A popular Leeds restaurant has hit out after a national newspaper's food reviewer apparently called the owners 'snowflakes'.
The Sunday Times restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin was supposed to visit The Swine That Dines on North Street, which is run by Stuart and Jo Myers and began life as a supper club.
Although she did not name the eatery in her article, she claimed to have reserved a table for lunch, travelled up from London by train and found the restaurant closed. She was then apparently told by a member of staff that it was too 'cold' to open.
O'Loughlin referred to the owners and staff as 'snowflakes' - a slang term implying that somebody is overly emotional, easily offended and unable to deal with adversity and challenging situations.
She then visited Matt Healy's The Foundry in Holbeck, but was unimpressed with some of the dishes. She later travelled to Host in Ilkley, which became the subject of the review.
The Swine That Dines later confirmed on their Twitter account that they were the unnamed restaurant in question - and hit back at the critic, whom they appear to suggest hadn't booked in advance.
They confirmed that a broken heating system had left them unable to open on what was one of the coldest days of the year.
"Chances are when you visit us you will be served by me (Jo), cooked for by Stu. If we’re open, we’re here. And if we don’t open, something probably broke and we’re still here trying to fix it. Like a heater on one of the coldest days of the year.
"Did we mess up? Did we miss our chance of a national review by closing because the room was so cold they’d have been eating with their coats on? Maybe. But that review could have been so much worse. So them's the breaks.
"But Marina, use the booking site; yes I know they’re awful but they help us exist by taking those card details you’re always happy to supply. Or phone but I’ll probably just direct you to the website to make sure we’ve got the correct contact details for you. But Marina...don't call us snowflakes."
Matt Healy from The Foundry also commented about O'Loughlin's visit:-
"“It’s fantastic that the national press, and in particular The Sunday Times, are interested in critiquing cuisine in the regions. Marina O’Loughlin is one of the country’s leading food critics, so to welcome her to my restaurant is amazing if not a little scary for a nine-month old business. She wasn’t impressed with our mac and cheese, so we’re going back to the drawing board on that. Which is fair enough. Overall she said of our food, ‘It’s good. It’s all good.’ And she added that if she lived in Yorkshire she’d be back. Which coming from someone like Marina is praise indeed.”
Jo and Stuart Myers previously ran The Greedy Pig Kitchen from the North Street premises, before converting the cafe - which was renowned for its breakfasts - into evening restaurant The Swine That Dines in 2018.
Last year the couple spoke to The Yorkshire Post about the problem of last-minute 'no-shows' from customers who had made advance bookings, leaving businesses out of pocket. The issue led to them introducing a booking system whereby credit card details must be provided.
"It was a September evening and for whatever reason, perhaps because the sun came out, we ended up with an empty restaurant. We had two members of staff on plus me and my husband. We didn’t work for anything but I still had to pay the two staff members because it wasn’t their fault that nobody turned up.”
After taking to social media to vent her frustration, Jo was inundated with messages of support from chefs from all over the country who understood where she was coming from.
“No business can afford that but especially a small one like ours. The competition in Leeds is so fierce that we’re fighting for every table and it’s got to the point where you have to say something, because I don’t think people always realise the consequences of what they’re doing.”
The Swine That Dines now charges £10 per head if a party does not show up or cancels at short notice.
“If people cancel two or three days in advance that’s fine because it gives me the chance to fill that table. We don’t mind people cancelling, things happen and plans change, but if someone doesn’t show up or cancels half an hour before their booking there’s nothing you can do.
“The issue we always had with that before was it was seen as the preserve of the high-end restaurants. So trying to convince customers to hand over their credit card details for a mid-range restaurant is still quite new, but I think in the next few years it’s going to become the norm because it’s the only way people can safeguard their business.”
Read the full Sunday Times review here