Thursday, 20 May 2010

Harvester Restaurant

The Family Panel have been trying out their local Harvester restaurant, The Dumb Bell, in Maidenhead. So was it a pleasant first experience or a let down?

We are a family that likes to eat out- we hope that the Tot Testers will learn to appreciate good food and be able to eat in a restaurant without misbehaving! 

We hadn't ventured over to our local Harvester restaurant, but after seeing it advertised in our local paper as a family restaurant, thought we'd give it a go.

Well, I can't speak for other Harvesters (but invite readers to comment below on their local version), but its not an experience I'd like to repeat, and if the raft of complaints I witnessed was anything to go by I wasn't the only one left with a bitter taste in my mouth!

It was a quiet Sunday evening, and we asked for a table on arrival. Usually, we would get a table for three in restaurants, and Littlest sits on the end next to either of us parents in a high chair or if there isn't one available, his buggy.

However, we were told we had to have a table for five instead (we had a friend dining with us). However, there were only 2 tables for five in the large restaurant, both of which were taken, so we were asked to wait in the cramped bar area, and promised a table in no more than 20 minutes.

The bar area was packed, which wasn't hard as there were only a handful of tables available, and most people had to stand. Luckily, we found somewhere to sit. 

Gadget Dad went to the bar, and had to wait an astonishing 10 minutes before he was served. Again, not because the bar was busy, but because the staff behind the bar paid no attention to serving in order of who was at the bar first, but served whoever pushed in! When he was finally served, the barman got the order wrong, and continued serving others, and Gadget Dad had to call him over to enquire as to the whereabouts of the rest of his order. He denied that Gadget Dad had asked for the other drinks, however, two other customers agreed that they had heard him order quite clearly. 

We waited the appointed 20 minutes, which came and went. In all it took an hour before we were seated, and in this time the staff allowed more and more customers in to wait in the bar-it was a claustrophobia sufferers nightmare, The Tots had become fractious, as they were hungry, and their usual good behaviour in a restaurant went out the window. 

Once seated, we were given a dirty high chair for Little Tot- its handy that I keep baby wipes- and shown where the salad cart was. No one took any drink orders, so we hoped we'd be served in the 5 minutes quoted by the staff member who showed us to our table.

The salad cart was a disappointment- it contained 4 dishes each side, but both sides held the same dishes, there was no variety, and what was there was uninspiring and it turned out, unappetizing. Limp lettuce witha few chopped slivers of pepper, some new potatoes with salad cream which managed to be bland, plain pasta shells (not made on site but out of what I can only assume due to the taste came from a cheap packet). which were marked as "Pasta Salad"- however pasta shells minus any other ingredient is not a Pasta Salad.

The bread rolls were also stale, so the salad cart was swiftly abandoned.

Another 35 minutes rolled around before anyone came to take our order, despite us asking if someone was available to take it. 

I was far from impressed with the Children's Menu, which was limited to two different kinds of chicken (off bone or on), or steak.

We ordered a plate of Seasoned Chips, a Harvest Festival combo meal, and a Scampi and Chips.

Another 25 minute wait ensued, and the food arrived- with the wrong sauce order. 

My food, the Scampi and Chips was only lukewarm, and considering it cost 6.99 looked like it had come from a cheap supermarket. The Scampi, despite being cold was burnt and chewy. I couldn't eat it, despite my hunger, as it was inedible. The idea of sending it back was not an option as it probably would have taken an hour of trying to get the attention of a member of staff, and then the wait for it to be recooked.

As for the Seasoned chips, promising a tasty chip freshly made- well, I was aware sticking chips out of a packet into an oven constituted "freshly made". They were awful, bland, dry and just a real let down. The only seasoning we saw any evidence of was a limp sprig of so-old-it-was-unidentifiable herb. The Tots, who usually snaffle up chips, refused to eat them, despite the fact they must have been starving.

I was quite upset by the whole thing-it was meant to be a nice evening out to celebrate our move and to say thanks to a friend for his help lugging our furniture. Hardly any of the food was touched as it was dreadful, but not one member of staff enquired as to why.

On visiting the loos I found them disgracefully dirty, and considering it is sold as a Family Friendly restaurant there was no baby changing facilities. It also promised in the Children's Menu that the children would be given crayons to take home as soon as they arrived to limit boredom, but we were given a pot of pens and a single piece of paper after 45 minutes of sitting with obviously bored children, most of which were blunt. Not impressive, considering the promise made on their own menu.

We weren't the only ones- I heard half a dozen complaints regarding length of wait, food orders gone wrong (one male customer had 3 plates returned before they got his order correct, and had endured a ridiculously long wait), and general anger at the food being far below par for the price. I would hate to see the place during a peak time, it wasn't that busy when we went yet the staff lacked the skills to serve people.

We were charged 38 pounds for the privilege of poor service, awful and inedible food and upset that it caused.

I would never, ever go there again. The two pieces of Scampi I did eat left me feeling sick afterwards, just to add further insult. 

Nobody was offered a refund, either partial or whole, and the staff's attitude was appalling- it felt like they just wanted to get home. I can understand their feeling!

I invite readers to tell me their experiences, good or bad- I fully intend to send this link to their head office.


  1. I have't been to a Harvester since I was a kid and partly because I've heard bad things. After service like that I'd have complained loudly and refused to pay.

  2. We walked out of the Sevenoaks Harvester. We had been seated for over 20 minutes and there was still no sign of a server so we gave up and went elsewhere!!!

  3. It's surprising how some chains can get it wrong so easily while other seem to produce good food & service so effortlessly. I admit i don't dine out often with my little terrors, it's just too exhausting but on the odd occasion we do end up going out we tend to head for a Prezzo restaurant because I know the service will be good and the prices resonable, plus the kids love their menu items. It's an easy in and out with minimal fuss and that's what you want from a family restaurant.