Yesterday Sarah told me that she had secured herself a new job which was fantastic news. I wanted to celebrate the occasion and so decided to take her out for a fancy dinner in Milton Keynes and chose Middletons Steakhouse & Grill as the destination.
We’d been to Middletons a couple of times before (more than 6 months ago) and each time the food has been pretty decent but the service has been hit and miss. Where I stand on things is that when I go out for dinner it’s because I want an experience – that means an all round good experience, not one bit good and another bad but on average a positive experience that combines the food, service and atmosphere. I’d always favour a restaurant which offers great service and good food and good atmosphere over one which offers great food and good service and good atmosphere. The service at a restaurant always makes or breaks a meal and it’s always the service experience that you remember.
Despite a couple of OK experiences at Middletons previously I figured I’d give them another shot to celebrate and called them on 01908 990116 to make a 19:30 reservation.
Welcome & Getting Seated – Poor.
Arriving at Middletons we were greeted by the front of house who walked us around the half empty restaurant and showed us to our table. He quickly asked if we had been to Middletons previously and when we said yes, he quite literally just walked off before we’d even fully sat down. The menu’s were strewn across the table already so we weren’t handed or shown the menu, we were left to fend for ourselves. We also weren’t introduced to a server or told that one would be over shortly, nor were we offered any drinks or given any table water. Finally we weren’t exactly welcomed with a warm smiley welcome such as “how are you both today” or “are you celebrating a special occasion” or any other small talk which makes you feel relaxed and valued as a customer. The welcome really was rather odd like he had somewhere better to be.
With menus in hand we sat and waited for our waitress to come over… We waited some more… Then we waited again.
At the point of 20 minutes passing since the front of house had abandoned us, we started to wonder if we were even on the waitresses radars. We hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone. No table water provided and no drinks ordered. Not only that but the restaurant wasn’t even busy so that was no excuse.
Being out for a special occasion the intention is to have a nice relaxing meal, order some drinks and enjoy good conversation. The reality however was discussing when and indeed if a waitress was going to turn up, how poor the service had been so far, how it was similar to the previously poor experiences we’d had at Middletons and finally how long we should leave it before getting up and going elsewhere. Sarah even tried (unsuccessfully) to flag down several waitresses to see what was going on.
Now I’m in no way a food or service snob. I enjoy a Nando’s or McDonald’s as much as the next man however sitting for at least 20 minutes without even so much as an acknowledgement e.g. “I’ll be with you shortly” and sending over some table water just isn’t good enough. Not for a premium restaurant. I expect better than that.
Eventually our waitress arrived and clearly oblivious to how long we’d been waiting made no apology and just asked if we would like some drinks – ha! We said yes and that we were also ready to order so just sorted it all out in one go. We could have made a fuss but being a special occasion I didn’t want the whole meal to become negative and awkward.
Food Quality & Food Presentation – OK.
For my meal I ordered the Prime Surf & Turf (£21.95) which was a 6oz fillet & piri piri king prawn skewers accompanied by a side of fries (included) and a peppercorn sauce (£2) – it looked pretty decent. The quality of the food was OK but not exceptional by any means. I asked for a medium cooked steak and it was a little over-done. Not only that but the prawn skewers weren’t hot but warm.
Sarah ordered the 6oz fillet steak (£16.95) with a side of sweet potato fries (included) and peppercorn sauce (£2). So the menu states,
“All of our steaks & grills are served on wooden boards, please tell your waiter if you would prefer your meal served on a plate.”
With that in mind we were both left a little confused when my meal came out presented nicely on a wooden board whilst Sarah’s meal came out presented on a plate (which she hadn’t asked for)… and rather strangely, served on top of a napkin with splashes of meat juice around the plate?
Not exactly the most exciting or enticing plate of food to be given for the best part of £20.
With the plates of food served we were asked if there was anything else that we needed… yes Middletons – the sauce that you’ve forgotten *sigh*. The sauce was soon delivered.
For dessert we both opted for the Middletons Sundae (£5.50) which consisted of chocolate brownie, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and nuts. This I couldn’t fault, it was excellent.
Overall Experience – Poor.
Our experience of dinner last night really left us feeling disappointed considering it was a special occasion. We were shown to our table and then abandoned for at least 20 minutes without any acknowledgement. When you are sat at your table wondering if the waiting staff have forgotten that you are there, to the point where you have to flag them down for a glass of water, you know things aren’t going well. First impressions count for a lot.
When the food then turns up looking like it’s had no effort made with it, not presented on a wooden board as the menu suggests but instead poorly presented on a plate, inconsistent with the other meal, it takes away from the experience. To top it off when the food arrives you have to chase them up for the sauce again it doesn’t really shout good service.
Considering how we felt about the evening, the bill did bring a bit of a tear to my eye.
So will we being going back? No. Will we be recommending Middletons to friends? Not a chance.
This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced poor service at Middletons and considering the money we paid and how they position themselves, I expect a lot better. Last night just didn’t cut it for an establishment that tries to offer itself as a premium steakhouse, especially when there are cheaper restaurants offering a far superior service and presentation of food nearby.
- Service: 2/5
- Food: 3/5
- Atmosphere: 3/5
Sorry Middletons, you’ve disappointed us one too many times and we won’t be returning.