One thing that really annoys me when you go to a restaurant and having taken the time to pore over the menu and make a selection, is to then be informed they do not have your chosen dish in stock.
This is what happened when we visited Loch Fyne in City Square, Leeds, which, for as long as I can remember, has been firmly lodged like a hermit crab in a shell, in one corner of the old Post Office building.
It annoys me because we live in an age of smartphones and tablets and constantly updated traffic reports and rolling news but this ‘of the moment’ revolution appears not to have spread to the restaurant trade. It’s not just Loch Fyne that’s at fault here, it’s the entire restaurant industry.
What’s wrong, for example, in having a display on the wall letting diners know what’s not on the menu? Or what is. Or giving them an ipad with tonight’s bang-up-to-date menu? Indeed, what is wrong with your waiter even divulging this information before he ducks into the kitchen, only to return fawningly, some moments later, with an apology that my order would have to be changed?
We chose Loch Fyne because it’s like a dependable friend - the decor, although it seems not to change with time, is a marvel of unfussy chic, the food is generally good and so on.
For my main I ordered, simply because I have never had it before and we wanted to test it, the shellfish platter with whole crab, which, at £5495, is somewhat on the expensive side. There are places where two people could enjoy three courses for less. So, understandably, my expectations were high.
Shame then that, having taken my order, the waiter returned moments later to inform me they were all out of crab. How disappointing. This is, after all, a fishfood restaurant. How could they run out? Especially when it costs the best part of £60.
So, while I was left to ponder my next move, the waiter did nothing to outline other options but merely lingered, pen poised. The tension was palpable. Suddenly I was under pressure. Eventually and somewhat reluctantly, I asked whether the lobster was available (that being another £5 and in retrospect I ought to have asked if they would do it for the same price).
So, lobster it was, which brings us to the next problem, which was one of service. I’ve no problem with waiters wearing jeans (as they now do at Loch Fyne, in Leeds at least) but if that is going to be the dress code then I think they ought to at least be some kind of co-ordinated approach, because otherwise it looks as though they’ve just pitched up to work having sat on the couch all day, or maybe they’ve been doing some DIY, or walking the dog, who knows.
Normally, this wouldn’t even register on my radar. But it did today simply because I started paying attention to the staff because the service in general was underwhelming.
Aside from the jeans thing, staff often gathering in groups to chat - the sole exception being a young girl, who kind of bucked the trend and was most diligent and attentive.
After entering the restaurant, we waited a good 20 minutes before our order was taken. When it was taken, our waiter informed us, apologetically, he had deliberately not been over to our table because he was waiting for the shift change and thought it would be best if we just had one waiter for the entire evening.
What a load of nonsense - he was still there when we left an hour and a half later.
All of this and I’ve yet to mention the food, which was mostly good, although I have another niggle about my main course.
When you enter Loch Fyne, there’s a cold fish stand in the foyer, which only adds to the authentic ‘taste of the sea’ experience.
However, I could clearly see people preparing my dish, which was left on top of the counter. It was left largely unattended for a good 20 minutes as various people came and went and this I object to, given the fact it’s right next to the entrance, so anyone could come in and what’s to stop them venturing over and admiring, or worse. I trust those with colds carry tissues, but still...
Then (and I promise this is the final objection), they actually forgot to bring me half of my main course.
The platter comes in two parts - one dish is warm and includes cockles, muscles in an unctuous, well seasoned white wine sauce and so on and the other, the expensive bit with the lobster, is on ice.
They delivered the warm dish first and then forgot about the main, until my partner reminded them, at which point it was brought over and the dish hastily re-assembled properly. Honestly.
So, the food (in the space we have left) was very good. Excellent in fact, although the platter isn’t worth £60 in my view - maybe £40 at a push.
My partner went for the seafood grill (£22.50), which she said was great.
For starters we ordered crispy sprats (£4.95) and lobster bisque (£6.75), both of which were good. Drinks included Peroni at £4.25 a pint and the house white wine at £5.95 for a large glass. With dessert of chocolate ashet (£5.95), a deliciously satisfying pudding consisting of hazelnut brownie, chocolate parfait and salted caramel ice cream and hot chocolate and a trio of ice creams (£4.95), all of which were lovely, the final bill came to a wallet clenching £136 and that included bread (£2.25) and olives (£2.75) for the table and some French fries (£3.25).
In summation, the food is very good but service is somewhat lacking.
Address: The Old Post Office, 2 City Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2ES
Tel: 0113 391 7550
Opening times: Monday-Thursday 11.30am-10pm, Friday 11.30am-10.30am, Saturday 9am-10.30pm, Sunday 9am-10pm.