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.|
'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.
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.
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'
'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....