After my previous visit I was looking forward to treating my parents to a meal at the Sands. I booked a table for the Saturday before Christmas. At the time of booking I was asked if I wanted the lunch menu or the Christmas menu. I said as my parents are elderly they would probably like the Xmas menu whereas my partner and I would probably eat off the normal lunch menu. Alarm bells started to ring when I was told I could only chose from one menu. If there is a choice of two menus why be limited to one? I consulted with my partner, who is vegetarian, and we settled on the Xmas menu, however the vegetarian option was risotto, which is not a good option as 1) it is very boring and 2) it frequently contains Parmesan cheese which, if genuine, is not vegetarian.
The hotel offers a vegetarian Wellington on the evening menu so I phoned to ask if would be possible to order this instead. Phoning 2 weeks before, it seemed a reasonable request. The person I spoke to said "No", the menu cannot be changed. Now I can understand if I'd walked in off the street and requested something different that the kitchen might have a problem, but by giving notice of a request for something that the restaurant offers anyway, this seemed odd. I thought about it and then called back and asked to speak to the hotel's General Manager. I explained my request to her and expressed my surprise that there was a problem, She replied that the chef was uncompromising so I asked her if his name was Lenny Henry? I thought the days of egotistical chefs was rooted in the 1980s. She then said it may cause a problem if other diners saw the dish and also requested it. I replied they could always be informed it was the result of a special advance request. Eventually she relented and said she would speak to the chef and call me back the next day. 2 days went by without my hearing anything and so I phoned around and was able to book in at another restaurant (see my review of Kathlon House). The next day I had a missed call on my phone and had a voicemail saying that the chef "would be happy" to cater for my request. Now I was totally confused, was the front of house staff turning down requests without consulting him? Did it take three days to talk him round? At any rate I did not feel like I wanted to risk a disappointing experience especially as I was driving from my home near Birmingham to Margate where my parents live. Accordingly I e-mailed the hotel as follows to cancel my reservation:
"With regret, I have decided to cancel my reservation for this Saturday lunch.
Although my request for a change to the vegetarian option has now been accepted, I feel that this was done under duress and I would rather give my custom to an establishment that is set up to cater for patrons' reasonable requests rather than pander to the chef's ego. I am sad because my parents and I enjoyed an excellent tea back in the summer which I praised on Tripadvisor and we were looking forward to lunch over-looking the sea."
I would ask the Management of the hotel to consider whether they want to run an establishment for their own benefit or that of their patrons. I am saddened as I feel the hotel is an overdue addition to the regeneration of Margate, and I note the many favourable comments from my fellow reviewers. I guess if you have any special dietary requirements, this would be a place to avoid.