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Monday, 24 August 2015

Dirty dish water makes a decent stock

How can I put this without offending a sizeable and ever increasing section of the population..?
It seems like the majority of complainants appear to be in the more senior age group.
The round plates round table couple continue to visit and continue to complain bitterly with every visit.
We are on the verge of asking them not to come back,after their latest comment last week that the best thing we could do with the soup is fling it down the sink as it was more akin to dirty dish water ..
dishwater makes a nice stock

I think I've mentioned before that if you persist in ordering the same menu item you run the risk of being known as the item in question,so we're currently referring to them as Timothy Taylor and his wife due to his penchant for a certain well known brew.
TT has taken to ordering a plain cheese sarnie (no butter,cheese sliced not grated,no garnish and with the bread roll not cut in half).Basically its a bap you'd throw together on the run at home,not something you'd want to pay the best part of a fiver for.
Mrs TT tries to order smoked salmon every time she comes in despite it not being on the menu.
This week rather than apologising(why do I do that?)I dared to suggest that there were lots of other lovely items on the menu if she'd care to see and was given a look which said I'd shat in her shoes not tried to serve her lunch.
Anyway, despite last weeks disappointing experience she decided to push the boat out with a bowl of soup and with the weather being fairly clement (oh joy )they decided to sit out in the garden,which improved everyones demeanour no end as it meant we all could look forward to a fairly pleasant Saturday lunch without the prospect of their beady eyes watching every move looking for problems and worse still drawing them to other peoples attention.
Would that life were so simple.
As I headed outside with the cutlery I could see Mrs TT fidgeting around pulling at chairs,judging on previous form probably looking for a piece of ground which had been steam rollered to within an inch of its life and measured with a spirit level before I'd put the chairs out.
Just then I happened to notice the redhead heading out in the same direction with a pile of my freshly laundered (on a boil wash)glass cloths.
I shot her the look known in the trade as 'staff conference look'.It consists of a raised eyebrow and eye gesture towards the kitchen.All done on the QT well out of any potential customers line of vision.
'What's the craic with the cloths?'
Guarding your supply of clean cloths is one of the most important roles in hospitality.People go though clean cloths like a dose of salts if you don't ration them.You would be surprised at the pleasure of being presented with a clean cloth on a Saturday night after you've battled on with a soggy tired one.Outstanding customer service is often rewarded with a clean polishing cloth and is always received with rapture.On particularly difficult nights the suggestion that we might treat ourselves to a clean polishing cloth always raises morale no end,and is almost akin to a lovely glass of fizz (well not quite) in the pleasure stakes,often resulting in squeals of delight.
SO you can see why the sight of a pile of these prized items heading out to the garden on a busy Saturday lunchtime when there could well be a drought later,might be of concern.
'Its Mrs TT ,she's wearing white trousers and she doesn't want to sit on the garden chair in case they get dirty,she asked for some tea towels to sit on'
I didn't need to say anything,theres another look, this one consists of a bit of lip curl and its a one that says:HEY GIRLFRIEND...I DONT THINK SO....
'Get some blue roll and wipe the seat for her,alternatively she can NOT sit on the garden seat or even better not wear white trousers thats she's afraid to fucking sit down in'
I was giving myself a mental pat on the back for saving the cloths and pondering the wisdom of choosing white as a trouser colour when they make you're not insignificant backside look twice as big as it already is when I overheard something which took away my benevolent mood too bloody quickly.
The thing with a terraced garden is there are many nooks and crannys which can have the effect of rendering oneself invisible to the customer whilst remaining within earshot of many a private conversation which can indeed be heard with perfect clarity.
The very pleasant couple who also come in on a Saturday lunchtime and are the absolute antithesis of the Timothy Taylors had joined them and were asking how the food was.
What I heard next had me fizzing.
I suppose I'd better rewind and explain what came to pass in the kitchen prior to the food going out.
As it happened all of the advertised mature cheddar on the sarnie menu had been grated in preparation for a busy lunchtime service so when the check came on for the sliced cheddar there was a momentary crisis which was quickly averted due to their being an alternative Scottish cheddar available which we happened to have on the cheeseboard.
I overheard TT telling the very pleasant couple that the cheese in his sandwich was definitely Red Leicester and not cheddar as advertised on the board and we could be done under the Trades Description Act.I heard his wife say that she was going to check what it said on the board as it was disgraceful and misleading.She was about to get up when I appeared from behind the trellis.
They nearly crapped themselves.

'Im sorry I couldn't help but overhear you're conversation there and I must point out that the cheese in your sandwich is in fact Cheddar though not the usual one as due to you requesting sliced not grated cheddar we had to use an alternative and actually more expensive Cheddar that we normally serve on our cheeseboard,yes its definitely a cheddar,but not to worry we won't charge any extra for the superior cheese.'
You should have seen their faces.
No wonder Chef thinks I get bogged down in inconsequential trivia but there was no bloody way I was letting them get away with that.The strange thing was after I'd put them straight they backed right off and were disturbingly nice for the rest of the afternoon..
The rest of Saturday passed remarkably peacefully.
But you know that saying the calm before the storm?
Well,as it transpired Saturday turned out to be the day Michael Fish told everyone there'd be no hurricane..

Come Sunday morning the bookings were racked up just how Chef likes them with a couple of lovely big tables so he can get rid of quite a few at the same time.
Everything was going pretty darn smoothly all things considered,when I headed over to a table which I wanted to move on quickly so I could get the table back for a later booking already waiting.
Just as I cleared the plates which by the way were as clean as a whistle,the sort of plate you pick up and think well no problems there,as an afterthought I asked if they'd enjoyed everything and thought I'd misheard the reply.
'To be honest NO it wasn't to my taste'
At this point I should have apologised and moved on,but true to form I couldn't leave it at that.
I enquired as to the problem.
'The gravy was too thin,I prefer a thicker gravy'
The following had every chance of backfiring spectacularly right in my face but I was curious..
'Oh,you mean like a Bisto gravy?'
But no they weren't offended at all..
'Yes exactly.I think you'll find if you add less water you will get a much better consistency'
Definitely time to step away,there is actually nothing further to say about this.
There was no request for the pudding board thankfully, they asked for the bill which I cheerily presented telling them I'd pass their comments on to the Chef..
You can imagine how well received the helpful tips on putting together the optimum gravy granule mix were received:
'I can't wait till I'm old,Im going to be a miserable old bastard and complain about EVERYTHING..'

By now there was a hefty queue forming at the bar,the pleasant weather had brought out more than the usual number of walk ins which we were trying too squeeze in alongside the bookings.
The bar is invariably the hardest job on a Sunday as you're right in the firing line,people can be very demanding, unreasonable and downright impatient to be served,the bar person has to be able to remain calm under pressure which reminded me of OCD boy and the day he snapped,put his hands up and said 'Guys!! can you give me a minute.. you can see I'm really busy here' which was actually a true fact but came across as more of a 'Talk to the hand cos the face ain't listening' statement,I had to grovel for ages to the Irish couple from around the corner after that outburst,I even feigned amusement through gritted teeth when their uncontrolled kids shoved a whole bog roll down the loo.
Anyway I could see a 'cough' older bloke getting agitated as I went past with the plates so I gave him a beam and said 'I'll be with you in just a moment'
Usually does the trick and buys a bit of time,at least they know they're not being ignored.
Next time I went past he was still there looking angry so I thought I better serve him.
'Yes what can I get for you?'
He was seething.
'I think you need to hire more help'
This is a thing which really annoys me,it doesn't matter how many staff you have on if 50 people all arrive unnanounced at the same time they aren't all going to get served immediately,especially when the bar is the size of ours,any more than two people behind there and all you end up doing is playing hands,knees bumpsadaisy rather than serving any actual customers.
At this point I got word that the kitchen had called a halt on any further orders so we were telling people there was a half hour wait before we could take their order.
I gave him a table number, asked him to take a seat outside and said we'd be over to get his order in half an hour or so.
It was a lovely afternoon,given the chance I would have loved to sit outside in the sun with a nice refreshing drink.
But no.
'So when I order in half an hour will i get my food straight away?'
'Well no it will have to be prepared and plated so probably about 15 minutes or so after that'
'Look I'm sorry theres a wait but theres a lot of orders on, the kitchen is very busy and there is a delay and we have a couple of bookings to order first'
There is no other answer to this statement than 'yes'..
The queue at the bar was three deep by now when someone started ordering cocktails which of course relieved the boredom NO END.
Just then a small bespectacled fellow caught my attention.
'Hello,I'm just sitting on the terrace out there and I've noticed that the wall is bulging out and looks like it could collapse at any time,if you have a minute I can just point out the places that look particularly vulnerable which you might want to do something about'

Never mind that the bar is three deep with impatient punters, with the kitchen bell ringing frantically due to food sitting on the pass waiting to go out and a distinct shortage of glasses on the bar,just excuse me a minute will you? whilst I pop outside and form a small consultation committee,conduct a  detailed survey on the current status of the garden wall or even better do a quick impromptu shoring up job..
'Oh no, its fine its been like that for at least 100 years..'
I'm currently waiting for the Tripadvisor post entitled:
'The Landlady flouted health and Safety standards and showed compete disregard for customer safety..'

In other news we've employed what Chef calls a Career Kitchen Porter.
I use this phrase not in a disparaging way,let me tell you if you ever have the good fortune to come across an individual that aspires only to this position then HANG ON TO HIM.
Career Kitchen Porters are like gold dust in this neck of the woods.
This one likes to spend his recreational time with fun activities such as gulping lighter fuel then spewing it out and igniting it to the great amusement of onlookers, all the while filming the whole sorry debacle on a smart phone.An unfortunate incident caught on camera and watched several times by Chef et al on repeat to scenes of great mirth,marginally escaped a visit to A & E and resulted in a surprised expression for the following few weeks due to a worrying eyebrow shortage..
I digress.
We'd had a bit of an issue with overfilled bins which had caused the surplus to become  a bit of problem.
Anyway I thought I'd shame our relatively new career porter into keeping the place ship shape so I spent all afternoon sweeping up his mess which had now spread over the empty keg area next to the bins.I even lined up all the empty kegs like smart little soldiers in their own regiments for each brewery, for easy collection.When I'd finished I thought I'd escort CKP up to the bin area to demonstrate how I'd like things to look,stressing the importance of keeping the area clean and tidy and taking care to point out that empty boxes and oil containers couldn't be flung untidily into the empty keg area.
I even demonstrated that if he filled the large empty plastic oil containers with boiling water for a few minutes they become nicely soft and pliable and could be satisfyingly flattened to save space in the bins.He watched diligently as I emptied out the water and beat the plastic into submission by jumping up and down on it with vigour.
 Just to underline how serious this all was i finished off by telling him the state of the place was an absolute disgrace.
I stood back to view his reaction and was a tad surprised by the response:
'Yes I know it was,you've done a good job ..I'm PROUD of you.'
It took a minute or so for me to process this information.
If I wasn't finding his reaction so bloody funny I could have decked him.
When I recounted the story later to Chef he shook his head.
'Look you're wasting your time trying to use reverse psychology on that one,theres a reason why he's a Career Kitchen Porter.Hasn't he told you about the time he had an interview at Tesco?'
'No what happened?'
'He spent the night before on the drink with his brother,fell asleep on the sofa,at which point the brother drew specs on his face with a felt tip pen.Next morning he slept in and was almost late for the interview.'
'Did he not get the job then?'
'Hardly.He only noticed the Harry Potter glasses after he got home.'

All of the above of course would be highly amusing were it not for the fact that the individual in question is fifty three years old...


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Cheeseboard of wrath.

For personal reasons I like to think I'm sympathetic towards people with food allergies,though admittedly the person who tipped up without prior warning clutching a list of around 20 odd banned items did swiftly wipe the the serenity from Chefs usual benevolent countenance.
I happened to field a call last Sunday morning from a very pleasant person enquiring about the possibility of partaking of a gluten free Sunday lunch.
The booking sheet was looking pretty full but feeling particularly genial due in part to the availability  of a family bag of Minstrels I thought I'd squeeze the party in at the end of service without mentioning it to the kitchen.Yep, its not difficult to 'manage' a couple of surreptitious bookings without the knowledge of the kitchen, I'd already planned to just tell them they'd been booked in earlier but arrived late which of course is a daily occurrence so would arouse no suspicion whatsoever..She was so bloody effusive at the idea of a lovely home cooked lunch with gluten free gravy that the mention of the Gluten free Sticky toffee pudding practically had her proposing to me down the phone line.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself and looking forward to welcoming them.
 Fortuitously(or not as will be revealed later)they arrived(thank god)on time,I indicated the menu and bestowed them with my best beam whilst requesting they order fairly promptly.
No point pushing my luck with kitchen too far.
When the order came to the kitchen the Little House on the Prairie sweater unravelled pretty darn fast.

In addition to gluten she was allergic to:
and garlic.

The main upshot of this bombshell being that of course she couldn't have the gluten free gravy as obviously made with stock containing CELERY and GARLIC.
'Can't you make some up with bit of chicken Bouillion?'I said (you know that handy tub of stuff sitting on the top shelf that no self respecting Chef will admit to keeping for emergencies.Wink wink.)
I was already making a grab for it.
Marco knows best..:)

Chef was not joyful.Suffice to say he was right up in my grill with some choice expletives(don't worry I've bookmarked some of the more colourful for recycling on future potty mouthed occasions) and its fair to say Reader,on this occasion I was  NOT feeling the love.
The edited outcome being that there would indeed be potentially more celery in the little plastic tub of disgrace than in the homemade stock.
She'll have to have a dry dinner,God dammit that was going to stick in her craw both situationally and existentially, make no mistake.
'It'll be ok' I say 'just butter the veg'
Butter makes everything better.
I realised my mistake just as the words were out,but not as quick as Chef had his deadpan face on full display.

After the meals were cleared and the redundant sweet board having been feebly offered I wondered if there was anything lurking at the back of the fridge I could offer her by way of a pud.
Unbelievably the previous offer of the sticky toffee pudding was brought up, along with the enquiry was it dairy free...
I could have knocked her out.

'Who does she think I am.. fucking Dynamo?' said Chef helpfully.

Then this:
'Not to worry, I'll just have the cheeseboard instead,I can take a bit of dairy.'


I crawled off to a dark place and sat quietly for some time.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Bank Holiday Monday

Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
There was already a crowd gathering outside before we'd even opened the doors.I thought I'd pre empt the rush by opening up early and at least getting drinks served before the diners who'd actually booked arrived.
The couple who like their plates to reflect the shape of the table they sit at were one of the first through the door.The sight of the two of them has the effect of sucking the life force out of all of we who have the pleasure of serving them,taking on the demeanour and personailty of crumpled brown paper bags in their presence(or if you're over forty place a mirror flat on the table in front of you and peer down into it for a visual representation,I fleetingly considering posting a photo of myself doing this but it was just TOO frightening)..On this occasion (hooray) they'd decided to sit in the garden so I thought I'd better follow them out to make a note on the order of the shape of the table they'd chosen to sit at,just to avert any later drama.As I glanced over,quickly noting a round table, I heard my name being called.
I sighed wearily in anticipation of another protracted problem and headed over.
'Biff the table here is on uneven, churned up ground'
'Yes it is on crazy paving,not awfully level I'm afraid'
'But look this chair is wobbling terribly'
'Well lets just move it so.. to this even bit of ground'
'No thats not good enough,it's dangerous'
The voice in my head that keeps a running alternative and far more entertaining commentary on my daily life spoke: 'with a backside that size I don't think you've much to fear on that front missus,you'd have to be dropped from a height far greater than that of a garden chair before that one didn't bounce back'.She must have wondered why the edge of my mouth was twitching as I invited her to take a table inside due to all other outside ones now being occupied..
'No, we want to sit outside,can you move the table up to that top terrace please?'
The top terrace was already chokka so how in Gods name she imagined I could manually shoehorn another table into the already tight space and especially in view of the aforementioned not insignificant backside is an absolute mystery.Besides, having sustained a particularly painful rotator cuff injury(google it- the upshot of which is I can't get my top off without the aid of an appointment with Chef my Day Carer),I was keen to avoid a set back i.e. lugging an iron table across the garden was definitely not on my list of permitted activities.
'Im sorry there's just no space to do that'
Thankfully she spotted a couple about to vacate a table on safe ground and made a supermarket dash to bag the seats before anyone else could get there.Despite the backside she was surprisingly nimble on her feet,I trotted along behind and amended the check with the revised table shape hoping she'd stay put.People have a habit of moving two or three times when they're seated outside,theres always a table with a better view/in the sun/out of the sun/sheltered etc.It can cause havoc when taking out orders,its hard to serve food when the customers are intent on an alfresco game of musical chairs..I was reminded of the first Bank Holiday shortly after we'd arrived here,before we fully understood the practicalities and before we had introduced a foolproof system of allowing diners to sit outside and the chaotic food auction which ensued after they'd all been on the move two or three times.I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end of the afternoon.

Half an hour into service the large group arrived.
You can count on the walkers to give you an easy order,soups,sandwiches and the like, nothing expensive,which on Bank Holiday can get the kitchen out of the shit,despite bringing the average spend per head significantly down for the day.
There's generally always some item missing off the order with large groups,they don't listen when you're trying to establish what they'd like,I think its an intentional ploy to obtain gratis food.In this instance we were a bowl of soup short,despite the outside temperature hitting an unseasonal 15 degrees and them all sweating like pigs in blankets in their waterproofs, a steaming hot bowl of soup was the dish of the day with the group.It's doubtful this had anything to do with the price,as witnessed by the large number of tap waters on order ..
I returned to the kitchen to politely request the additional item, there's not usually much banter coming from the kitchen on a Bank holiday but a missed item on an order solicits at least some comment, on this particular Bank Holiday 'arsehole' was trending,interspersed with the occasional 'this is fucking ridiculous' as ever more checks were piled on.
As I took the soup out the noise level had increased to school dinner hall levels and after two attempts to identify who to deliver it to I decided the old spoon tap on the table was needed to command the attention of the party.
'Can I ask who ordered the extra soup please?'
A middle aged woman raised her hand,by the look of her face you would have thought I'd shat in her shoes,not tried to serve her dinner.
'Its not an extra soup,I haven't had my original one yet..'
I was about to tell her to keep her hair on but aborted that plan when I noticed she had clearly already done so,her facial features would have given Marcus Wareing's arms a run for their money,I doubt that face had ever had an introduction to a set of tweezers.

By 3 o'clock and 95 covers down,there was still no craic to be had from the kitchen,apart from a brief spell when my Day Carer expressed an urgent desire to ransack the knife drawer and head down to the local supermarket with a plan to wreak revenge for the unfeasible and impenetrable food packaging which renders even those with a high level of manually dexterity fumbling sausage fingered oafs.
By this point we were resetting tables ready for the second wave of attack,I went to grab some napkins from the store cupboard located in the back corridor en route to the mens netty.As I pushed open the door I could see a mans legs straddled in the corner of the corridor,Reader, it looked exactly like he was relieving himself..I let out a small involuntary scream followed by:
'Oops sorry..'
Why I was apologising for him pissing in the corner on my floor when he was only seconds from the actual bog I have no idea.
He peered over his shoulder, slowly looked me up and down and gesturing with his head(hands otherwise engaged)in the direction of the bogs said:
'The gents is through there'
This is the first time I have been mistaken for a man.
I mumbled something incomprehensible and staggered back shellshocked into the bar minus the napkins and wondering if it was me who needed the acquaintance with the tweezer.As I said to my Day Carer later,I had no idea things were that bad.
Of course he wasn't actually pissing on the floor in my back corridor but the truth is actually equally unbelievable.He had balanced a very young baby on the shoulder height windowsill and was attempting to change the nappy in what was a very cramped and notoriously spidery space.
The baby change issue seems to be a constant theme,it even reared its head on Tripeadvisor recently.
*Huge sigh*
 Just then the middle aged couple sitting at Table 2 signalled for their bill.They had sat motionless,saying nothing throughout their meal,no conversation whatsoever,if they hadn't briefly broken the inactivity to eat I would have wondered how long they'd been dead.I heard the usual enquiry being made as to the enjoyment of the meal and was interested to hear that the table they were seated at was the 'noisiest possible table with the till next to it and coffee machine over yonder and people walking past all the time with food,it was an actual disgrace'
Theres only one answer to that comment isn't there?


A sea of glasses and empty crisp packets were piling up on the bar so I headed over to help clear the back log, making some progress before yet another large tray of empties would appear.Presently I clocked a regular walk through the door and in anticipation of his usual order went to reach for his special personal pint pot which he was given as a memento on his tour of the Coronation Street set in 1983 and which he had been using daily since then.
Not today though.
I'd used it as a vase to house some cheery daffodils plucked from the garden just that morning.
Regulars special pint pot makes a canny vase

They were sitting right in front of him on the bar.
In his personal treasured souvenir mug resplendent with Rovers Return emblem.
I frantically attempted to engage him in conversation and thus divert his gaze from the pot.
He must have been wondering why he was getting so much attention,especially in light of the fact that he's well known for having nee craic .Anyway he didn't flinch when I handed him his pint in a Timothy Taylor glass so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and strategically slid a small advertising blackboard in front of the daffs when he turned his back.
The queue at the bar had diminished slightly but was beginning to build up again when a couple of chaps asked to order some food.I was doing my best to get orders quickly and keep the bar area as free as possible.They asked for a couple of steak sandwiches.If I was sensible I would have left the order at that but always on the upsell I made the usual offer 'would you like some chips?"
The younger of the two made a quizzical look and then said very slowly and ponderously:
'What's the alternative?'
Quick as a flash I said
'Not have any chips??'
Can you imagine how impatient and rude that must have sounded??
I gave an involuntary nervous laugh and directed them to the only free table.
I had to spend the next 15 minutes grovelling to them in the hopes I could avert yet another Tripeadvisor assassination especially a one with me in the starring role....
The kitchen bell was ringing furiously signifying a pile up on the pass of food waiting to go out so I had the abandon the TA damage limitation and hope for the best..
During the mass food drop I had  noticed a party of five sitting in the conservatory that needed clearing so steamed over.
"Did you enjoy everything?'
'Yes but I struggled with the kipper, it was very bony"
This is a regular problem,we should really ditch them from the menu on Bank Holidays,but we're nothing if not optimistic..
'Oh Im sorry about that but ..well.. you know.. kippers are...'
I was cut short:
'Of course it's really NOT a Craster kipper"
'Isn't it?'
'No,kippers are from Grimsby,they're just smoked in Craster'
'Actually,I beg to differ,in Grimsby they're herrings,its only when they're smoked they become kippers.'
(Haha trumped you!!)
In the light of my previous comment at the bar I had immediate second thoughts and decided I'd better retract a bit of that statement so as I cleared the plates away I told them I'd amend the board to 'Craster 'smoked' kippers'.
Twenty minutes later as the kipper police were leaving,the leader stopped me.
'You must be Biff..'
I scanned his face hoping for a glimmer of recognition,he obviously knew me but I had no clue whatsoever who the hell he was.I gave up.
'Yes I am yes,and you are???'
'We've exchanged a couple of emails recently'


Three days beforehand I'd received a particularly arsey email.It seems theres a section of the population who have nothing better to do than to trawl the interwebs looking for errors, grammatical or otherwise on peoples web sites and firing off corrective emails.
Here's a copy of the email.

Dear Landlord,
I have just browsed your web site including details and menu for Christmas 2014.Should 2014 read 2015??? or has 'someone' forgotten to update their site???With your excellent reputation ,I suggest you check it forthwith to avoid looking a little foolish to say the least.
I used to live in (insert small village name) and have known the Inn since the early 70's AND seen it grow.Please don't spoil its good name..

Over to you....

There are two elements of this email which affront me:

1.The presumption that the person in charge is unquestionably a MAN.

2.Those last three fucking words..

Heres my reply:

Dear ......,
As our menus are seasonal,we don't update the menu with the coming years menu until nearer the time.When people enquire about Christmas,we direct them to the web site with a view to looking the previous years menu to give them an idea of what they can expect.This has worked well for us in the past in securing forward bookings.Im sorry you view us as foolish and indeed spoiling the good name of the pub which we have worked very hard to build over the last seven years(insert long list of achievements inc pointing out Guide books the pub previously wasnt in).
So given the current success we are enjoying we must be doing something right!!
Thanks for taking time out to ffer your feedback.
Kind regards

In actual fact I was aware the Christmas menu was still on line,updating it was one of a long list of outstanding jobs.However I was moderately pleased with my totally fabricated but reasonably plausible explanation for it being there,the down side being I'm now stuck with last years bastarding Christmas menus on the website and wondering how long would be a reasonable length of time to leave them before I dare change them without losing face or fear of a corrective email..
You will note however that I stopped short of signing off with 'over to you'
I received a further response which was notably more concise.

Dear Biff,
Thankyou for your forthright reply,I no way intimated that you were foolish..

At this point I decided to call it a day,my Day Carer already thinks I spend far too much time getting bogged down in inconsequential trivia and not enough concentrating on the job in hand,so I didn't bother to acknowledge or enter into any further dialogue,which proved a fatal mistake later as this clearly prompted the personal visit:

'Oh yes..did you enjoy everything?"
'I don't do Tripadvisor..'
There is a God.
'SO you can expect an email from me... VERY SOON...Good day'

To be continued.....

(PS see what we have to put up with on a daily basis?..)


Friday, 6 March 2015

Three scabby cabbages,a leek trench and a phantom deposit..

The Inspector from a well known guide book has been doing the rounds.
Personally,I can't think of a more sure fire way to take the pleasure out of eating than being forced to trough down three courses lunch and dinner every single day of your working life.A bit like the plethora of tragic and quite relentless food blogs which I've been reading lately which reference eating out 'for the sole purposes of the blog' not for the enjoyment of the experience.What a joyless task.
I digress,Inspectors are usually relatively easy to spot,not that a lone wolf diner is unusual, but one that's  neither suited and booted nor wearing zip off waterproof slacks and walking boots kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.Yes,I won't lie, a lone wolf garbed smart casual, drinking fizzy water and ordering three courses at lunchtime,sets alarm bells ringing.A pork and black pudding terrine,pheasant casserole and fulfilling his remit by cramming in a creme caramel(I could see the relief on his face when his beady eyes alighted on a stodge free option)FYI.
Oh yes and I've yet to meet an Inspector who doesn't finish off the meal with an espresso.
They don't disclose their identity until after they've finished and paid for their meal,at which point this one was well and truly rumbled by all of us.I played the game by gauging the brown nosing just right,enough to feign convincing surprise when he did his big reveal in the hand over of the business card at the end.
At this point they always ask for a chat with the chef.I usually keep them out front so that chef can beat a hasty retreat when the next check comes on but this chap was quite amiable,much nicer than the very first Inspector that ever came here who had the cheek to tell us that the best thing about the place was the food.
'well we should be ok then as thats what you're here to inspect..'
We were fortunate to get into the guide after that little outburst.
Anyway,on this occasion I thought I'd treat him to a little kitchen tour and a quick conversation.I even attempted to grill him him on a couple of possible local places that he might or might not have been to but no joy on that front,he wasn't giving anything away.He seemed to be at ease though and was quite chatty,things were going swimmingly until he happened to glance out of the kitchen window and notice the ravaged looking raised beds in the back garden.
'Oh I see you grow your own veg..'
'Oh yes..yes we.. do yes..' I agreed. I could just make out the whites of Chefs eyes growing ever larger and his mouth falling open over the shoulder and out of eyeshot of the Inspector as I ushered him out of the kitchen before he could attempt a closer inspection.

Abundant supply of home grown veg.
Three scabby cabbages and a leek trench does not a year round vegetable supply make ..
'I can't believe you told him that' said Chef 'FFS I'm not Jesus Bloody Christ..'
Which was clearly a covert reference to the seven loaves and fishes.
'I didn't tell him anything,he came here to inspect, which he did,he made an assumption based on his inspection which I for one am not about to correct him on'
Though admittedly I could have a red face when the guide eventually comes out and a stream of punters asking for tours of the vegetable plot arrives.

Later that day we received puzzling phone call.
I was relayed a rather garbled message about someone who had called to complain that she'd paid a deposit for a meal which she'd eaten the previous week,but on the occasion of the visit the pre paid deposit had not been deducted from the bill therefore resulting in her being overcharged to the tune of fifty quid.
This was baffling on three fronts:

1.It's not normal procedure for us to take a deposit.

2.On the rare occasion a deposit would be taken e.g. for a large private party,this would be noted in both the diary and on a deposit summary designed for that exact purpose and which on this occasion there was no record whatsoever.

3.Why did the person in question make no mention of having paid a deposit when attending for the meal`?

The situation required further investigation.
The table had been a party of six,had attended on a lunchtime and coincidentally despite it being two weeks previously I remembered the woman as she'd had what I'd diplomatically(yes I can do that) call an attitude.I remembered her complaining bitterly about the cold despite it being February and with both fires blazing and the central heating cranked up to full.I did try reminding her it was February.
I took a deep breath and gave her a quick ring to establish where,when and by whom the deposit was taken.
The story went that the person who took the booking 'asked her for a deposit' when she called to book and she'd paid by credit card over the phone.
Despite the fact that the person who'd taken the booking had meticulously noted the request for a particular table there was no mention of a deposit in the diary.
I attempted to explain that we don't take deposits for regular table bookings but this was falling on deaf ears.Finally I managed to ascertain that she had a credit card receipt from a month prior to the date of the meal.I took down a note of the date of the 'deposit' and told her I'd ring her back after Id investigated further and spoken to the member of staff who'd taken the booking and was currently away on holiday but back on Monday..
In the interim we went through all the credit card receipts for the day of the alleged deposit and found two receipts for fifty quid.One of the card receipts was a 'customer not present' receipt which kind of implied there might be some truth in her story.The other was just a regular receipt paid in person on the day.
We were all clueless as to what could have happened,so much so that I couldn't wait till Monday so rang the member of staff on holiday and asked her if she'd taken a deposit.
Definitely not.
The plot thickened.
We decided we'd have to ask for the receipt but with a busy weekend ahead I put it out of mind and planned to deal with it on the Monday as previously planned.
But someone else had other ideas.
On the Saturday morning as I was racing around emptying the ash out of the fire and with the hoover going full belt, I became aware of a persistent tapping at the window.

I groaned inwardly and cursed the fact that I hadn't closed the curtains the night before as I glanced up and recognised the early morning caller.
The last thing you want first thing on a Saturday morning is a disgruntled customer before the coffee machine's even had a chance to warm up.
I fiddled with door key in the lock, just for a bit, long enough to keep me happy but not long enough to upset her..
She was clutching a couple of sheets of A4 paper with what I could see were credit card receipts paper clipped to the top.
As I looked at the documentation I explained again that its not procedure for us to take deposits for regular table bookings and I couldn't understand why this would have been requested.I was surprised by her response that she was under the impression that as the weather was icy and snowy the girl had asked for a deposit to 'make sure she turned up'.
Were that the case and with the weather forecast up here,we'd be taking deposits full time..
Now its one thing to mistakenly think a deposit has been charged but its quite another to fabricate a complete story around this to provide evidence.
I took a look at the card receipt which indeed showed payment to us of fifty pounds.But thank the Lord it wasn't the 'cardholder not present' receipt,it was a regular payment.
I tried explaining this but wasn't getting through,she kept pointing out her bank statement and the fact that the payment had been taken from her account and paid to us.
I couldn't get her to understand that I wasn't disputing the payment but there was no way it had been done remotely over the phone.
'Can I just ask why you didn't mention paying the deposit when you came for the meal?'
Reader,brace yourselves for the answer:
'Well it was over a month before and Id forgotten about it,it was only when I got my bank statement and I noticed there was a fifty pound payment to you,so I must have paid a deposit'
WT flaming F.
Then she played the age card.
' I am nearly seventy you know,I can't be expected to remember everything which has happened over a month before'
She'd forgotten about it.
Forgotten about the bloody meal she'd had over a month before more like.
By now I'd wasted at least twenty minutes out of my already tight morning schedule and with little progress being made and the time creeping forward ever closer to midday.
Fuck it.
I opened the till drawer took out fifty quid and gave it to her.
Was she grateful I hear you ask.
Was she grateful..
As I passed the money over she smiled in a self impressed manner and advised me that it was a good job our mistake had come to light as a result of her meticulous book keeping.
Reader,old or not,I could have knocked her out..

The following week we had a further intrusion in the form of a visit from a Food Hygiene Inspector.Arriving just on the start of lunch service my protestations that we were really busy fell on deaf ears as she declared that was the 'best time for her to inspect and see the kitchen in full flow'.
Well at least it was best for someone.
Donning her pristine white coast and hat before tramping into the kitchen in her outdoor shoes which had just previously traversed the muddy garden path and left a comforting trail through the pub,I can confirm that Chef was not overjoyed at this sight.
On previous visits we'd been told that we'd never achieve a food hygiene rating five due to the nature of the structure of the kitchen,it being fairly ancient and having a lovely beamed ceiling.Hygiene Inpsectors don't like bare wood.Its not a wipe clean surface.
So in the absence of demolishing the structure and starting fresh we'd settled for four stars.
Pleasingly the previous inspection had mentioned that we could do with a new kitchen floor and as luck would have it we'd fulfilled this criteria only a couple of months beforehand so everything was looking particularly chipper and I was feeling it quite a fortuitous turn of events that the Inspector had turned up so timeously.
As she was writing her report and having made a few suggestions re the new food allergen laws which we'd explained we were dealing with verbally due to the menu changing daily,I thought I'd ask her if was everything was to her satisfaction.Receiving an answer in the affirmative I thought I'd point out that in keeping with the recommendations of the previous inspection we'd replaced the kitchen floor ( at great expense to ourselves)and this being the case would we not now qualify for the five star rating.
There was a bit of coughing,a bit of shuffling and an 'erm well..I ..well I  um, well don't see why not'
Further beam.
'Would you like a coffee,before you leave? SUCH a cold day..'
I was even reminding myself of Sybil Fawlty.

Two weeks later the bloody five star food hygiene certificate arrived.
Reader,I was made up.
Chef was not amused.
'I wish you would just leave things alone'
'Aren't you pleased?'
'No not really.I was happy with four.The trouble now is keeping it.Now we've got five the only way is down.What's going to happen next year when the other bloke comes round and he downgrades us.?'
Methinks he may have mistaken it for a Michelin star....


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