Camden News
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Camden New Journal - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 28 February 2008
Council’s kitchen nightmares revealed in biting complaints

WHEN skimping chefs at the Town Hall’s main canteen began serving pies the size of Post-it notes, tasteless hard broccoli and a miserly small scoop of chips, they learned a valuable lesson they are unlikely to forget for a while.
“Never ever mess with the size of the portions: Camden Council’s hungry workforce won’t take it lying down.”
A logbook of complaints unearthed by the New Journal shows how complaints about the service peaked last year when council employees felt the need to come across all Oliver Twist at the council’s headquarters in Judd Street, King’s Cross, and politely ask: “Please Sir, can I have some more?”
The batch of written complaints sent over the last two years include correspondence from one official who wrote sarcastically to the canteen: “All week the menu has consisted of what might best be described as meals for the elderly or those without chewing apparatus. Today what I had was described as beef and ale pie. I have seen thicker soup, and the pastry topping was only slightly larger than the smallest of Post-it notes.”
The viperish message added: “The only credible comment that I could make is that the person responsible for rolling out the pastry so thin really does know his/her trade. Their choux pastry must be heavenly. I cannot wait to see the poppadums.”
But while that message may have been laden with whimsical relish, others did not beat around the bush.
One bold warning said: “The portions have been reduced in size. I have noticed that a large number of staff have stopped using the canteen because of this.”
Another worker added: “Last week’s cakes and flapjacks were terrible and [the] majority of it went in the bin as no one would eat them. ”
Some staff thought that if the portions were being downsized, the price might tumble as well. Not so, according to the complaints, with some staff considering having lunch at nearby pubs owing to the unpredictable service.
One staff member complained: “I purchased the same thing which I always have, which is a portion of beans and a couple of slices of meat, quite boring but that’s what I like. I am usually charged 82p. But yesterday I was informed in no uncertain terms by the lady on the till that I was to pay £1.35.”
A separate complaint added: “I bought the spaghetti bolognaise for £2.10, which is good value. I added one small spoonful of cheese and was told to pay a ridiculous price for it. How can the canteen charge 70p for one small spoonful of cheese when a whole pot of cheese in a container costs the same price?”
Maybe struggling with the beef and ale pies or the pricey spag bol would be easier if service came with a smile – but according to the messages, released in anonymous form under the Freedom of Information Act, there isn’t always a customer-knows-best approach.
“The experience of going to get food is a miserable one and more [often] than not, I come away feeling cross about something and there is usually something every day,” said another hungry complainant.
Other bones of contention included poor vegetarian options, again on the skimpy side, and the lack of Yorkshire puddings with roasts.
Most of the messages were sent last February, March and April, and Camden Council conceded yesterday that it did have meetings with its contractors and changed providers.
A spokeswoman said: “Fifteen of these complaints were made directly after new caterers were contracted in February 2007. We called a meeting with the contractor to discuss the staff complaints, following which old menu favourites and larger portion sizes were re-instated. This has led to restored faith in the service, increase in sales and reduction in complaints.”

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)







Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions