London, Restaurants
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Service at its worst at Machan Kitchen, Croydon

Hooray, there’s a new Sri Lankan restaurant on the block. Me and my mates had been patiently waiting for it to open, excited to try it out. Croydon has a few gems (The Store and Mr. Fox being two), but is in need of a lot more. But having opened a few weeks ago, last night we trudged through the rain to try Machan Kitchen.

Now, I should have known that the ordering process wouldn’t be smooth when on the walk my mate told me about her previous experience. Sit down, scan the QR code, yea… we all know how to do this after months of agonising changes due to the little monster known un affectionately as COVID dramatically changing the way we live our lives. Pop your table number in, group size and browse the menu. You’d think that every member of the group would be able to order their own food to the table and pay on the app – but no. The whole order has to be done at the same time. If not, only one person’s order goes to the kitchen and the rest has to be taken manually. What a weird and time wasting system. We saw this happen to the table of 6 sat next to us.

Anyway, that didn’t happen to us… but now onto what did happen. We were the first table in. I’m basically a 34 year old baby who needs to eat early and be burped ready for a relaxing night spent on the sofa watching shit box sets. If COVID has done one thing, it has made me a nighttime sofa hermit. We ordered straight away and while we were having a good old natter, marvelling at a painting of an elephant that resembles a penis in an elephant sock with a vagina on its head, I noticed a table that arrived after us received their food. Strange, but we carried on starting at the elephant painting.

40 minutes after we had placed our order, the sweet waitress was sent over to deliver the bad news, but also the good news that our drinks would be free. She offered us the same again (2 glasses of £4 watermelon Rubicon) and we gleefully accepted. Watermelon Rubicon, a different friend pointed out, is the drink of gods, and I’d be inclined to agree.

The food arrives 5 mins later, blah blah blah…. we get a doggy bag cos we ordered too much, blah blah blah, and ask for the bill. It wouldn’t be fair to criticise the food. It’s good, not great. It certainly doesn’t give Hoppers a run for its money.

For what we had, the bill was pretty cheap. Just under £50 for two of us with… A DRINK? Erm… didn’t you say our drinks would be free due to the incompetence of your shoddy ordering system, or was it employee incompetence. With what happened next, I’m pretty sure it is the latter.

We queried out of principle and the sweet waitress went away to send the other waitress over. I don’t know who was more shocked – her because we had an issue over getting a free drink, or me because she held her hands up defensively and said ‘ok ok, calm down’ when I (calmly) explained we were waiting for 40 minutes for the order to even reach the kitchen. “I’ll get the manager”, she said. Great, finally someone who can diffuse the situation. But we were in for the biggest shock of the night…

When the manager arrived, I couldn’t hear what he was saying through his mask but I’m pretty sure he was introducing himself as the Prince of Machan Kitchen. I explained the situation for the third time and was very matter of factly, and I’m pretty sure quite aggressively, told we have to pay for the drinks. Realising that he was being a complete dick in front of other customers, he wimped out and scarpered back to the till, telling me to meet him there to pay before he did.

What would you have done at this point, reader? We sat there open mouthed, embarrassed, and angry. My mate pointed out that the service charge was almost as much as the drinks, so we decided to roll over to the till and get it taken off… to their horror. But it didn’t stop there. Prince Machan tried to argue with me again – “Your food order didn’t take 40 minutes to get to the kitchen”, he spluttered through his poor face mask, “But I don’t want to argue with you”. Well mate, don’t argue with me then… and by the way, if you put a digital ordering system in place which emails you when you’ve ordered, there’s data to prove it. Not that we bothered getting the phone out and proving it – by this point all we wanted to do was bound out of there and get back to the safety of our own home.

It’s safe to say I’ll never be going back, neither will my Croydon foodie friends, neither will the people who hopefully read this review.

But now I’m thirsty, I off to my fridge to get a glass of watermelon Rubicon from a carton that cost me a little over £1. Yum.

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