Culinary Causerie

With Lesley Williams

The Dining Debate – Are you responsible for spoiling it for everyone else?

Last month I had a very interesting discussion with Steve Homer of Taste Swansea, on the subject of no shows at restaurants. I was staggered to discover that this disgraceful lack of manners costs the UK £16 billion each year. With Steve’s permission we are publishing an extract from a recent blog that he posted onto his website.

Let’s face it, during this period of floods and bad weather you’d be pretty pi**ed off if a plumber or builder didn’t turn up or even telephone to say he wasn’t attending to your emergency, having waited in all day! Maybe to you there’s no financial implication, or maybe you lost a day’s wages. Either way it’s downright ignorant and inconsiderate if you as the plumber or builder don’t call and frankly you don’t deserve the work in future!

Well, there’s a bigger crisis than that on the High Street…that of NO SHOWS and late cancellations when it comes to booking a table at a restaurant. As a punter you are thinking “What’s the problem if I didn’t show up?” Well the problem is £16bn! And that’s just in the UK! Yes, £16bn is lost each year through the ignoramuses who fail to notify the restaurants in good time that they won’t be attending.

One frustrated chef took to Twitter on the evening of Valentine’s Day, had 7 last minute cancellations, 2 no shows probably representing 9 couples at say £35.00 per head = £630. Maybe the difference between profit or loss on what should be a prime busy night. Research shows that one in five bookings results in a No Show, yes 20% of bookings are not honoured. In 2019 another restaurant posted on social media that it had 140 (number of people) representing 50% of his restaurant capacity no show. One restaurant had 28 people fail to honour their bookings in a single evening. Then I hear the comments “Oh there’s nowhere decent to eat nowadays!”

As indicated in the chef’s post, he is now going to have to resort to taking full non-refundable payment up front for Valentine’s Day in future. Potentially that’s a loss of 1/3rd of his dining market as according to research approximately 33% refuse to pay a deposit in advance. If you want to get into the more exclusive restaurants in London, you’ll be faced with a £150 deposit/prepayment such is the problem in the capital.

For the sake of the hard-working restaurant owners we’d ask you to become a little more responsible when booking tables at restaurants otherwise you too will find that you’ll be faced with having to pay a non-refundable deposit, thereby spoiling it for everyone. Happy dining.

Las Iguanas

Who would have thought that you’d find a little bit of Latin America in the shadow of our Swansea Castle? I rather like the juxtaposition of the modern glass structure and the ancient stone.

The interior of Las Iguanas is suitably South American with its brightly coloured décor, wooden floors and exotic tiling. The welcome was warm and friendly too – not only were we asked if we had booked – we hadn’t – but also if we were vegan or vegetarian – another no.

The menu is subdivided by country, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and beyond. We started off in Venezuela with a take on a typical street food tequeños. These are little deep-fried breadsticks filled with cheese served with a chipotle butter. The jalapeoño chili used in the butter wasn’t fiery hot but had just enough sweet warmth. Our chicharrónes could have come from just about anywhere in the world, but since they were served with guacamole I will assume we were in Mexico. Chicharrónes AKA pork scratchings are loved the world over – these were a little on the processed side and lacked that really crunchy, deeply savoury taste that you get with real Sunday lunch pork crackling but, dunked into the guacamole they were pretty moreish.

For our main courses we parted company – I went north to the island of Cuba to indulge in a rack of sticky rum glazed pork ribs. No matter how hard I try, I can never achieve that meltingly soft, falling off the bone tender-ness when I attempt to cook ribs at home. Which is why I am always drawn to ordering them when out for dinner. As I had been restrained and not had a side order of chips I felt justified in having a portion of truffle oil mac and cheese. This simple dish of pasta and cheese was elevated to another level with the addition of a drizzle of fungi scented oil and a touch of amarillo chilli. Amarillo in Spanish means yellow – and this medium heat chilli is just that – but now I can’t get Tony Christie out of my head.

Simon went south to Argentina and dined like a cowboy with a Gaucho steak. This is a huge 10oz sirloin steak with a smoky herb chimichurri and sweetcorn purée. Chimichurri is one of those green sauces that’s really simple to rustle up but can transform a simple piece of grilled chicken or fish into something far more interest-ing. Parsley, garlic, oregano and chili flakes, stirred into olive oil and vinegar – it will keep in the fridge for a few days. Argentina is renowned for its beef cattle, and I am reliably informed that this steak was good – well the plate was clean and there were no complaints from his side of the table apart from the fact that I had eaten most of the mac and cheese.

I am not usually in favour of chain restaurants as they usually over promise and under-deliver, not only on portion size but on quality too. And Las Iguanas is certainly a chain with almost 60 restaurants nationwide, but it lives up to its promises – portion sizes are generous and the quality is excellent. Our bill came to approximately £25 per head excluding drinks.

Las Iguanas, Castle Quarter, Castle Lane, Swansea SA1 2AH Tel: 01792 930565




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