How to lose money and alienate customers

I’ve had some pretty forgettable meals in my time (we all have, obviously, or there wouldn’t be much room left in our memories for anything else), but I’ve rarely had one that I would say has been particularly bad.

There was Frau Martini, I suppose, the German proprietor of a small B&B in Neumagen-Dhron who had a habit of serving raw eggs for breakfast. And then who could forget the small Venetian pizzeria that — having apparently served all of its pizza — could only offer cold lasagne that deflated at the slightest touch. But, my own cooking aside, it’s all been rather adequate.

The proverbial soggy biscuit, however, this weekend went to Таверна “Флинт”, a pirate-themed bar-restaurant that doesn’t just take its approach to scurvy-inducing authenticity a step too far, but walks it right off the plank. Straight from Davy Jones’ microwave, the food would make even the most malnourished of seafarers think twice about sinking his or her pearly silvers into their chosen main course.

I should have been expecting as much, really. Despite what would probably constitute the best night’s sleep I’ve had since my arrival in Syktyvkar, that morning had already got off to a pretty bad start: I was barely out of the flat when I took my first tumble of the trip, my feet finding some black ice and swiftly introducing it to my face. Then, resolving to treat my bruised pride to pizza, I was left waiting for an hour while the staff at додо пиццы endeavoured to farm the ingredients themselves.

The pizza, at least, was worth the wait. However, around five hours later, I arrived at Flint’s Tavern slightly late to find my co-workers had already ordered. Opting for a Tuborg beer and what appeared to be the only burger on the menu that came with chips, I tried to put the day’s stresses out of my head while I caught up with everybody else’s news.

It quickly became clear, however, that there was already a problem with our table’s order (taken, not at once, but over the course of four or five separate visits). The waitress could not tell us what was included in any of the available dishes (aside from what we could already glean from the pictures), and then — once we had decided — proved unable to facilitate individual alterations to any of the options, regardless of her customers’ preferences.

The first “meal” to arrive was a plate of perhaps thirteen fries, strewn carelessly across a plate of dry parsley. Mine came around twenty minutes later, by which time two of the chips had been ingested and the rest abandoned, and — all in all — was about the size of a small scone. The burger itself — an undercooked wheel of meat hidden between two impossibly chewy buns — was served in a saucer of its own juices, without any trace of my own advertised accompaniment.

Two bites, thirty minutes and at least one unsteady stomach later, we decided that it was time to leave, not least because the third of our ordered meals had yet to materialise. We asked our waitress for the bill, and decided unanimously to go somewhere, anywhere else. The ordeal was not over yet, however, and as the missing pasta dish arrived alongside the check, we found ourselves locked in battle over sides that had never come, ketchup we shouldn’t be paying for in the first place and a meal that had been served over the course of an hour.

I don’t think I need to tell you that I will never be returning to Таверна “Флинт”, and I would recommend that you avoid it should you ever come to Syktyvkar yourself. The service is terrible, the food’s even worse, and any surviving atmosphere is soured further by other, braver customers who have the courage to leave mid-meal without paying. Save your gold doubloons for somewhere else.

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