Having frequented public houses for a vast portion of my adult life (and a fair amount of my pre-adult life – shhh, don’t tell my parents), I’ve learned that customer service in such establishments can be somewhat hit or miss. Either they treat you like a member of royalty and refuse to let you lift a finger or put a single hair on your precious head out of place, or they mistreat you so badly you end up thinking a day trip to Hades might have been a more pleasant experience. Staff rudeness is my primary bugbear, closely followed by lackadaisical service. But today I experienced a third category of crap service before I’d even set foot into the pub in question: The perils of staff error.
Several weeks ago I thought it might be nice to organise Christmas dinner in a pub for a big group of friends – a group of forty, to be exact (I don’t like to make things easy for myself). Having scoped the idea out it seemed to be a winner, so I went ahead with choosing a suitably traditional north London boozer and signing people up. Once the numbers were confirmed I sent the festive menu around with instructions for everyone to place their food orders and pay fifty per cent of the cost into my bank account a week in advance by way of a deposit.
So far so (Christmas) gravy, right? Wrong – because this afternoon I picked up a frantic sounding email from the pub asking me to contact them right away. Fearing the worst I did as asked, and once they’d reassured me the dining room itself (which we’d exclusively reserved for the occasion) was still reserved and I’d breathed a sigh of relief they dropped the bombshell – that the festive menu didn’t actually start until three days after our ‘festive’ lunch. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be decorating the pub for Christmas until the evening of the day we were due to dine there (although they did make the noble concession of promising us crackers – hmm). So here we are with an exclusively reserved dining room entirely devoid of decorations bar a handful of Christmas crackers, and a menu about as Christmassy as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg (although as I write this it’s now looking as if Christmas pudding may be back on the menu – hallelujah).
Still, I appreciate these are first world problems and we shouldn’t complain. The Spirit of Christmas is about far more than tinsel and turkey and, unlike many thousands of people across the world who are battling deadly storms, erupting volcanoes and open warfare, we will be safe and warm with good food and great company – and no amount of turkey could compensate for that.