What do you expect when you pay generously for a couple of nights in a child-friendly hotel on the Cornish coast?
- peace and quiet?
- yummy food?
- more Boden per square inch than you can shake a fist at?
All those things and more perhaps, but what you may not expect is a modern day Basil Fawlty, intent on parody.
There was no mention of the War, and no silly walking.
But there was plenty of ineptitude, a dollop of mis-management and some pretty incompetent apologising.
It started on our first night – one of only two, so it’s not hard to remember every not-so-perfect moment.
It was a half term treat.
Two precious nights in a decent hotel with lots of facilities for children.
On the first night, after tea in the kids’ dining-room, we delivered our two to their respective children’s clubs. Then we sighed with gratitude as we sauntered into the grown-ups’ restaurant.
We were looking forward to a relaxing meal on our own, with decent cuisine and attentive service. We’d been before and knew the restaurant was good.
But we shouldn’t have counted our spatchcocks.
Things headed downhill once the starters had been cleared.
We chatted and waited for the next course.
And we waited.
There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing from a variety of waiters, each asking with a slightly lower dip of the head, whether we’d had our main course.
When we said,
“No, not yet,” each one would promise to sort it out.
But nothing happened and after about an hour we had to extricate the children and put them to bed.
Tempting them away from their new best friends and back into the bedroom was taxing enough, but to return to find not even a congealed plate of something lurking on a couple of plates was a step too far.
Not a sausage, or a spatchcock, or even a mangetout.
We were told our meals were –
a) on the hot plate
b) in the kitchen
c) at a secure site we’d have to locate using only bat-sonar before we could eat them
By the time the food arrived, the hotel’s own peculiar re-incarnation of Manuel had materialised.
He couldn’t have apologised more profusely.
If saying sorry were an Olympic event, I’ve no doubt he’d be up there on the top of the podium.
He didn’t just say “sorry, have a bottle of wine on us” and leave.
He had to explain why things had gone wrong, how they’d been allowed to go wrong, and how he was struggling with sub-standard agency staff who should really have been cleaning rooms and not waiting at tables.
He added yet more detail to the sorry tale.
Our meal had been cooked twice but on each occasion the waiter had failed to find us – sitting, as we were, smack bang in the middle of the restaurant.
The temporary staff were unfamiliar with the kitchen procedures – a kitchen so peculiarly out of synch with every other kitchen that it represented a daunting challenge to their powers of comprehension.
The wine waiter was really a commis chef on an evening’s sabbatical in the dining room.
Soon, other diners got wind of our troubles and were swapping notes…
“You ordered the Tiramasu! That won’t be here until Saturday.”
“If you’re lucky you might get the coffee in time for breakfast.”
“It’s the only restaurant I know that offers Soup of Yesterday”
The second evening was a different story.
We were sipping our coffee by 8.30pm, stunned into an amicable silence by the prompt arrival of our food and a constant flow of polite enquiries –
“Everything alright sir?”
“Have you enjoyed your meal madam?”
“Can I get you anything else?”
But the first night will be the one we remember… the vintage taste of Basil, lacking only Sybil to complete the picture.
Maybe we can save up for another trip to Cornwall – in the hope of meeting our modern-day Manuel’s good lady wife.
Beta Mum and Blog Fodder (aka Mike)