What an adventure our lunch at the Tower of London turned out to be. To give a little background I had twisted my ankle at Buckingham Palace. So we were taking it very slow and easy. We walked to the Westminster Pier and got on a boat to travel up the Themes to the Tower. It was a wonderful trip, but the sun was hot. So when we reached the Tower we were looking for a shady place to get lunch, a cool drink, and sit. We found a doorway with large advertisement signs around it, “Fresh Fish and Chips”. A peek inside found another sign,” please wait to be seated”, so we did. A petite young girl with a strong accent (I think Italian), asked how many and we said 2. She led us all the way to the back of the restaurant, placed two menus on a table, said “here”, and walked away.
We were left looking at two four-seater tables pushed together. At one end were two children with their parents. At the other end was a very nice elderly Italian couple sitting with their chairs up against the end of the table with their table turned the other way. As in their chairs were up against the side of our table. There was no way we could get through to the other side but to ask them to let the youngest in. The poor gentleman didn’t understand what we were referring to, but fortunately his wife got the idea. In the meantime a young couple were seated at a table by the window, just the other side of the family.
We saw the waitress talk to the young couple just after they sat down. I mention them because about 10 minutes later they were brought their food, but yet neither the family nor we had been seen to at all. Finally the waitress came up to us and asked if we were all together. We told her no, and as I tried to explain the family had been there first, the girl didn’t seem to understand me. The Mom gestured to me to go ahead. So we ordered, but not before the waitress was very adamant that we had to pay with cash. On a side note here, they only had hot food, as in fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, and pizzas. A couple of cold sandwiches on the menu would have been wonderful on a hot day.
Next we see a commotion as the family started to get up. It seems they were not able to pay with cash. The Mom said something about being tourists paying with credit cards. Then as she left she said over her shoulder, “the least you could do is have it posted, or printed on the menu, and not have us sit here for ages waiting.” She was angry to say the least, and I totally agreed with her. Luckily we stopped at an ATM at the train station on the way to London. We were brought our drinks, the cans and Styrofoam cups, no ice. They were at least chilled.
Next the elderly Italian couple were trying to pay. What seemed odd to us was that the waitress was speaking English to them when she was Italian. They didn’t understand her, but she did them, but refused to speak Italian. A little while later we heard another waitress speaking to a guest the same way. He said in very broken English, “why you speak English to us?” She said, “We have to speak only English.”
At this point I have to mention the chairs. Wooden chairs on a brick floor with no sliders on the bottom of the legs. What an awful noise, and it got louder and more grating on the nerves the longer we sat there. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the staff would have at least taken some care when pushing the chairs back to the tables, but they just shoved them in.
When our food came we were finally pleased, it was actually very good. We were very grateful for that. The girl that brought our food out was not our waitress. We noticed that she was a food runner, only bringing the food out. The thing was that she spoke perfect English, smiled at the guest, and was genuinely friendly, unlike the rest of the staff. As we ate and watch the staff and guests interact we saw a terrible mess. It seemed that the staff were all either Italian or Armenian, and English was far from their first language. They were struggling with every order, and so were the guests. To actually be told to not speak the language of the guest was just nuts.
After we ate we each decided to use the bathroom before moving on. It was out the front door, and down stairs. I won’t go into details, but not a pleasant experience at all. It was at least somewhat clean though.
The waitress finally came to ask if we wanted the bill, £29.50 ($46.46). When she picked up the £30 I put down she said, “ok” nodding her head, and I said yes. Not realizing I was agreeing to her keeping the change. She collected money and returned change from a number of other tables before I figured it out. But a 79 cent tip wasn’t worth it to say anything. At this point I was feeling sorry for her having to work in such a place.
As we left we wanted to make note of the restaurant’s name. It was nowhere on the building, absolutely nowhere. We were walking away and the youngest did find this with the name on it, Tower Hall Diner.
A very English phrase comes to mind. “What a sad state of affairs.”