We approached the lovely quaint cottage style surrounding for a Sunday Lunch we were filled with anticipation. As my partner and I usually engage in fine dining in London – we thought we'd try somewhere more rural.
The surroundings were lovely, the sculptures everywhere gave a great theme and continuity. We sat down and were offered a drink (£10 prosecco and £5 for a glass of apple juice), and were presented with a menu. A good choice, but pricey for Lunch (~£10 for a starter ~£20 for a main).
We ordered, and then were seated in a table tucked away in a corner – which was fine. There was already bread on the table when we arrived, the starters were good. None of the waiting staff acknowledged us, our water wasn't topped up and when we ordered wine with the main – it was unpalatable. I had a glass of red, and my partner had a glass of white and we couldn't finish them due to the bitter, cheap taste.
My roast arrived and there was a thick skin on the gravy, which I decided wouldn't be worth complaining about. After 10 minutes of our plates being empty after finishing eating, and we eventually had our table cleared. Deciding that dessert wouldn't be worth an extra £8.50, and that paying an extra £4.50 for Petit four on top of £2.25 for a coffee wouldn't be worth it – we asked for the bill.
This is where things really went downhill.
We waited around 10 minutes, and then asked a waiter again for the bill. 10 minutes later (with all the larger parties in the room being served while we waited) we asked again. 5 minutes later the manageress appeared with the bill. Given that we weren't really acknowledged by the staff and had to wait so long for the bill, we'd made the decision not to pay the service charge.
We told the manageress this, and her face dropped. She asked us why (which was quite unusual), and we informed her that the service was slow as well as having a long wait time for the bill. She shook her head, and told us that we didn't have to wait 20-25 minutes for the bill.
My partner and I were shocked, and spoke to each other. She then demanded we tell her what we were saying. I informed her that I was shocked, and that I expected her to take the criticism constructively. She repeated that the service was fine, and that we were wrong. Here I informed her of the skin on the gravy and then she told me again that I was wrong.
My partner was very upset as we'd come to celebrate an occasion – and we left, but as emotions flowed I went back to try and talk to the owner. I told her that we'd been treated appallingly and she proclaimed that 'we're not a fast food place' and that she wasn't aware of us having to wait, and then derided me for ‘clock watching’. Our afternoon was spectacularly ruined.
The good (if overpriced) food and nice decor was ruined by the manageress, inattentive waiting staff and awful wine had ruined the meal – and at a cost of £105 (2 drinks and 2 courses each) for lunch, we were appalled to be treated as though we didn't belong.
The Michelin star presented to this place must have brought a significant change in ethos and serving standard, as most of the reviews I've read before 2011 have been supremely positive – but when you jack up the prices and laud your accolades on the front page of your website, people will expect better than average – we were presented with a level of service that most would be unhappy with in ‘Zizzi’ or ‘Ask’.
Whether this was an isolated incident or not, we will not be going back.