London Dining: A cautionary tale of restaurant service charges!

Last evening a colleague and I had an absolutely marvellous meal at a restaurant called Bumbles, close to Victoria station.

It is a restaurant with which I have had a glancing aquaintance for some thirty years, and although it has undergone several incarnations, has always been a reliable and innovative place to eat.

The menus is terrific. They offer a set meal option for £19 per person; this gives two courses, and very imaginative they are too; wine adds somewhat more to the tab, as do coffee and a couple of supplements (the beef medley costs a bit extra), but all in all, I think that the bill of £75 was very reasonable in these parts.

And that is where the fun started, for on the menu I had spotted, in extremely fine and slight writing, a note that stated “a discretionary gratuity of 12.5% will be added to the bill”. When the credit card machine was offered, and an option to add a further gratuity appeard, I declined, and the waitress took polite umbrage.

She then advised that the owners got all of the optional service charge, and pointed out the line item on the bill, offering to remove it. I didn’t leave any further tip (12.5% seems reasonable), and left the retaurant on a decidedly sour note.

It is worth wondering, however, how many folks would not have noticed that the restaurant had just added $20 to the bill under the guise of “Opt SC – £9.40″, yet still wanted a tip.

Including a service charge and then asking for a tip is a disgraceful and deceptive habit, and one that travellers should watch out for! It was a pity to leave such a lovely restaurant on such a low note.