I’m a first-time reviewer on Tripadvisor and do so with the greatest of hesitancy (critiquing for critiquing’s sake has never felt entirely comfortable to me and I do understand the challenges of running a business) but after the experience we had at the Parkers Arms, I believe it’s only right to share my thoughts.
After a truly brilliant meal at The Cartford Inn, down the road in Poulton Le Fylde the other week, we followed another Jay Rayner recommendation and headed to the Parkers Arms for Easter Sunday lunch.
Despite being very pleased with the quality of food and service we received during our visit to the Parkers Arms, the lack of children's options and the costs incurred rankle.
When booking over a month ago, we did so on the website promise that there would be five children's main course options including a Sunday roast available, ranging in price from £6-£8. We would even learn to our surprise on the day that, with the Easter menu, the children's meals would be free if the same number of adults ordered three courses.
When we came to order, we discovered, however, that there were just two children’s options available:
1). Sausage and mash/chips (the sausage and chips option was laughingly referred to as a second choice)
2). Pizza and chips
and, despite it being a Sunday (and Easter Sunday to boot), there was no roast for the children.
When we enquired about a smaller roast portion for our two (seven and eight year old) children, we were told that simply wouldn't be possible. And, if the children were to have a roast, they would be charged at the full adult price (so not free). Furthermore, it wouldn't be possible to have a Yorkshire pudding with the lamb option as a special request as that was only for customers ordering the roast beef.
In the end, our children didn’t fancy sausages and pizza so we elected to go with the options from the Easter Sunday menu (£28 for three courses or individually-priced course options) and ordered them one cheese and potato pie and veg (£18.50) and one roast lamb (£18.50) from the main options.
The food was delicious - no problems there – but, when the time came to pay, we were confronted with a bill for three adults and two children (with no wine and only two puddings) of £150.
When we left, I felt that this was all a little bit naughty but the food had been good and it was Easter Sunday afterall. But now, having had chance to reflect, it begins to feel wrong, very wrong.
I say this because:
1). This is the first time we’ve seen just two children’s main options in a restaurant anywhere in the UK;
2). This is the first time we've ever been to a restaurant on a Sunday and there's not been a children's roast on the menu;
3). This is the first time we've not been granted a Yorkshire Pudding as a special request;
4). This is the first time we've ever had to pay £18.50 for a single course for a child anywhere in the UK (and I’m including Michelin-starred restaurants here).
What's more, there was no mention of any of the above at the time of booking and deposit taking, nor on their website, which leads me to believe that they’re marketing themselves as a family-friendly restaurant when clearly they’re not. It also smacks of discrimination or a misguided belief that kids simply don’t like roasts or aren’t sophisticated enough to want more than a sausage or a pizza.
Furthermore, if the three-course deal stands, it simply can't be right to channel children down two very narrow options; options – quality aside - that they could frankly have at school or in a café on any given day. The more I think about it, the more it feels like a con: If the children won't go for the simple options, then, bingo!, the parents have to stump up for an adult price.
When I raised all this with the co-owner via email a day later, she claimed that:
1). there was no five course children’s menu (“Where did you obtain this information from?” she asked. Answer: “your website”);
2). they never serve roasts to children (despite it being on their website);
3). sausages and pizza slices are “the most popular choices for most children” (really?);
4). she had queried whether we wanted to split the lamb (not true, she just said the pie was big and asked whether my daughter would cope with it. Yes was our answer);
5). on the Yorkshire Pudding point, “the traditional accompaniment with lamb is only mint sauce as far as I know” (really?)
6). the à la carte choice restrictions were due to “the large amount of traffic through the restaurant on Easter Sunday” (not true, we sat alone in the restaurant for most of our meal);
7). (for balance) that it wasn't a con;
8). I had “in fact misread the information made available” (not true).
In response, I said I disagreed with her views (per the above), stood by mine, and shared the children’s menu from the Parkers Arms’ website with her as evidence of our expectations. I have yet to hear back further.
To sum up, we had so been looking forward to the lunch but all the goodwill (of the food, service and Rayner review) has been totally coloured by a feeling of being taken for a ride.
We've had many successful lunches in the surrounding area over the years (with all of them offering wide children’s offerings, including, notably, The Cartford Arms) but I can't think of a more disappointing one as the one we had over the weekend. Needless to say, we won’t return.
As a postscript, on the way home, we dropped in on the similarly well-reviewed, The Fence Gate near Padiham. The pub and restaurant were absolutely packed at 5.30pm. I snuck a look at the children’s menu: four starters, six mains (including ‘roast with Yorkshire pudding’) and one desert. Three courses....£8.95….
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