Friday, 25 January 2013

Left with a bad taste: The Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs&

I've shelved this post for some months, it's not my way to publish a bad review or in my nature to endeavor to tarnish someone's reputation however, when myself and 4 friends all came down with food poisoning after eating at the Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs& and the restaurant did nothing, I thought I best let you all know.

We went to the Kitchen Table, hidden in the back room of Bubbledogs& just a few months after its opening. The entire evening was lovely. Although the "tosserati" (Marina O'Loughlin) were out in full form the five of us managed to sift through the pretension and engage in only a handful of ego feeding conversations with our neighboring guest, to enjoy a wonderful experience.

The meal was lovely. It was presented in a logical narrative as the plates went from light to rich, raw to cooked, seafood to red meat to dessert in what seemed to be a natural transition of cold to warm to hot, back to cold. The arrangement was flawless.

It wasn't long after eating at the Kitchen Table, that one by one each of our group of five fell ill with what could only be pinned as food poisoning.

We were beyond disappointed, a night we had been so looking forward to, that we had been counting down the days to, had been ruined. The first response from Sandia was warm and honest "sorry to hear that you and your friends have fallen ill after eating at Kitchen Table. If it is something from our kitchen then this is a very serious matter. We work in a very high standard in our restaurant and as an open kitchen, there is nothing to hide". She stated she would investigate this further by calling the other guests who dined at the restaurant.

After 3 days of no response we followed her investigation up with her. In this time we had done our own research and found "It is extremely unlikely we contracted the illness outside the restaurant as no one else we have come into contact with separately has been ill. We also did not share food or drinks on the night, or dine together in the days before or after the meal so it is unlikely one of us was the carrier".

When we did receive a response it was a rigid roadblock. Sandia was adamant we could not have fallen ill at the Kitchen Table, she meticulously highlighted how each seafood item had been prepared on the evening, avoiding mentioning the raw prawns that were consumed. She concluded "in summary, we have no doubt that we have followed all the safety precautions in our food production correctly. We also served 14 other guests on the same evening, and none has reported any issues."

There we were, stopped dead in our tracks. We were defeated even though we knew it was impossible we had contracted the illness anywhere outside the restaurant. The reasons why were in the final response from the fifth member of our party.

"...we are in no way in a vendetta to harm your businesses reputation in any way, nor are we in a pact to gain a free meal.

The issue stands that there appears to be no other explanation for our illnesses collectively. I was invited as a last minute guest after a cancellation so I have never met the other 3 guests dining that evening, nor have I seen them since. I also live in a rather large houseshare and not one of my 4 housemates, or my partner, have became ill so I can only assume our illnesses were not contagious.

It also seems highly unlikely that all 5 of us would be affected with these symptoms after our one and only meeting all together, which was in your establishment if it wasn't due to a factor that occurred there ...This has not only been an upsetting event, but also unfortunate as we were all so looking forward to this experience. We each sang nothing but high praises for such a unique dining experience following the event, however short lived this was before we each became so ill.

Whether you decide to provide compensation for this issue or not, our aim foremost was to inform you of our ordeal in the hopes that the correct measures are taken to avoid its occurrence in the future."

This was our final statement. We never did receive a reply to this email, let alone a formal apology from the restaurant, or receive any form of compensation for an illness that rendered us so unwell for near on three days. It is still so incredibly unclear to me why certain chefs, who essentially are no more glamorous then any employee in the service industry let their egos devoid them of any human decency. The urge to protect their livelihood and reputation seems to precede their ability to show empathy and indeed even offer a sincere apology.

If you've made it here it means you've stuck with me to the end of this lengthy post, which I appreciate if only it means I am given the opportunity to share with you what I have learnt. It seems sometimes we put chefs on a pedestal and in some cases idolise them to the point where we equate them to highly skilled professionals with worthy talent. Sure, some shine in their industry and have made a celebrity for themselves in this market, but should we give them so much glory? I don't think so, especially not the ones who have made the decision to work in a critical industry, yet are not equipped to handle criticism. Day to day I work with performers and comedians who are constantly in the public eye receiving criticism and accusations. If they have learnt good PR strategies and the diplomacy to deal with this, why can't highly praised members of the food industry do the same.

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