Following a very gruelling weekend (we've had some major flooding where I live) I took the Mister out for dinner last night to a favourite local gastropub. Chalkboard menus, daily specials, fantastic fish, good beer- it's a bit of a treat for us, and I thought it would cheer us both up.
The place was quite quiet for a Sunday, probably because most people were busy bailing their living rooms, and we were able to bag a table straight away. Bread and oils, then mussel starters came very quickly, and were extremely tasty. Then the server came back to check how we wanted our mains cooked. The Mister, who'd ordered venison steak, went for rare, and I wanted my rump steak medium rare.
The Mister's main arrived, practically still mooing (except that deer don't moo), and confirmed for me that I'd made the right choice as regards cooking time. He tucked in with delight, and my steak and prawns arrived shortly afterwards. Oh dear. Never mind mooing, this steak looked like it had spent most of it's life nailed to the bottom of someone's trainer. Uniformly grey all the way through, with no more juice than the shoe sole it resembled, it had obviously started off as a beautiful piece of meat, but it'd been practically carbonised by the kitchen staff.
After several false attempts, I managed to attract another server's attention, and explained the problem. The dish disappeared. And I waited. And waited. We'd also ordered drinks when the mains came out, and they'd never materialised, so I was getting thirsty and irritated by now.
Eventually the dish came back, carried by a third server, who explained that 'apparently you said well-done.' Whatever. I thanked her, and asked again for the two drinks. Then I cut into the new steak. The faintest tinge of pink greeted me, and a dribble of juice. Still not medium rare then. My plate, which was stone-cold, had gained a fresh helping of chips, and some onion rings that weren't there before, but the grilled tomato was looking very sad (and very cold), and I was not impressed to see that my half eaten prawns had been carefully piled back onto the new steak. I didn't eat it.
My Mister had long since finished his meal, so we asked for the bill, which turned up very fast... followed by the drinks we'd ordered half an hour earlier. Pretty fed up by now, I called the server (again, a different one) back, and asked for the drinks and my main to be removed from the bill.
To give them their due, there was no dispute about this. The bill was whisked away, and the amended one brought back by yet another server (I think we're on number 5 now) along with the PIN machine. Then I asked how to add a tip to the total, and the server's face fell. Apparently one has to leave a tip in cash, otherwise the servers don't get it and it goes straight to head office. I wasn't plannignt o tip heavily, since the service had been pretty patchy, but this was rather embarrassing. We had 26 pence between us, and therefore were unable to leave anything. I was particularly irritated since I'd paid for drinks at the bar (with my card) when we first came in, and was assured by the barman that using a card to pay for everything was fine, and we didn't need to get any cash.
So, ruined main course, crap service, and misinformation that led me to stiff the servers on their tip. It'll be a while before we go back.