Yesterday a few of us went to the Chilton Moor Country Club in Durham for Christmas dinner. No one was at reception so we went in search of our pre-booked, pre-ordered, pre-paid for meal in this sprawling establishment. We made our way along narrow corridors, past rooms, though rooms every nook and cranny filled with people in paper hats scoffing Christmas fare. Eventually, we found a member of staff to ask where we were to be seated.
We were shown to a table at the end of the public bar, set for three, no tablecloth, decorated with Christmas crackers and paper napkins. Before our bums had touched the seats the waiter said, drinks? We ordered a coke, a lime and soda and a sweet martini. The waiter/ deputy manager came over with two of the drinks holding the glasses at the rim rather than the stem. The Martini arrived a little later.
Months ago fishcakes and soup had been ordered as starters. We sipped our drinks pulled our crackers and waited. The waiter arrived holding a plate in each hand, fishcakes? That’s me I said, he plonked a plate down leaving the imprint of his left thumb in the sauce dolloped next to the fishcake and wilted lettuce leaf. We waited for the soup to arrive then tucked in, it was Christmas and we were determined to enjoy ourselves.
The fishcake had the consistency of a defrosted brick, clearly mass produced kak. We chatted and waited for the plates to be taken away. The seasonal music being played through speakers drowned out the sound of sports coverage being shown on a TV hanging from a wall. We listened, chatted and waited again until a waiter appeared at the table holding a plate in each hand, Turkey? That’s me I said.
A plate with a slab of Turkey, a roast potato, mashed potato, a pig in blanket and a flattened Yorkshire pudding with his thumb nestling beneath it was placed between my knife and fork. (I must just add here that I appreciate people have to touch the plate and I wasn’t expecting silver service. I’m not talking about a thumb on the rim of the plate here his thumb was in the food)
We looked at the food on the plate then apprehensively at each other silently sharing our concerns about what we were expected to eat. A tin tray containing soggy sprouts, carrots and chipped turnip was placed in the centre of the table. As none had been provided my unused soup spoon was used to serve. We wished each other Merry Christmas picked up our knives and forks and very soon put them back down again.
We may have been determined to have a happy Christmas but at last one of us cracked. This is horrible, I can’t eat it. Once the cat was out the bag we agreed that the starters had been awful, the Turkey was dry and flakey, the vegetables were soggy and the service was terrible.
The food was pushed around the plate until the waiter/deputy manager appeared at the table asking if everything was alright. He was politely told it wasn’t.
He apologised cleared the plates and said he would have a word with the chef. We chatted and waited for our sticky toffee pudding. After over thirty minutes we asked a passing waiter if we could have our pudding. He said he would look into it. Five minutes later we asked another waiter if he could find our puddings. Five minutes after that a waiter arrived with his thumb in the custard of both plates he was holding and when he arrived with the third he had his thumb in that one as well.
As far as aesthetics went it looked good. It even tasted OK. Bought in sliced, stuck in a Microwave smeared with custard and dribbled with sauce.
We ate it, we were hungry however as we had waited such a long time between courses I suggested that rather than wait for the coffee we went back to someone’s house and had a coffee there. I paid the drinks bill at the bar and we left.
It is possible to be busy and provide good food and service. I was at a similar restaurant last week. It was very busy filled with Christmas parties. The food was fantastic, the service was superb and it cost less than half the price of yesterdays fiasco.
I won’t be going back to The Chilton Moor Country Club. In fact to make sure I have a better Christmas lunch next year I may get my Christmas from a tin.