During out trip to Newcastle this week to attend the Quentin Blake exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, my mum kindly gifted us some Tesco Clubcard vouchers to have lunch. I chose Ask Italian as during our last school holiday excursion for the Bones exhibit at the Great North Museum we’d walked through the newly refurbished Grey’s Quarter and the restaurant front caught my eye. I’ve worked with Ask Italian before as a blogger when we hosted the Lincs Blog Meet at their restaurant in Lincoln, they were wonderful and the food was delicious. I guess because I had such a good experience I expected the same again and that could be why I was so disappointed this time, or it could be that it was just really rubbish service and that is inexcusable.
The restaurant itself is wonderful. You can tell it’s a new build and it’s very modern. I loved it, it definitely appealed to my slight hipster tendencies. It was the kind of place you’d expect drinks to be served in a mason jar. On arrival we were given a shot of “lemonade” which in my opinion would have been nice if it was served chilled.. however it was warm and didn’t appeal to either of us. It was a nice gesture and I get that it was free, but if you wanted to sell a full size drink you wouldn’t do so if it’s warm. LM was given a children’s menu without crayons (which I had to ask for in the end) and I was handed the adults menu. I alerted my server to the fact I have Clubcard vouchers to use. I was told I wasn’t allowed to use them on the children’s menu, despite it saying on my voucher that I could. They wouldn’t budge on it so I ended up ordering stuff for us to share. However this was the first instance I saw of the staff being less than welcoming.
For drinks I ordered blackcurrent for Little Miss and a coke zero for myself and for food I ordered an assortment that I knew LM would eat including a margherita pizza, chips, burrata caprese and cheese fondue. The food arrived a lot quicker than anticipated. The pizza was delicious although it went cold fast due to the air con being up so high, both LM and I ate it. The chips were standard but for me the stand out was the cheese fondue. LM loved the dough sticks that came with it and the melted cheese was perfect to dip everything in from the chips to the pizza. The most disappointing was the burrata caprese. I’ve had a similar dish at Cafe Mickey in Disneyland Paris and it was delicious, so fresh but I found the one at Ask Italian rather tasteless and the cheese quite tough. I managed to eat it though and it worked with the pizza but it isn’t something I’ll order again should I venture back to Ask Italian.
We finished about 35 minutes after we entered. Our plates were cleared and then that was that for a further 35 minutes. We were sat with our coats on still awaiting a member of staff to come back after clearing our plates. LM was frustrated and playing up which was obvious to all members of staff giving us side eye yet still no one came over. Being someone who has worked in another chain Italian I know how check backs are enforced yet our wait staff nor the shift manager came over. In the end after a rather rude exchange with LM about her behaviour I went in search of our check. Yep, in search. This isn’t Nandos, this is a table service restaurant and after we finished eating making it clear we didn’t want dessert or coffees we were ignored completely for well over half an hour (I know because I tweeted about it).
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I realised that my daughter had been completely ignored by our waitress. She wasn’t asked what she would like, I was asked despite my daughter being old enough. She wasn’t asked about her juice, or if she’d like crayons for her menu. Nothing. As this is a restaurant that welcomes families I’d expect the staff to make some kind of indication towards my daughter. Having been a waitress myself I know how far it goes to acknowledge a child.
I’m so saddened that I’m writing my first ever negative restaurant review on here, but it was such a bad experience that I felt like I should report it. It wasn’t the food, but the staff and the atmosphere those staff created. It really ruined an otherwise good day for LM and I. I want to say firstly I am someone who has worked in this industry as both a manager, a waitress and a bar maid. I’ve worked in chain restaurants, in privately owned restaurants, a night club, a tea room and a boutique hotel. I know what good customer service looks like. I know how you should treat customers and I guess in a way that makes me a harsher critic.. But still, I was bitterly disappointed with our experience. As lovely as the new restaurant is and the food was honestly delicious meaning I’d try another Ask Italian in the future perhaps, we won’t be back to the Grey’s Quarter restaurant and I definitely won’t be recommending it to anyone else.