Posted in Personal Observations

Cutting short your restaurant trip: How to read the signs

I don’t like to name and shame, but on this occasion I will endeavour to mention the establishment in question, it being “The Coconut Lagoon” (I will abbreviate it as TCL), in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. For this award winning restaurant, the clue is literally in the phrase coconut, yep, brown on the outside, white on the inside (not offence intended).

Did I do any homework beforehand?

In short, No! We should have, we were in a new town and trip advisor would have been a great start. However, after our experience I did check the feedback site and the majority of reviews were 4 stars and above (I rest my case). Our main driver was a craving for a Dosa and this place was the only one in the vicinity offering that. Also, it was voted Best Indian Restaurant Group in the UK by Chef Pat Chapman in the Good Curry Guide. Don’t worry, I did tweet Pat:

PC Tweet


Sign No.1 – Is the Chef Indian?

Earlier in the day, on one of our journeys into the local town centre, we visited TCL to grab their menu and get a view of the ambience. Front of house mentioned they had a Spanish Chef preparing morning breakfast, but it was definitely an Indian Chef in the evening. We had our first question mark looming!

Sign No. 2 – Where were the brown faces?

The front of house was managed by two ladies (for legal reasons I refer to them as Spiky Lady and Visible Lady)…well I think one as the other one (spiky hair woman) looked more like a guy. Again, no offence but you know which way this person swings if you ever get the pleasure of visiting TCL. I have nothing against who works in a restaurant, however not to see a single brown face in an Indian restaurant, come on. Our second question mark started looming!

Sign No.3 – It was “sorry” at every table

As we waited for someone to take our order (note the restaurant sits around 25 covers in total) visible lady was in charge of bringing out the food to the customers, as well as taking the orders. Every table she attended and delivered food, was followed by a “sorry for the wait”. I counted this occurring on four occasions. We remained patient, however it was all too much for a particular table, who after waiting nearly an hour, finally got up, paid for what they had already ordered and left – they were visibly pissed off! Our third question mark started looming!

Sign No. 4 – When front of house have no clue of their menu

So why did we venture for a munch outside of our hotel? Oh yeah, the dosa! Finally visible lady appeared at our table to take our order. We ordered our dosa’s, after which followed this esteem conversation:

Visible lady: Do you want bread with that?

Me: It’s a dosa, you don’t normally have bread with that

Visible lady: Oh yes, of course, excuse my ignorance

Our fourth question mark started looming! The kids had ordered Chick Peas with Parantha, I jokingly said to my wife, wouldn’t it be funny if they were Shana’s (these my friends are frozen substitutes and are a cardinal sin). Note* This parantha cost us £2.50 each!

Sign No. 5 – The Proof is definitely in the pudding

Realisation No.1 – The Parantha’s arrive..and yes, they were Shana’s. We all smiled at each other, I should have gone to my local betting shop.

My Wife to Visible Lady: Excuse me, these parantha’s are not fresh and have been cooked from frozen.

Visible Lady: Not really. I saw the chef cook this

My Wife: You mean you saw the chef warm them up?

Visible Lady: I will check with the chef.

On her return:

Visible Lady: Please excuse my ignorance; these were warmed up from frozen so we will not charge you for these.

The cost was not the issue; the fact that we were missing out on the authentic taste was just simply disappointing.

Then came out the chick peas…bone DRY and straight from the tin! We asked the visible lady to ask the chef to add some sauce. What returned were the chick peas with tomato sauce straight from a tin of chopped tomatoes! We didn’t know where to put our faces. Credit to our team, we were hungry and pretty much gulped up the food. The restaurant ticked off a few items from our menu, however a more bolder customer would have refused to pay a penny due to the lack of authenticity with the food served. OK, we didn’t order anything from the main menu, however what I saw being dished out to other tables didn’t bellow out the fragrance of that authentic taste..come to think of it..there wasn’t that Indian fragrance at all!

The surrounding area is very much populated with non-Indians, so I can understand the restaurant trying to pander to “the locals”! But don’t take the piss by cooking something you can acquire from a jar from the supermarket and then serving it up as if it was hand transported direct from India. My theory on the place, there is no Indian Chef, he’s definitely Spanish!