Most diners who have been on the receiving end of a dodgy steak or limp salad would be content to simply send the dish back (or endure it, grudgingly, in a non-confrontational British silence). The more incensed may even decide to treat the "optional service charge" as just that.
Not many would go so far as to close down the restaurant. But Earl Cadogan, the property landlord for the Oriel brasserie in upmarket Sloane Square in west London, was so unimpressed with the place when he ate there that he has decided to do just that.
Sloane rangers will have to find a new eatery in which to see and be seen after his company, Cadogan Estates, confirmed yesterday that it will not renew Oriel's lease when it ends.
An Old Etonian, Charles Cadogan said that he "didn't like the food and the prices were too high", adding: "I can tell you that we won't be renewing their lease when it expires .... We are going to have a new development there."
Earl Cadogan and family are ranked 14th in the most recent Sunday Times Rich List. The Earl, who inherited the title from his father in 1997, embarked on a significant property investment programme and now owns 90 acres of some of London's most expensive land. He is believed to be worth £2bn. The former Chelsea Football Club chairman's value apparently shrunk by around £930m last year, although he still moved up three places from 17th in the list.
Cadogan Estates will now look for another restaurant – one that can satisfy the Earl's palate – to replace Oriel once refurbishment of the building is completed in about 18 months.
The brasserie, which has been part of the bustle of Sloane Square for around 25 years, has received mixed reviews recently. The London restaurant guide Harden's gives its food a 5 – the lowest possible rating – while its service does not fare much better at 4. The brasserie's ambience is rated a 3.
Customers commenting on the review website london-eating.co.uk were also lukewarm. One said: "Food was as expected but the service was appalling. It took three attempts to obtain two glasses of tap water. The glasses did eventually appear as we completed our main courses." Another wrote: "Nearly an hour's wait for main course, despite repeated protestations that 'the chef is cooking it now.' Rude. No apology. Just dreadful – we left."
However, some users disputed claims that the brasserie was poor. "Very friendly chap served us for lunch today, nice lunchy type men," said one.
A group of Sloane Square residents has also reportedly set up a petition against the brasserie's closure. Financier Richard Elliot-Square said: "There are lots of people who don't want it to go."
Oriel's parent company, Tragus, which also owns Café Rouge, called the news "sad". The group had previously insisted that it would take the battle to keep the restaurant open to the courts. But a spokesman confirmed yesterday that the restaurant will close.
"We hope that Cadogan Estates will listen to customers and residents to reconsider how Oriel can be part of the future plans for the site," the spokesman said.
The brasserie would not be the first long-term Sloane Square tenant to get on the wrong side of its landlord. In 2004, WHSmith complained that Cadogan Estates had broken its tenancy agreement when the stationer was told to leave after more than 130 years.
The Cadogan dynasty
*The family is descended from Major William Cadogan. The first Earl was a a cavalry officer in Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army.
*In 1723, the 13-year-old daughter of the Earl of Cadogan was married off to the son of the Duke of Richmond to pay off her father-in-law's gambling debts. Her betrothed is said to have taken one look at her before leaving on a tour of Europe. After returning, he saw a beautiful woman at the opera and later realised that she was his wife. They became a devoted couple.
*The fifth Earl was a Tory who held office under Benjamin Disraeli and later Lord Salisbury as Under-Secretary of State for War, Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Privy Seal and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His son, Henry Cadogan, was MP for Bury St Edmunds until his death in 1908.