Two friends who live close to the restaurant recommended that we visit Cardamom Black for dinner. I ordered two dishes from the specials menu, "Surf & Turf" to start with (two small lamb chops and two king prawns) and "Special Biriani" for a main (biriani with dried plums, king prawn, prawn, chicken and lamb).
The starters came and were delicious. I asked if I could get the lamb rare, but when it came the chef had told the waiter that it was not indian cooking, therefore they were probably medium well at best. Having said this, the meat was good quality and very tasty. I moved on to the prawns and they were delicious. Cooked just enough for them to be set, but not chewy. I commented on them to my friends and said that the spice was just right and how pleased I was with my choice.
When my main course arrived, I noticed a strong smell. I picked up the king prawn with my fork and when I pulled it away from the shell, there was a very strong fishy / ammonia smell. The waiter, who was excellent, came over and asked if everything was okay. He too the dish and agreed that it smelled terrible. We were talking and as the smell was so bad, I had to ask the waiter to take it away as it was making us all feel unwell. The waiter offered to change the prawn, but I asked if they could just make me a chicken tikka biriani instead, as the smell had put me off that dish a little. The waiter agreed and we carried on talking. I mentioned how nice it was that they didn't make a scene and that although the starters were delicious, it was obviously just one bad prawn which can easily happen.
My replacement dish arrived about 15 minutes later, by which time my friends had finished their meal, but as we were not in a rush, we just chatted. The waiter came back over and started to tell me how the chef had said that the prawn was not bad and that the smell was just that of shell. I said that I was sorry, but I did not agree and that the stench of ammonia was a bad sign. He apologised and I started to serve up my food.
A moment later, the manager appeared at the table and whilst I was eating, started a tirade of abuse. I was told that there was nothing wrong with the prawn. His exact words were, "the chef said the prawn was perfect. He has eaten it himself, so we will know if you were right if he doesn't come in to work tomorrow". I was told: -
All seafood should smell of fish. I retorted that "fresh" seafood and fish should never smell of fish and definitely not of ammonia as this was a sign that it was not as fresh as it could be. The manager then told me that I had obviously not eaten much seafood before and that was why I didn't know the difference between the smell of bad and good.
The manager told me that he had 16 restaurants and he knew the difference.
I explained that I did not say the food was rotten, it was simply not fresh and that this did not mean that had I eaten it I would have been ill. He asked why I sent it back then. I told him that when a dish is served, if it doesn't smell "right" then I feel it is fine to send it back in case it isn't okay, as seafood can make you very unwell. He then asked me, "excuse me, but did you actually eat the prawn to check if it was okay". I said, "no, when it smelled bad, I didn't want to do this". The manager said, "when food is bad, the texture changes". If the texture is fine, then it doesn't matter about the smell. I told him that the first part of the prawn to go "bad" is the head, not the meat, and that if it smells bad I don't want to eat it. Once again he told me, "well there was nothing wrong with the meal that you sent back". You must not eat at good restaurants very often.
At this point I said, "I am not sure why we are having this conversation as I am trying to eat my meal". The manager told me "people like you just leave here and then tell all their friends how bad a place is". I was aghast and tried not to lose my temper. I explained that I had previously mentioned to my friends how nice it was for the waiter to just take away the dish, without any complaint and just replace it with another one.
The manager said that it was his duty to make sure that people didn't come in to the restaurant and send back food when it was fine. I didn't know what to say at this point.
This cycle continued over and over again, with the gentleman next to us just shaking his head at the managers behaviour. The whole of the restaurant was party to the fact that I had sent back my meal, which was very embarrassing to me and the rest of my party.
When I looked at my watch, the manager had spent almost 15 minutes berating me. I said that I was very unhappy with the way he had treated me and made the point that I did not appreciate him saying that the chef had eaten the food to prove that it was not off. He said that this was a joke. I said, "so he didn't eat it?". The manager replied "No, he did, I just thought it was funny to tell you that if he didn't come in then we would know you were right". The manager said said "well it was funny". I apologised for not understanding his humour, but didn't find it very amusing that I had ordered a meal, had to send it back, had two members of staff come over to tell me how what I had sent back was fine.
The manager had to have the last word and told me once again, "well it's not my fault that you don't know the difference between fresh and rotten food and what you sent back was perfect".
I asked for my food to be boxed up as it was not freezing cold and asked for the bill. The waiter came over, incredibly embarrassed and apologised for the manager. He asked if we would like any dessert or coffee on the house. We said that we just wanted to leave, but he pleaded with us to take something. We had coffee / tea and one of my friends had a dessert.
When the bill came, the waiter explained that he had not charged for the bad meal and he had not charged for the replacement, as I had not been able to eat it when it was hot. I thanked him and we left, with him apologising profusely.
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