CheapEats.ie - a blog about food and value

Guest post by Rosemary MacCabe: Cheap with chips

Reeks of cheap...

Our pal Rosemary MacCabe, Irish Times journalist and fashion blogger, is looking for your advice. Thanks for the post Rosemary!

Hi there! Seeing as I’ve stopped writing my own blog, I thought I’d send you a wee rant from an experience I had recently, because I genuinely want to know what people would think. So what happened was:

I was out for lunch with a friend, in Howth. We had wanted to go to Aqua but we arrived at about 2.45pm and their lunch finished at 3, so we opted for a place called Deep, a few doors down and, according to the window, “Ireland’s best seafood restaurant 2009” or some such.

They were doing a set menu of two courses for €20, so I had mussels and fish and chips; my companion had calamari, and fish and chips (so exciting, we are!). Everything was delicious – the portion of mussels was huge, and they were really tasty, his calamari was devoured in seconds, and the fish and chips were really excellent. BUT. The ketchup they served with the main meal was cheap, Musgraves  ketchup, out of a squeezy plastic tomato. Really vinegary and, to be frank, kind of ruined the fish ‘n’ chips for me. (Although I’m sure I’m a philistine to be putting ketchup on fresh fish.)

So when I was asked if everything was okay, I said, “well, yes, but the only quibble I would have is that the ketchup was cheap ketchup, and I would think that, in a restaurant that’s not exactly cheap, you could expect Heinz or Chef”. I was really nice about it; I wasn’t looking for anything, I was literally thinking, this could be a helpful tip.

Her response? “Do you think €20 for two courses is expensive?” I was gobsmacked and, frankly, shamed into saying, “eh, no, that’s . . . no, I don’t”. But I don’t know if I don’t – is €20 for two courses not slightly above average? I know plenty of set menus that give you three courses for €20, or two and a glass of wine.

So I really have two questions: is cheap ketchup a dealbreaker? And is €20 a lot or a little? Answers on a postcard…

14 Comments

  1. 20 Euro for 2 courses at lunch time is NOT cheap,maybe in the evening its ok.Secondly the staff should never question a customer,its just plain rude.If they took your advice on board they may increase business.Instead they probably done the opposite.

  2. I absolutely hate that ketchup too, its so full of vinegar and I would agree with you on this one. Also €20 for two courses at lunchtime is not cheap as John K above also said.

  3. €20 for two courses is more evening time than lunch time. There’s plenty of restaurants locally (Kilkenny) where you would see two courses around the €14.95 mark for lunch and that would be the upper-end of lunchtime pricing.

    As for ketchup, it’s a total deal-breaker at home or when we’re out if chips are on the plate. The lady loves her Chef, I’m a Heinz man but anything else on the table, particularly the vinegar laden stuff is a big no no. It should compliment what’s on the table, not put you off it, even moreso if you’re a total chip fan!

  4. My thoughts would have to be if they are stingy on front of house things where else are they cutting corners, cheap ketchup is great for marinades but buggar all else.

  5. The waiter was completely out of line.

  6. I’m going to go it alone here – I think 20 euro for a two course lunch in a fish restaurant is pretty decent value – especially if the food was good. I generally have no problem complaining if the food in a restaurant is below par or if service is very poor but personally, I would have let the ketchup issue go if everything else was so good.

  7. To quote a review i posted on menupages on the 27th april 2009……”decided to go to Deep with himself last sunday as we were out in Howth for the day, my sister and i had been here a couple of times before and always enjoyed it! however this visit was a bitter disappointment….:( himself went for the fishcakes as a main and i went for the monkfish goujons and chips! they arrived out within minutes too quick if u ask me we had barely even got our drinks. His portion consisted of 2 tiny cakes and a small bit of salad, my goujons werent much better, approx 3 of them overcooked with no taste of anything, infact ive eaten better fishfingers! our chips were in a communal bowl, to be honest they werent too bad altho halfway through the waitress came over and took our ketchup off us for another customer, pretty bad considering we werent finished eating. we declined desserts and settled for tea for 2, the water was only lukewarm and for someone like me who takes there tea milky this was a diaster. The meal wasnt cheap either and while i dont mind paying for good food it really bugs me when somewhere like Deep overcharges for mediocore food! Dont think il be back…well certainly if himself has anything to do with it!” i guess 2 years on nothing has changed and the ketchup back then was in a cheap red plastic bottle and most definitely not heinz or chef!A decent ketchup isnt expensive especially in the catering industry and there is no excuse for serving that watery stuff!

  8. I was in a cafe this lunch time and the ketchup was in those horrible squeezy bottles like the picture. The outside of the bottle felt as if it had been refilled many times and to me seemed really unhygienic so I doubted the squeezy bottles were washed that often.

    Also especially in foreign restaurants e.g. Spain etc., the refilled mayo bottle with the now almost transparent label/often half missing label from it had been topped up so often also gives me the heevy jeevies.

    I ask, are those small bottles of Heinz ketchup really than expensive? Also plus 1 for Eddie rockets, I love their clean new Heinz ketchup bottles.

    P.S. I’m not some mad clean freak but I’m imagining the bacteria levels on some restaurant condiniments could be fairly shocking !

  9. Belles – Eddie Rockets refill their bottles I have seen them doing it but I agree they always look clean

    Rosemary – I think you right to mention the ketchup and the waiter was totally wrong in his response. I would imagine his manager will not be too impressed should he read your review. I won’t be going there now as I hate those cheap condiment containers. The Oarhouse in Howth is always amazing so I’ll stick there …

  10. They should have a BYOBOK (Bring your own Bottle of Ketchup) policy 🙂
    Joke aside, I don’t have any problem with refilled bottles per se (the restaurants buy condiments in bulk, so they need to dispense in smaller containers) as long as the bottles are thouroughly washed before being refilled. Also, while I agree with Caitriona – 20 euros for lunch in a fish restaurant is around average – the waitress’ attitude was a shame and you should write to the manager to complain

  11. Thanks SJ, I assumed they were new bottles in Eddies as I’ve never handled a grubby ketchup bottle in their O’Connell Street branch.

  12. We use those squeezy ketchup bottles in our school caff!

  13. I think the cheap ketchup is a deal breaker, my pet hate are places that serve decent food but instant coffee, drives me crazy as I don’t eat desserts and always look forward to a nice coffee after my meal!

  14. If somewhere has ballmamole tomato relish in a squeezy bottle as a condiment then they can consider me a customer for life. I’ve seen it at gourmet burger vans at festivals and outdoor events. To me that means that the establishment really cares about the customer and wants to compliment their tasty food with good quality products.