Food review: Service with a sneer at Bennett’s café

Gordon Bennett: service not up to scratch at York café. Photograph: Gene Hunt on Flickr
*NB This article dates from 2012. For a review from August 2014, go here*

Mistakes happen in cafés and restaurants all the time. Your soup arrives a touch tepid for your taste or you order ginger cake and get carrot (although what you were doing ordering ginger when carrot was available, heaven only knows).

The point is, stuff happens, people apologise and put the problem right and everyone is happy – you with your full stomach and the café owner with their full till.

It’s unreasonable to expect people in the hospitality industry to be infallible. But is it so unreasonable to expect them to be hospitable?

My mum and I fancied a spot of lunch while tootling about in town this week. We usually grab something from Banjo’s, a terrific takeaway sarnie shop opposite the library, to munch while sunning ourselves by the river, or nip into one of the numerous Goodramgate coffee shops for something more substantial.

But a friend had recommended Bennett’s next to the Minster, so we decided to give it a whirl.

A nice young chap took our order – scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast for me; a bacon buttie and salad for mum – and we sat back to watch the world go by from our window seat.

Our pots of tea arrived promptly, accompanied by the delicious smell of frying bacon, and our food followed just a few minutes later. My egg, salmon and toast combo was great – a creamy pile of buttery yellow eggs, dotted with pink jewels of salmon on a thick, nutty slab of granary – but, unfortunately, the bacon in mum’s buttie didn’t quite fulfil the promise of the mouth-watering waft that had emanated from the kitchen.

He declined to reply, choosing instead simply to stare frostily at us while shaking his head

Not to put too fine a point on it, it was cold, hard and unforgiving. As was the older, bearded chap in charge when we politely asked if it was possible to swap it for something more appetising.

“I’m terribly sorry,” I said, trying, in typical British fashion, to complain without actually sounding like I was complaining. “But I’m afraid my mum’s struggling a bit with this sandwich. The bacon is a bit hard and cold. Do you think she could have something else?”

The chap – Mr Older & Bearded, not Mr Nice & Young – then whisked mum’s plate away with a face like thunder, ostentatiously picking the bacon out of the bread and eating it on his way back to the kitchen. He then slung the menu across the table at her and stood in stony silence while she chose a tuna sandwich.

A few minutes later, Mr Nice & Young arrived with a perfectly decent tuna sarnie and side salad. He couldn’t have been more polite, whereas Mr Older & Bearded could not have been more hostile.

When the time came to pay the bill, we dutifully added a tip for our waiter, who hadn’t put a foot wrong, and bid a polite farewell – if not a fond one – to our host. True to form, he declined to reply, choosing instead simply to stare frostily at us while shaking his head.

Bad food, I can forgive. Bad service, not so much. So, I won’t be going to Bennett’s again, probably much to the relief of Mr Older & Bearded to whom we were obviously such a trial.

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