As I'm sure you already know, as a family, we love to eat out a lot. and we love to try new places to eat. Last night on a half-term break in our holiday home in Suffolk, we decided to go to Saltgrass Restaurant in Lowestoft - a restaurant which serves Mexican food. I think I have waxed lyrical previously about how much I love Mexican food and how it reminds me of time spent in the USA by the Mexican border, where Mexican food is freely available.
Therefore, I thought that the Saltgrass Restaurant would be right up my street. Situated in the East Point Pavilion, right on the sea front in Lowestoft, this recently refurbished restaurant run by "Yummy Lowestoft" looks great from first appearances. Brightly decorated, and with sombreros a plenty dotted around the place, this restaurant looked promising as we entered to the sound of Mexican music. It was all looking so good...
However... unfortunately, it seems that appearances can be deceiving, as after confirming our booking and showing us to a table, we waited over fifteen minutes before anyone even acknowledged us. The restaurant was not really very busy at this point. The waiter finally took our drinks order, and I asked him to take our food order at the same time since the 4 yr old and 7 yr old were anxious to eat. This was done, although the waiter seemed a bit perplexed at having to take two orders at the same time, which didn't bode well!!
Whilst we waited for our drinks, the girls busied themselves trying on sombreros. Our drinks arrived and we sat and waited for our starters... and waited.... and waited... The youngest was starting to get antsy, and so started complaining about where her food was and eventually, after quite a while, our starters arrived. I had ordered a Quesadilla - the fail safe, easy to make Mexican staple so I had thought. Apparently not so. Mine was completely disappointing. A charred black tortilla with too much mushroom and not much else inside, not even the "queso" which helps the tortilla to stick together - the clue is in the name!! The tortilla was so burnt that it didn't even keep the ingredients stuck together, and it was not really edible. The girls ordered Nachos topped with cheese. Eldest couldn't eat hers as she said that she didn't like the cheese. It appears that the cheese, rather than being grated cheese as you would expect on something you are feeding children, appeared to be processed cheese from a can, which was completely tasteless and disgusting. It also turned the nachos soggy and looked really unhealthy and greasy.
As well as the food, the service really wasn't much better. There were two young people serving, and no one else, apart from someone who I would presume to be a manager, stood talking to a table of his friends nearby us for an absolute age (at least 45 minutes), completely ignoring everyone else or what was going on around him. As we sat waiting for our starters, the waitress served the table next to us. Well I say served, rather, she ended up throwing a bowl of sour cream over the table when it fell out of her hands, and fell all over the table, the floor and someone's leg and shoes. Rather than cleaning the sour cream up immediately as it was all over the guest's shoes and was also very near our table where my kids could potentially slip over, she carried on serving, meaning that the guest, the table, and the floor had to remain covered in sour cream until she decided to get some napkins to clear it up - not great service. Our own experiences of the service really weren't much better. The staff were not really doing what they are paid to do - serve and give good customer service. Asking for things was an inconvenience, and most of the time they were stood behind the bar not doing much.
Once we had eaten our starters, we sat and waited for our plates to be cleared - which took ages, and then sat and waited for our main courses.. and waited.. and waited and waited some more. By this time, it was gone 8pm - over an hour and a half since we had walked in, and all they had managed to feed my children was a soggy plate of nachos with processed cheese, and hubby and I, starters, which were really not great and which didn't fill us up in any way.
I eventually had to go up to the bar and ask the waitress if she could find out how long our food was going to be as by this time, the four year old was climbing the walls. Trying to explain to children why their food is taking so long to arrive is really not very easy. The waitress went into kitchen, and I expected her to come out and let me know how long the food would be, or at least apologise for them taking so long to make something - especially as I had asked them to bring the kids as soon as it was ready, rather than waiting for all of our meals to cook. Apparently not so, she went into the kitchen, and came out, served two other tables and went back to the counter and stood around chatting, without even acknowledging me, or coming over to our table to tell us how long the food would be. Meanwhile, the "manager" was still standing cluelessly by, talking to his table of friends, despite me loudly hinting that things weren't going well with our meal and the four year old crying for food quite loudly.
Another 15 mins of absolutely no acknowledgment, and I had had enough. Youngest was now desperate for food and was very upset that she hadn't eaten at all, so much so that she said her tummy hurt from not eating as lunch had been quite early that day. We decided to leave and go and feed her in the first place we could find open on a Sunday night.
We went to the counter to let them know that we were leaving as we could not wait any longer for dinner, and the waiter printed the bill and said I would still have to pay for the food - including the main courses. He did not really apologise, offer to comp anything, or offer to get the manager to explain why the food had not arrived. I refused to pay for the main courses, and in the end, I had to pay for the starters and the drinks - which I still wasn't happy about - over £20 and we had received hardly any food and all of us were still really hungry.
I was so angry and youngest really needed to get some food from somewhere, so I decided to leave it at that with the restaurant staff, and go and get some food for the children elsewhere, but as a former waitress myself, had any of my customers been in my restaurant for an hour and a half without even receiving mains, I would have offered then a full refund and apologised profusely. We went for dinner at 6:30 so that the kids could hopefully be fed before they were too tired and so I couldn't believe that by gone 8pm, they hadn't even received a meal. Seeing as they are supposed to be a family friendly restaurant and offer a children's menu, 90 minutes is an unreasonable amount of time to expect a child to wait to eat. If a restaurant is not busy, you would expect the staff to be attentive, and helpful, but apparently not so. They couldn't have cared less about whether we received food or not, or what our experience was like.
There is a lot to be said for offering good customer service, and the staff at Saltgrass Restaurant were not friendly or helpful, and did not make us feel welcome in the restaurant or as though our custom mattered. The food that we did receive looked processed and was not tasty to eat, and the whole experience was one of the worst I have had at a restaurant.
Needless to say that we will not be hurrying back, and will be finding other places to eat in Lowestoft when we visit. We have eaten out at other local places and had fantastic service, and so we will be spending our money in places who actually want our business - Now, does anyone have any recommendations of great places to eat in Lowestoft or the surrounding areas??