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Can one really defend Irish restaurant prices?

Recently, the leading international chef Ken Hom, criticised the prices charged in Irish restaurants – even now after us wallowing for 2+ years in recession.

In this story in the Irish Independent, Chef roasts restaurants over ‘shocking’ prices, Mr. Hom had the following to say:

“It used to be property prices in Ireland I couldn’t believe, now it’s what restaurants charge. I was pretty shocked.

These establishments could all drop their prices by at least a third. The only way restaurants can survive here is to begin offering diners value for money.”

Predictably, there was the usual defense of the indefensible from a celebrity Irish chef, Derry Clarke of L’Ecrivain in Dublin. In a typically chef-like gracious response, Mr. Clarke claimed that Mr. Hom could be mentally instable:

Ken must be off his head. I’m doing lunch now for €25. A third off that would be fast-food prices.

Or, then again, anyone who walks in the door of L’Ecrivan expecting a lunch for €25 could be off their head. Yes, your lunch is €25, but you must pay €4 for a coffee. Yes, that’s right, €4 for a coffee.

And don’t forget the (optional) 12.5% service charge which is added to your bill automatically, and which you must ask to be removed if you don’t wish to pay – a disgraceful form of blackmail applied by restaurateurs to consumers.

Restaurant Bargains not what they claim to be

A big issue that I have with Irish restaurants at the moment is touched upon in this article, Recipe for Survival: 23 Ways Restaurants Save Money.

This article, from a restaurant owners perspective, shows how money can be saved in recessionary times at the expense of the consumer experience. The list includes many items you’ll see in Irish restaurants of all quality levels today:

1. Reduced Portions
3. Reconstituted Meats
5. Weaker Drinks
7. Adding Surcharges
11. Mystery Fish
12. Shrinking Menus
13. Cheaper Ingredients

One restaurant close to where I work proclaims a value “early bird” lunch, but serve mostly mackerel or offal meats. Yes, it’s cheap, but most definitely not value for money. If I wanted decent mackerel, I’ll go fishing myself, catch a few and barbecue them immediately with some roast potatoes – nothing better, and a fraction of the cost.

Another restaurant I used to frequent, and recommend, was Rolys Bistro in Ballsbridge. They used to have a great value for money lunch on the weekends. Only problem now is that they’ve definitely cut back on the quality of the food provided – including at least 2 offal meat options last time I was there.

As has always been the case during the years of what became know as “Rip Off Ireland”, there’s a huge difference between cheap, and value for money. Food, charged at the same price but with cheaper ingredients, does not make for value of money.

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