coming out of Calais and heading towards St Omer. My starter was celery soup and Liz had the pate; simple French country food. A pichet of red wine and jug of water appeared. An empty bowl and spoon came and sadly I looked down at the rather small bowl that had arrived. The pate came with a huge basket of fresh French bread and a healthy portion of home-made pate with side salad. The waiter soon arrived with a large tureen of soup with a ladle and as I waited for him to dish me out a small portion, he just put the tureen on the table and left. Needless to say, Liz and I had several bowls of that wonderful soup each. It was lovely and the pate was tasty and just perfect with a small salad and French bread.

My next course was a ham and cheese omelette, the lightest, fluffiest omelette. Delicieux! Even the fish that Liz had was nice and I am not a fish lover. Pity I was driving that day as I could have sat there and consumed another pichet of wine as we enjoyed our cheese board.

Just to finish with I’d like to say a few words about my favourite restaurant. It’s the Ego restaurant in Lytham. The food is always good; I’d say it alternates between good and very good and on the rare occasion it isn’t that good, maybe the steak is overcooked or the salad comes with a dressing that we didn’t want, there are no arguments. It’s not like some places where we hear the excuses, sorry, we didn’t get a delivery of that today or the oven’s not working properly or the chef’s not feeling well or something. The staff just whisk the meal away and come back with a new one or with the missing item replaced. The staff in Ego are really exceptional and as we’ve been going there for a while we’ve got to know the staff and they’ve got to know us. They know without us saying that we don’t care for the anchovies on the Spanish sharing board and they always replace them with something we prefer, like the chorizo in red wine and garlic. I have to say hats off to Jay, Tony, Paul, John, Christian, Natasha, Camilla and Sandra, not forgetting the chefs, Ben, who makes a superb Spanish sharing board and Adam who rustles up our main courses; they certainly know how to look after us and as long as they do, we’ll keep coming back for more!


If you enjoyed this post, why not try my book, Floating in Space, set in Manchester, 1977?

When the Holiday is Over

Forget the blue skies and the swimming pool
Your desk is all ready so don’t act like a fool.

Forget the pavement cafes and Mademoiselles
As your computer fires up with a thousand e-mails
Enough to numb the pain
And the nagging desire for a glass of red wine;
Act cool.

Briefings, meetings and folders to review
Memoranda and consultations to plough through

Forget the camembert and French bread
Close the door on the plat du jour
Its not even lunch and I can’t resist
The thought of a cool aperitif;
As if . .

Revised protocols need to be sorted
And I see the new software is unsupported

I’ll enjoy my lunch in the works canteen
A ham sandwich and a cup of tea
And the memory of a French bistro won’t even arise
All bustle and chatter and joie de vivre
No, not for me . .

What happens with the cheese -stays with the cheese!

quotescover-JPG-36Not so long ago my team and I had a team night out. It was great for work colleagues to have the chance for a good get together, have a few beers and some food, and talk about things that were UN- work related. It was a pretty good evening, all arranged by me I might add, and the pub I chose for a meeting place was just opposite Manchester’s Chinatown, so when we were all ready it was just a case of popping across the road for our meal.

I was not amused then when the evening was hijacked by one of our group who wanted to go to a tapas bar on the other side of town. To cut a long story short, I had far too much to drink and gave some no holds barred stick to the perpetrator of this infamy, who just so happened to be my boss!

Next week at work I approached my boss meekly with a prepared apology only to be stopped in my tracks.’ Steve’, my boss said, ‘what happens on the night out, stays on the night out!’

Due credit to the boss for his understanding attitude and in a roundabout way that brings me to another thought on this last night of my French holiday :

In previous years, as well as stocking la voiture with French wine, I always used to take back a considerable supply of cheese -not anymore! I’ve come to feel that French cheese, as much as I love it, doesn’t sit well on an English table. Our food doesn’t suit the cheese, and drinking and eating habits change when we get home. So leave your French cheese in France, in a sunny pavement cafe, where you can enjoy it with some French bread and a lovely glass of French red.

Oh well, here’s to l’annee prochaine!

Image

A French evening In

France2010 320

I’m coming to end of my three week stay in France now and here in the rural part of the Vendee a night out at a restaurant is pretty much a waste of time. The thing is this; the rural French are not interested in a night out. Friday night at your local restaurant means nothing to them. Lunch however, lunch is a whole new ball game. Lunch in France is twelve till two. Shops close, offices shut. The lunch is all important. Trying to get a table in Lucon our local town is a pretty tall order but come Friday night at seven, take your pick, any table in the house and oh, who’s that at the other table, yes, another couple of Brits!

Tomorrow night’s tea looks like being something like a sandwich as we’ll be packing up so we can make the early ferry next morning from St Malo. Tonight we went Italian; The starter was goats cheese and spinach with chilli oil served with French bread and a nice tomato and onion salad. Main course; stir fried chicken livers with garlic and chilli and green peppers and of course, more French bread. Throw in a lovely garden and patio, some hot vendee sun, some lovely French red wine and the result is an unbeatable dinner for two.

A pretty European collaboration I suppose; Italian food, French bread and wine, and two English tourists!

The French way of Dining

menuThe French have a rather unjustified reputation for rudeness in my opinion. OK, Parisian waiters are not the most polite and neither are Parisians for that matter, but take a drive out of Paris into the country  and you will meet the real French. The French who appreciate that you try, in only perhaps a small way, to communicate in their language. In a bar in the Loire that I always return to, every drinker that arrives will say ‘bonjour’ to everyone in turn, regardless of whether they are like me , strangers or foreigners and will say ‘au revoir’ when they leave and as for food, well, I will be the first to say that French cooking is not always the gastronomic delight that it is supposed to be but I do like the French way of eating. I like the ‘formule’ menus you see in French restaurants, the starter, main and cheese or dessert for sometimes as little as twelve euros or even less. And don’t forget the ‘plat du jour’, the French dish of the day.

Saumur, one of my favourite French towns is beautiful, not too busy but full of lovely restaurants. One I always frequent has most of its seats and tables on the pavement, what they do in the winter I do not know as the main brick part of the establishment is small!

The starters are small but full of flavour. The mains are wonderful and the cheese and French bread, exquisite! All washed down with a carafe of water and lovely French wine. A good meal does not need to be large but it needs to have a rhythm and those three acts, starter, main and cheese are a wonderful way to enjoy food, though it’s not just the food that is important. The wine, the service, the mood, all that comes into play and when that last mouthful of bread and camembert are gone, its time to call; ‘l’addition s’il vous plaît’.

English pub restaurants; take note!


If you liked my blog, why not buy my book!