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10:35pm on Saturday, 30th June, 2007:



My brother drove over from Wales yesterday to give my mum a disability scooter he'd got on the cheap (warning: the streets of Colchester have become more dangerous). Today, we all went out for lunch to a family eathouse called "The Bowling Green" on a busy road junction near Weeley, half-way between Colchester and Clacton. It's nice, simple food at a reasonable price.

Now this is one of those places where you sit down, look at the menu, then go order it at the bar. That's how it works. OK, so I wrote down what we wanted (there were eight of us), and went to order with my mum (who was paying) (thanks mum) (not that she can use computers, so she won't read this). The barman asked for my list, and made a solid attempt at reading it. It would perhaps have all been fine had not, when he asked if it was "ordinary peas or mushy peas with the beef and mushroom pie?", my mother answered, "ordinary peas, but mushy peas with one of the scampis". This was at the limit of what he could handle. He marked down the beef and mushroom pie, marked down the scampis, and completely omitted the fish and chips that were on the list between the pie and the scampis. He then proceeded to the two Sunday roasts, without having apparently noticed the intervening lasagne.

Five minutes later, we learned that the Sunday roasts were only available on Sunday. They're on the menu the whole time, but they're not available on Sundays. The menus don't say this, so apparently lots of people order Sunday roasts on non-Sundays. The barman was supposed to pick up on it, but had been so bamboozled by my mother's helpful but distracting words that he'd momentarily forgotten what day of the week it was. Someone else had to come and take our reorders when they found out.

When we got our cutlery, we discovered there were only six sets. We queried it, and that's when we discovered we were missing two meals. Oh, and a drink. So we had to order those, too. In the end, the waiter came to our table four times before we got the food (which, when it finally came to eating it, was actually not bad for that kind of restaurant).

Strangely, half-way through the meal the waiter came over and asked my wife how her fish and chips were. He didn't ask anyone else how their meals were, only the one person eating fish and chips. It was as if someone eating fish and chips elsewhere in the restaurant had collapsed, clutching their throat while pointing at their meal, and he wanted to know if my wife was about to do the same. Fortunately, she wasn't.

The thing is, we got far more waiter attention than we would normally get, mainly because the barman got things muddled, yet the whole point of the restaurant is that you order at the bar to save on wait staff. Really, it's the whole point. The restaurant doesn't take orders any other way. That's all the barman has to do, and still he screwed up. It wasn't even busy at the time. How can such restaurants put someone on the till who can't perform the one function he has to perform, namely enter people's orders into the system?

Nice, simple food; nice, simple staff.

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Copyright © 2007 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).