I am in recovery from a serious addiction to vouchers. When I first signed up to the likes of Groupon, LivingSocial and KGB my voucher buying was out of control; so much so that I had to implement a rule to myself that I was only allowed to buy another voucher when I had used up the one I already had in my possession. This is no longer such an issue. Why? Because of an increasing list of restaurants I previously loved disappointing me with their lower standards when the dreaded voucher is handed over. Rather than capitalising on the opportunities that could be gained from the vouchers spreading the word of their restaurant, wowing their customers with a wonderful experience and encouraging them to return again and again, instead us voucher lovers are given food and service that does not even reflect the cost of the voucher, let alone the ‘actual price’ it should have been.
Luckily, the main perpetrators (outlined below) have been places I have visited previously and loved, so there is potential that I will give them another chance. Based on my voucher experiences though, I would have put them into the ‘don’t visit again’ pot. 😦
1. El Puerto – I’ve already written about my disappointing experience in – A tapas mission. In summary, I have been so many times, even as a large party, and received wonderful service and yummy tapas that encouraged me to return and spread the word to my friends. After going as a table for two and literally having plate and plate of food put in front of us with little word (except for asking whether we wanted red or white wine with our deal) I left feeling almost sad.
2. Juniper – This previously adorable restaurant used to be a lovely treat for a friend and I. We had in fact been waiting in anticipation for the tasting menu voucher to come up for us (which we have seen in our mailbox every few months) to try out a different experience and venture back there! Alas, the experience did not live up to our expectations. On arrival, the popularity of the vouchers became immediately obvious. Our piece of paper was added to a stack by the counter and the surrounding couples all sat with a dubious looking champagne cocktail on their table (part of the deal). In a place where I had previously recommended for their delicious food and lovely friendly service in cute surroundings has become a rather rushed, less thought out affair. Furthermore, with the usual price set at £55 (according to the menu; a price that aligns with Bristol’s Michelin Starred restaurants) you generally expect great things! Instead, again no description was provided of the individual dishes that arrived – leaving you guessing at the components rather than the usual excitable expectation at what you are about to eat. The presentation also looked hurried – where in the previous visit, food was delicately placed on the plate (a visual as well as flavoursome treat) the arrangement of the components was much more slap-dash this time.
3. Bell’s Diner, Montpelier – Again, I went in with high expectations, but Bell’s – you put that high expectation there. In a previous visit, both my dining companion and I spent that evening in awe at the delicious morsels of food were provided as part of the a la carte menu and I raved about you in a previous blog post: A Taste Sensation…. After my recent trip for part of the celebration of ’36 years of Bell’s Diner’ my opinions were more of a bland ‘It was OK’. Firstly, all the people with vouchers seemed to be grouped in the back room. Whilst this would have been fine, this room turned about to be incredibly hot; one of our table spent a lot of the meal holding his water and wine glass to his face. :-S The menu had a really cute theme, drawing upon dishes from menus of previous years (for example, ‘Prosecco, very trendy in 2001’ and ‘Hake, salsa verde, haricot beans, Bells diner 1993). The concept I loved!! The food however was more bland than the previously described ‘taste sensation’. Again, without the voucher we would have been disappointed if we had paid full price, hence not such a great value deal.
There are some saving graces to this voucher phenomenon. I should state that I have had a great hotel stay, as well as numerous beauty treatments (I said I was addicted) as result of vouchers, and I’m bound to keep buying these. In terms of restaurants though, if you really want to experience what these restaurants can offer you’re better of just paying full price.
Now, I’ve still got a Moreish voucher to use – let’s see if they can change my mind….