Not my words Buglers but the words of a correspondent who has sent an email today (which makes a change by the bloody way). Here it is.
“Dear Hoylake Bugle,
I understand you have an outlet for moans like this, so please indulge me.
How long does it take to make a cocktail, do you reckon?
Because yesterday I made the rueful and expensive error of visiting what I imagine is Hoylake’s as-near-to premier destination, the Holiday Inn Express/Marco’s that masquerades as the old King’s Gap Hotel.
It was quite an important day. We were commemorating the death of a mother-in-law I’d sadly never met but who was clearly adored by everyone, and so our miniature family get together strayed over from a decent lunch at the Green Lodge to what we hoped would be a final hurrah at Marco’s.
There were only four of us, matching the same number of diners in the restaurant to our rear.
If you aren’t familiar with the bar at Marco’s, it’s quite an impressive sight: All black marble, chrome and piercing white lights, with a kaleidoscopic tiled floor and a reasonably well-stocked metropolitan-style bar behind the serving area.
You might imagine that when a certain golf tournament is taking place, they might even have staff who know what to do behind it, too. But because the golf isn’t on, and it’s just us mere mortal locals handing over cash, service wasn’t just “below par” (geddit?) but absolutely dreadful – in fact, way beyond dreadful.
Now, I have spent a lot of time in bars of all descriptions, and even worked behind one while on foreign shores, where being able to cobble together a cocktail or two is a prerequisite. Not in Hoylake’s “top” hotel, however.
We ordered: One mojito, two Long Island ice teas, and one black coffee with a brandy.
TWENTY MINUTES later we had the ice teas, which weren’t actually all that bad if not for the fact we could have walked round to Sainsbury’s, bought the ingredients and made the drinks ourselves in the same amount of time.
THIRTY MINUTES later arrived the mojito, which had the merest hint of molasses which rendered the mint as mere leaves. The ice in our ice teas had of course long since melted.
And FORTY minutes later came the coffee, with the brandy in a shot glass.
So no chance to do a collective “cheers” or anything.
And then a demand for a mere £27.50 for the lot.
Dumbstruck – clearly, because we stayed for another, on the grounds it simply cannot happen twice, can it? – the next round was simpler. Three vodka and tonics, and one brandy. Bish, bash, bosh, surely?
Oh no. TWENTY FIVE MINUTES later in an empty (but us) bar and barely occupied restaurant, we are served our drinks. Just the £25 quid this time. And no change in the till, either.
I had the pleasure of meeting Marco Pierre White when he relaunched the restaurant and bar a while back, and it’s clear that he demands a certain level of service that was woefully lacking here.
What is certainly lacking at Marco’s is management. No one appears to be in control, the staff seem unsure and uncertain, and if you want to charge me almost thirty quid for a round of four drinks, then I want them to be exact, served together, and preferably before we reach the next millennium.
I’m not blaming the individual staff members. They were perfectly pleasant, but quite clearly badly managed, as my sister-in-law – herself a former successful publican – could quite clearly see.
This wasn’t Marco Pierre White, not by a scintilla. This was Marco Pierre Shite. On legs. And whatever they’re paying the great man to have his name attached to the place is, with respect, probably not worth it, mate.
The venue – Hoylake’s finest, supposedly, let’s not forget – needs to buck up, not fuck up. But either way I won’t be bothering its shores again any time soon.
Anyway, cheers – I needed that!