House of Lords is no longer a place for fine dining, peers gripe

 

Members of the House of Lords have lodged a series of extravagant complaints about their taxpayer-subsidised restaurants, expressing their anger about the size of menus, “chaotic” table layouts and “inferior cappuccinos”.

Peers can enjoy seared scallops, foie gras and champagne risotto at the Barry Room private restaurant, part of a group of facilities catering to them and their guests which are subsidised by the taxpayer at a cost of £1.3m a year. A full roast dinner costs £9.50. Peers also receive a £300-a-day expenses allowance for attending the House of Lords.

But this has not stopped a steady stream of complaints being sent to Lord John Sewel, the Chairman of Committees, which were released in redacted form to The Independent following a Freedom of Information request.

One impassioned Lord complained of a 15-minute wait to be seated, which they said lost “some of the finesse of the afternoon” and left their guests unable to “eat the beautiful cake selection” in time. Another member decried the “chaotic litter of small tables” in the Lords’ tea room after its rearrangement over Easter.

One peer even appealed for the return of “menus printed on light card” for guests to take home as souvenirs, while another said he had been left “scarred” after his dinner booking was cancelled suddenly. He complained that his wife was “unable to lunch elsewhere” because she was wearing a tiara. The Lord recalled: “We were only saved by the kindness of [a fellow peer] who offered us the use of his nearby home to change in and took us out to lunch.”

The installation of a controversial new coffee machine also attracted a series of complaints, which the Lords said was “inferior” and left them “nowhere to go” for a decent cappuccino in the House.

One member complained that the arrival of the new machine was “insulting” and “staggering”, because peers hadn’t been consulted about the change. In his letter to Lord Sewel, the Lord added: “Even by parliamentary standards, that’s an impressive manoeuvre. You could not have calculated a move more likely to spread ill will.”  Another handwritten note called for staff at the canteen to “stop asking whether we want butter on jacket potatoes when what they mean is marge.”

Labour’s Maria Eagle said: “These complaints are completely out of touch at a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, thanks to the Government’s cost-of-living crisis. They should be grateful not to be one of the half a million people forced to rely on help from food banks since April, despite Britain being the seventh richest country on the planet.”

In last year’s list of complaints, which were also unearthed through Freedom of Information laws, Lords complained about the quality of their subsidised smoked salmon, scallops and the lack of Chilean wine for a distinguished guest. One peer even suggested they host the director of a Chilean wine association for a tasting to improve the situation.

Last month, an angry Lord accused catering heads at Parliament’s subsidised restaurants of serving food like that produced by high-street chains such as Prezzo and ASK, which he described as “downmarket”.

The peer, who was not named by officials, said the menu was “flimsy”, there was no melba toast, no rice pudding and that the menu at Christmas did not offer turkey. Writing about an experience with his wife in the Barry Room, he added: “There were two adequate pasta dishes which we ordered but I could have had these in a downmarket establishment eg Prezzo, ASK... With fare like this the place will soon be deserted.”

Lord Sewell declined to comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?