We recently went for a family meal at the Harvester restaurant in Wheatley, Oxfordshire. We went on a Sunday at lunch time.
This meal had a mixture of positive and negative experiences. Unfortunately, the first negative experience was immediately upon arrival to the restaurant.
We were greeted with a flatly asked ‘Can I help you?’ and upon asking for a table for four, we were told that ‘the restaurant is full’ and ‘you can have a table at the bar if you want’ in a take it or leave it attitude.
We were given a mixture of children’s and adult’s menus. We were not however offered any children’s activities to complete.
We went around to the table unescorted, chose our food and ordered at the bar. This was a reasonably positive experience and all our orders were available.
Individually we went to the salad bar, whilst one of the family members got the drinks from the self-service area.
Both were a positive experience, no problems with the self-service drinks machines and a good range of salad materials and bread.
The salad area was kept clean and was regularly filled up, as was the bread area. The only thing that was missing was the seed mix topper, which instead had dried onion in its place.
Shortly after we ate the salad the main food came out. This was quite prompt (within 20 minutes of ordering), and the food was of a good quality.
All the food was cooked well and there was nothing missing from the order. We did not have anyone ask whether the food was acceptable, but we assumed this was not done as we were eating under bar service, not table service.
Once we had finished our main course, we decided to have some dessert. We decided upon our dessert and ordered with the bar.
This was generally a positive experience as we were able to amend the sauce for one of the desserts upon request and was completed in a timely manner.
As a number of people had come to the bar to eat and had started finishing, it was around this time we started to notice that no-one was coming to clear plates away.
What is more when dessert is ordered the person serving you then seems to make the dessert. In our case this was the gentleman from the bar. He had also sold two more tables of desserts after us so then had to go and make them.
This meant that the bar became unattended for some period of time and people started to accumulate around the bar as it was unattended.
Eventually the woman who ‘welcomed’ us at the beginning came around to the bar. She asked if they were being served, however didn’t serve them but made drinks for the restaurant whilst audibly moaning to the customers that the normal gentlemen was not here as he should be.
The gentleman returned with the desserts and gave us ours, he then repeated this for the other two sets of tables and then had to sort the backorders of drinks for the remainder of the restaurant.
My children enjoyed their desserts, my wife and I shared a black forest sundae and this was okay, however the chocolate brownie was of a quite low quality and so I would not purchase that particular dessert again.
At the end of the dessert we left the restaurant in two minds as to whether to come back again any time soon.
The food was good value for money and was overall quite good quality. It was also served in a timely manner. The salad bar was also kept in good condition.
The front of house did leave something to be desired. This, in my opinion, was not the fault of the gentleman running the bar, as he was trying to process orders and do desserts for about ¼ of the restaurant’s active tables (as well as supply the drinks for the restaurant and clean the returns for the drinks), but rather with the organisation of the front of house.
No extra provision was made to the bar for the number of tables they had active, leaving one person running a large portion of the active tables, whilst the other five serving staff ran the other active area of the restaurant.
We were also not very impressed to find that the ‘full restaurant’ was only full if you ignored the 1/3 of the restaurant that they were not using.