Following an experience recently where the meal I ordered was less than satisfactory, I’ve been thinking about the difficulties around dealing with such situations.
In any other situation, if I paid for a product or service and it was faulty or did not live up to expectations, I would complain or return the item for a refund or exchange. So why is it that when it comes to ordering a meal in a restaurant that is less than satisfactory, we often find it so difficult to say anything?
My recent experience went a little like this…
Friendly owner of a lovely little independent restaurant took my order along with the rest of my table. We ordered 4 pizzas which were all hand-made and arrived in good time. My pizza looked delicious but unfortunately it was burnt on the bottom. Everyone else’s was fine but mine tasted like burnt toast. I whinged and moaned to my friends but when the waiter came over to ask how our meal was, I smiled sweetly and told him it was lovely!
A brief round of questioning on Twitter revealed that I’m not alone here, many of you find it difficult to speak up if there is a problem with your food. So what stops us from complaining? After all, it is a product we have paid for and so it should meet expectations.
A difficulty for me is that it’s often the disruption to the meal that sending it back will cause. It means that you don’t get to eat with the rest of your party. Either their food goes cold while they wait for your replacement or they have finished by the time yours has arrived. Is it just better to grim and bear it?
The issue of whether a restaurant is an impersonal chain or a little independent restaurant where you are served by the owner has also been highlighted as a factor by my Twitter followers. This is certainly an issue for me although it really shouldn’t make a difference. I personally find it harder to complain to someone who is passionate about their food and has personally cooked it than to a waiter or waitress in a busy chain who is removed from the preparation of the meal.
But I guess it boils down to HOW unsatisfactory your meal is. If I didn’t enjoy a meal but there wasn’t really anything wrong with it, I definitely wouldn’t speak up. It is really a matter of opinion in this case and I would most likely eat up and not return. We’ve already established that I wouldn’t complain about something like my burnt pizza which I still ate but didn’t enjoy as much as I would have had it been cooked properly.
On the other end of the scale, I was once happily munching away on a Sunday roast in a restaurant when I came across a giant grub which had been boiled to death with the vegetables! Now this I did complain about. My fellow diners were put off their food after this and we all got our money refunded and we were offered replacements.
Interestingly, when discussing this on Twitter, it was the chefs among you that said they would complain and they would appreciate the feedback so that they could improve on their dishes. This makes sense and has made me rethink this whole issue. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings so complaining is still tricky for me but there is no harm in offering some constructive feedback now is there?
I’m interested to know your opinion on this. How bad does a meal need to be for you to complain? You can enter your bad meal threshold on my poll below.
We were recently invited along to The Village Kitchen in Whitchurch for a meal. We had never been before and I have heard mixed reviews but it was definitely on my list of places to go if for nothing more than how lovely it looked from the outside. I love the simple, modern presentation, it always looks very welcoming.
As you enter, the bar is directly to your right and we were welcomed there and shown to a seat where we were promptly introduced to our waiter, Alex. Alex gave us menus and asked if we would like drinks and bread and olives before coming back to take our food orders.
Unsure what to order, we asked Alex what would go with our wine choices and he went to the kitchen to ask the chef and came back with his recommendations which was very helpful. Following this, we were then offered the option of trying a selection of starters and mains as they realised we were the reviewers. We thought this would be a good way to sample the menu and accepted. When writing a review, we usually prefer to remain ‘undercover’ but as we couldn’t on this occasion, I observed how other diners were treated and the food they were served and it was all very consistent and not just for our benefit and the service was good before they realised who we were.
To start, we were given the homemade fish cakes and spicy chicken wings. I was going to choose the fishcakes anyway so I was happy with this! I always think fish cakes are a good way to judge a restaurant as they can vary hugely in terms of fish content and consistency. I’m happy to report that these were very good ones. They were fresh, soft and fluffy and had a good fish content. Very nice indeed. Although I’m not a fan of chicken wings, these ones were moist and tender and were marinated in a lovely sauce.
For the taste of the mains we started with a salmon dish. To be honest, I usually skip over salmon on a menu, I usually think of it as a boring option but after this, I will start being more open-minded. This one was beautiful and by far the nicest dish I tried! The salmon was well cooked and was served in a delicious mushroom and sea food sauce. The sauce had a real depth of flavour and a hearty amount of fish (prawns, calamari and mussels). I really enjoyed it and in fact I ate far too much, forgetting I still had the duck to try.
Salmon in mushroom and seafood sauce
The duck was served on a bed of celeriac mash with a selection of vegetables and an orange and plum sauce. The duck was cooked nicely and I couldn’t get enough of the celeriac mash (one of my favourites!) The vegetables were al dente which is very important to Ben, who takes an over cooked carrot very seriously! The sauce was nice although I could taste more orange than plum. The only complaint I would have if I was being very picky is that the skin on the duck could have been crispier and the overall consistency of the dish was rather ‘soft’ with the duck cut into slices and placed on the mash. As much as I enjoyed the celeriac mash, I think the dish needed to have a crunchier texture.
Duck in orange and plum sauce
By the time it came to desert we were seriously stuffed but a selection were bought over on a tray which I thought was a nice touch and persuaded us to indulge. Ben chose the strawberry fool which was seriously refreshing and a great choice after a heavy meal. I chose chocolate mousse which was nice but quite dense.
Overall, The Village Kitchen is a really nice place to eat. It’s stylish and modern yet still has a homely feel. The decor at the back of the restaurant makes you feel like you’re having dinner at a friends house. Staff are friendly and there is a lovely laid back atmosphere. Prices are very reasonable with starters at £5-£6 and mains at £8-£14 unless you have steak. I would definitely go back.
My Last Mouthful was: The salmon in mushroom and seafood sauce
I have really enjoyed working on Eat Out Cardiff but it is no more. As of today, we are now called Your Last Mouthful. This is really exciting for us because our new name marks the first of several developments. Eat Out Cardiff started as a blog reviewing places to eat out in our capital city, along with deals and vouchers to make the experience easier on the wallet. Since this started in January this year, it has developed considerably and we have been invited to eat in many restaurants as well as working with small businesses who sell their homemade produce online, market sellers and cafes.
Your Last Mouthful would like to continue working along these lines and we feel that the name incorporates all of the businesses we work with, it is no longer just restaurants. We will continue to review food businesses, both those that we are invited to try and those that we try ourselves. Even if a food business invites us to experience their goods, I will always write an honest review. A business will not automatically get a good review just because they invited us to eat. This is something that we take very seriously as I want Your Last Mouthful to be a source that the public can trust for an honest opinion.
What’s to come?…..
This blog, www.yourlastmouthful-blog.com will always be the place to come for reviews of food businesses in Cardiff. For the time being I will also continue to post deals for eating out and it will continue to be the place to find Tweet and Eat competitions and exclusive deals. However, later this year, we will also be launching a website. The website will be your comprehensive guide to everything that is good about food in Cardiff. It will include an up to date list of all the best restaurants, cafes, market sellers, cakes makers, produce sellers, organisations working with food and more in our city and surrounding area. The website will also host special deals, news and competitions.
Your Last Mouthful will only promote the best food businesses in Cardiff. Businesses will only feature on our website and have access to the services we will be offering if I have been able to give them a positive review. So many websites and services claim to only promote the best but how many truly do? I want to stay true to the original Eat Out Cardiff ethos and make sure that you can fully trust our reviews.
I will continue to tell you about our future plans over the coming weeks but in the meantime, continue to read my reviews and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for competitions and exclusive deals.