Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum and the Senior Mustards All Shared: Starters: Vegetable samosas, Vegetable pakkoda, Chemeen pakkoda; Main course: Kerala lamb, Malabar chicken, Beans thoran, Pilau rice
Last week I talked about our favourite places to eat in York and looked forward to finding a few new favourites here in Leeds. Well, as long as the rest of Leeds doesn’t sink to the level of our first dining experience here then we should be alright. We love food and we love to eat and always go for places that sound good. As a result, you may have noticed that our restaurant reviews our overwhelmingly positive. In that sense, perhaps, it’s good to break that streak thanks to the Kerala Restaurant on Leeds’ Headrow. Finally, the opportunity has arisen to post a bad review!
This weekend moving to Leeds has exposed us to a litany of bad customer service of which that on offer in this restaurant was possibly the straw that broke the camel’s back. Moving into our new flat we found it full of unwanted furniture including beds that the letting agent had promised would be removed and a bunch of what was presumably the previous tenants’ stuff, cackhandedly Frankensteined together from other bits of cheap furniture (not to mention things like stained carpets and broken light fittings that suggest a serious lack of care or concern after the previous tenants vacated the place).
With my parents (hereafter referred to as “the Senior Mustards”) travelling up to help us with a van to move, we spent all day shifting furniture back and forth. Having to move in around the beds that still hadn’t been removed the next day, and having to waste our time disposing of all the other pseudo-furniture, was just the tip of the iceberg of the letting agents being difficult to deal with and left us even more exhausted than a normal day’s moving might. At the end of it all, then, we were ready for a hearty, warming delicious meal.
We wanted to go to Tharavadu, as it has the reputation for being Leeds’ top Indian restaurant, but unsurprisingly finding it booked up already on a busy Friday night, and with our interest fixed on South Indian and Keralan food, we decided to give Kerala Restaurant a try instead. It had pretty good reviews and the food looked interesting, so we were hopeful of a decent meal.
We arrived at 8:30, already pretty hungry and ready for something good and decided to share some simple starters and some of their specialty Keralan curries for mains. And then we waited. And waited. The restaurant prides itself on not being a fast food joint, on taking time, care and attention on your food. Which is great, except that a handful of battered and deep fried prawns and veg should not require an hour’s worth of care and attention! During all this time the waiters weren’t around, disappearing off into the kitchen for long periods and impossible to get hold of to ask about the wait. It was a fairly busy night, but even so we saw other tables arrive and get served while we still waited.
On finally managing to grab a waiter’s attention, the starters eventually arrived an hour after ordering. There was little apology and no explanation of the long wait, although after a bit of pressure they agreed to take off the price of the drinks (that we’d already drunk while waiting).
When we eventually received our mains the food was actually really nice (although that may have something to do with how hungry we were by the time we finally got it), from the creamy coconut flavoured chicken dish to the more fiery, hot lamb and, especially, some delicious beans with toasted coconut. Ordinarily, this quality of food would be enough to make us think about coming back, but instead all it has done has made us want to try more Keralan food elsewhere. Our first night in a city where we’re likely to live for a few years to come and this restaurant’s service was so poor that we are unlikely ever to go back! There are just simply too many good Indian and South Asian restaurants in Leeds for somewhere with service this bad to compete.
Mistakes and unforeseen problems are inevitable every now and then, I understand that. The failure of the restaurant (as it was with our new flat and the letting agent) is in providing no explanation or apology through which we could understand what was happening and adjust our expectations. Later that week Professor Plum went to another restaurant in which there were pieces of glass in the food (I know, we have not been lucky in our Leeds dining experiences). This is an even worse outcome than the hour long delay waiting for starters, but the quality of service, the helpful and apologetic response provided there, have actually endeared her more to that place and made a return more likely. Kerala Restaurant did not manage the same.
(The second star’s just because the food was actually good. And if you think I’m being harsh, Mustard Senior’s review of the same on TripAdvisor doesn’t even merit a score of two).