Friday, October 22, 2010

Buyer beware! The Quay Restaurant, Ilfracombe

I've ummed and ahhed about whether to write anything about The Quay Restaurant in Ilfracombe since in general I tend towards subscribing to my mother's philosophy that unless you've got something nice to say then it's better not to say it at all. But despite that I had such a bad experience there that I feel something really has to be said. All the more so as I am local and am usually extolling the virtues of pretty much most things down here.

It was terrible from the start. I'd specifically booked a window seat so that we'd be able to look over the sea. No such luck since the lighting was so glaringly bright that not only was it killing any possible mood but what you would actually have been able to see if you tried staring outside was the reflection of the two young waitresses who were failing to serve us. Not that I'm usually fussy but when you order wine with your food you do tend to expect it to be brought a little before the first course arrives. No such luck here. Instead, after telling them that we'd have a look around at the Damian Hirst artworks, we were quickly summoned back to our tables having been told that our food was already done. We dutifully rushed back and indeed found our food already sitting there. Quite the romantics these girls. But wait, not a drop of alcohol to accompany it. After much waving at the waitress she waved back and eventually acknowledged that we still needed our wine delivering. But no, she then proceeded to ignore us whilst we sat there like a couple of lemons  starting to wonder exactly what parallel universe we had entered.

In the meantime, we'd ordered some lobster and another waitress had taken great pleasure in explaining to my guest how she loves watching diners making fools of themselves as they send bits of lobster flying all around the restaurant. Not exactly comforting as we set about that particular task. Given that there appeared to be only about four couples in the whole place on that particular Friday night they can't exactly claim to have been overbusy. Of those guests, you could pretty much tune into whatever conversation you liked since not only were the lights up bright but also there was no background music whatsoever and the acoustics were such that the complaint being made on another table could be heard by all. Particularly when they packed all the guests close together. Though actually even if the waitresses had had radio one blaring out at full volume, it still wouldn't have masked the response from one of them to the complaint which clearly embarrassed the person who'd made it in front of the other few of us unlucky enough to be eating there that night. Public humiliation was obviously her thing.

The food, for what it's worth, was passable but nothing special and most certainly didn't justify the bill of over £80 for two courses and a bit of alcohol. I think everyone must have felt the same since even though we were just keen to get out of there as soon as possible, the other three couples had by then already made sharp exits. Which meant that it took another long while to even find a waitress to take payment. In the end I made my way downstairs to find a bar which seemed to be dominated by screaming kids and again a waitress determined to ignore my by now keen desire to get out of there. Honestly, the good/bad dial had been turned so far to the extreme towards atrocious that it had almost started hitting good again just for the comedy value. That is, if I hadn't been stung for such a hefty bill which made it a very big laugh at my own expense.

But hey, if owner Damian Hirst one day decides to do a modern art installation to see quite how much the restaurant-going public can take without complaining this might be a good place to start. I have no idea how much he has to do with this place but for my part, I'd have rather eaten his formaldehyde-soaked sharks than visited this restaurant.


Thos said...

I'm with you Tim. 11 The Quay's gone off a bit I think. I've never eaten upstairs but used to get some nice food downstairs & a good Sunday lunch. Last time we went it seemed to have gone downhill. (They've never been able to make a decent Martini or Mohito in there anyway.)

I'm not sure how much Damien Hirst has to do with it though? Is it fair to say he's taking the piss? I don't know...

On the bright side I'd recommend The Rock in Georgham. Great, well priced food and very friendly service. I had some pan fried sea bass on a risotto of salmon & crayfish there recently which was properly lovely!

Tim Kevan said...

Hi Thos, Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you about The Rock. Absolute stand-out as is The Corner Bistro in Braunton. Certainly not suggesting Damian Hirst has responsibility for running of The Quay other than I believe he's the owner.

Madrigaul said...

I thought the Quay had shut for a long winter break a couple of weeks ago? The Gendermarie is still open for 'proper food' if you find yourself in Ilfracombe again, actually there's quite a few in Fore St that do good food and are a good laugh. I always think it's a good sign, talking about the Gendermarie, when there's only 3 or 4 choices on each section of the menu. Daily menu changes depending on what the chef liked the look of, on his shopping trip! I've heard 2 or 3 people say about the Rock lately, I'll have to pop down.