Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Monday, 8 August 2011

A dinner best forgotten

On our second evening in Deal, Mats and I went looking for a place to have dinner. Like me, he was curious to know what the famous Royal Hotel on the seafront looked like inside. We both remembered it as being considered as the fanciest place in Deal in the seventies. When we were students this place was clearly beyond our means, but now we figured we were up to the challenge. So after studying the menu card by the door, we ventured inside.

The Royal Hotel in Deal.

The lounge area was very ‘clubby’, with fashionably worn leather armchairs and an open fireplace. The bar/pub was at the bottom of a flight of stairs. The view from the window was stunning, with the beach reaching up to the outside terrace. The door to the terrace was open and you could hear the waves gently caressing the pebbles on the beach. We briefly considered having our dinner al fresco, but decided against it as the evening sea air was rather chilly.

The lounge.

We ordered some drinks at the bar and asked if we could have dinner in the restaurant. The young waiter said that the hotel was full and that overnight guests had priority when it came to having a table for dinner in the restaurant. We could have a meal in the pub though. We picked up our drinks and found ourselves a nice table in a corner by the window. It was very quiet and the view was fantastic. So far, so good.

We sipped our drinks, chatting and admiring the view while we were waiting for someone to bring us a menu card. It took ages … but finally an even younger waiter than the one behind the bar, arrived with the menu cards, a wine list, a plate with two rolled-up paper napkins and a bowl holding different pre-packed sauces: mayonnaise, salad cream, ketchup, malt vinegar, tartar sauce and mustard. While we were studying the card, the waiter returned and – without saying a word – picked up the bowl of sauces and put it on the next table where another couple was being served their dinner. Strange, and not very professional!

The bar/pub. By the time we left it was
very crowded
and extremely noisy!

When our food came – a hamburger for me and a steak for Mats – another bowl with sauces was brought to our table. It was all very confusing. We had ordered a bottle of Fleury, a fruity red wine from the Beaujolais region. The wine list recommended that it was best when slightly chilled. However, when it came to the table it was served at room temperature. I asked our young waiter whether we could have an ice bucket to cool down the wine. He gave me a beaming smile and said: “Of course.” We waited and waited and waited … the ice bucket never came. In the end I got up, walked to the bar and asked what had happened to it. Again with a big smile, the bar tender pointed at an ice bucket that was sitting on the bar: “There it is for you take.” he said. Did I miss something? Is it customary for the customer to pick up his ice bucket at the bar? After all, the wine had been served at the table.

My hamburger and soggy French fries aka chips.
They may not look soggy, but they were, believe me.

To make a long story short, The Royal Hotel didn’t live up to our expectations. I admit that the staff was very friendly and smiling, but the service was lousy and the quality of the food was very poor. Mats’ steak was tough, my hamburger was scorched on the outside and almost raw on the inside and the chips were soggy and tasteless. Back home I had a look at the comments on Trip Advisor and realized that I should have done this before walking into the Royal. It might have saved us the disappointment. When our host at the B and B asked us the next morning whether we had enjoyed our dinner, he wasn’t surprised to hear about our mishap. Besides its grand name and dream location on the beach, the Royal Hotel has very little to offer. What a shame!


Craig said...

What a shame! As they say, it takes a lifetime to earn a good reputation and just one visit to spoil it!
I get so annoyed with establishments who care nothing about customer service and even less about food quality.

Bob said...

Usually if you have bad food and/or service and inform the manager, they should give you either a free meal or some type of discount. I guess they don't do that at the Royal Hotel since you didn't mention it. Did you make a post to Trip Advisor? I thought "chips" were a speciality in England!!!!

Mark said...

Okay, I'll check that off my list.
I wonder if you would have had a different report to give had you eaten there in the 70s? We adults tend to care about good customer service. Kids do not. m.

GaynorB said...

Such a pity about the poor quality of your meal and service at what should heave been a 'grand' hotel.
We're not good at complaining, but we really ought to do it more, but in a pleasant but firm way. Often young people aren't managed well enough when they are learning their trade, and smiling isn't always enough!!

Jean said...

It's all down to lack of training I think, something which is often sacrificed in the interests of economy. Also a lot of youngsters have no personal experience of eating in restaurants so they don't know what the customer expects. That's the way the restaurant trade is going I'm afraid.
A friend's daughter took a holiday job at one of our local hotels which does a huge amount of restaurant trade, plus weddings, parties and so on. The minute she arrived she was expected to be able to wait on table, silver service no less, with no training at all. All they did was to give her a white frilly apron! And all for "minimum wage". Luckily she was a bright girl with oodles of experience of eating in posh restaurants so she excelled at her job and was able to keep the punters happy.
I would add your complaints to Trip Advisor if I were you, it can do no harm.

Niall & Antoinette said...

What a shame especially when the place was in such a super location.

Anonymous said...

Sadly Jean is spot on in her comment. This type of poor untrained service is typical in such establishments. If you had time to send a complaint, perhaps also send it direct to Shepherd Neame in Faversham, north Kent, the family run brewery(there is a website) which owns the Royal in Deal. There's a chance that might have some impact and even a response. I've always tried to support this brewery as it's very close to where I was brought up and I feel ashamed that they cannot provide a better level of service.

ladybird said...

Craig, The young staff was really very friendly and all smiles, but they lacked guidance and experience. There is no excuse for serving poor food though.

Bob, We Belgians rarely complain ... we just don't return to the same place a second time if we are not pleased with the service/food. That's why we are such popular tourists! :)

Mark, I didn't have the means to eat there at the time. And anyway, my lovely hostess was a great cook, so I didn't feel the need to go out to have a meal.

Gaynor, Smiling isn't enough, but you can hardly blame the poor 'kids'. All they needed was a good supervisor. There is no excuse for the soggy chips though :)

Jean, Your friend's daughter sounds like a very sensible and dynamic girl. Unfortunately not all younsters show so much courage and common sense.
P.S. I'm still thinking about adding a comment on Trip Advisor. But I've noticed that not comments are justified. (in order cases, I mean).

N&A, Yes, the location is perfect. Most romantic, with rooms and balconies offering a splendid seaview. Who oould ask for more?!

Veronica, I suppose the owners read Trip Advisor too and therefore must be aware of the fact that there is a problem. Maybe they just don't have the means, the time or the drive to do something about it?!