We all know what Mother’s Day should be like, because we’ve all seen it on TV. The pert and pretty young mother awakes relaxed and refreshed from a restful night’s sleep, not a hair stuck to the side of her face, or drool line in sight. She has been pleasantly surprised by her two darling children and her doting husband bearing a breakfast tray laden with a fresh pot of tea and delectable breakfast treats.
Not very likely though, is it? Not in my experience anyway. I’ve taken to organising Mother’s Day myself, but still haven’t had much success. My first Mother’s Day involved a beautiful high-tea at the very lovely Ravensthorpe in Albion Park with a Boofhead grumbling something about me not being his mother under his breath. Last year we had a disappointing “Breakfast on the Balcony” at our local club. This year I made the mistake of taking us to the Beach and Bush Gallery Café in Kiama.
I was looking forward to enjoying some yummy breakfast fare and a nice chat with my little family, my Mum and Dad, and my lovely mother-in-law. I popped into the Beach and Bush Gallery Café a week prior to Mother’s Day to book. Yes they could slot us in, but the manager made it clear our party of 6 would make things difficult for them. You see, they don’t normally book for 6 people; their tables are set up in groups of 4. I stopped short of asking which of our party I should leave at home, confirmed the booking time and left. The café smelled of lovely coffee, it was warm and cosy, it would be OK. Maybe she was just having a bad day?
It wasn’t until we arrived on Mother’s Day that I realised that the manager wasn’t just having a bad day the week before. No, it was more likely that she subscribed to the Basil Fawlty school of customer service.
The café was very busy when we arrived at 9.30, so it took a few minutes to find a waitress to show us to our table. Unfortunately my Mum and Dad were another ten minutes arriving, so it was a few minutes before we were ready to order. This wasn’t helped by the lack of menus, and the large number of people milling around in front of the counter waiting to be seated or place an order.
It was while I was standing to look around for a menu that we got our first ‘hurry-up’. The manager rather curtly advised that they’d booked our table for 11am so we’d better hurry up and place our orders. This is where I should have told her that she could have our table now because we were leaving to eat elsewhere, but instead I asked if they had menus we could order from. She pointed to the board behind the counter (they don’t have menus, only the board).
So we each took our turn to join the throng in front of the counter, squinting to see what was on offer. Though not extensive, the menu was comprised of honest and simple breakfast fare – what you’d hope for from a nice little sea-side café.
At this point I unwittingly put my hand up for a second ‘hurry-up’; I introduced myself to the manager and asked if she minded me taking a few photos. That was fine, but we’d better get our act into gear and order because they’re very busy and someone will be waiting for our table. I didn't tell her that we’d already ordered.
Our drinks arrived reasonably quickly; my chai was hot and sweet, the iced chocolate was suitably decadent, but reports were that the coffee wasn’t much chop.
We were happy with our meals when they arrived; the big breakfast was big, the french toast was light and fluffy, and my poached egg was nicely runny (though the hollandaise could have done with a bit of pepping up and the spinach needed some seasoning). Unfortunately we had a bit of an issue with the timing – half the table was just about finished with their meal by the time the rest of the food had arrived.
We’d finished our meals and were chatting over a second tea, our breakfast plates yet to be cleared, when it hit 11am. As we stood to leave the manger gave us a final reminder that we really weren’t welcome in her establishment; before I could even push my chair in she swooped, shifting the table we were sitting at just moments before. I count myself lucky that I wasn’t elbowed out of the way in her haste to get rid of us.
I’ve since heard an unconfirmed rumour that the business is for sale, which if true, is probably for the best. I hope that the new owners can overcome the damage done by staff who've elevated bad customer service to an art-form.
Have you ever had a laughably bad café experience?
The Beach & Bush Gallery Café is on Kiama Lighthouse Rd, in Kiama. We were paying customers of the café.