When we were building the house we used to eat here almost every other day, taking advantage of the convenience of its fresh, low cost mix of local and international dishes and its tranquilising patio ambience. OK, the service was always surly and slow, but it didn't seem to be a deal-killer...until a couple of weeks ago that is.
We were enjoying a pleasant evening here in September with a guest and when we came to pay the bill we found that the waitress had charged V twice for her main course; on purpose. With minimum embarrassment she came over and explained that in fact she clearly recalled that V had been part of a large group that had dined in Cafe La Escudilla a month or so before and that the monies left with respect to la cuenta had come up short, so now they were making up the defecit. Gracias.
As the only non-Latin at the table it might be thought strange that it was I alone that went red in the face with anger at this particular moment. V and our guest were perhaps too stunned to react. I at least had the certainty that I wasn't even in the country when this extra dish that I was being asked (actually told) to pay for was reportedly consumed.
V had indeed been part of that big group, gathered by a long-term German resident of Antigua. She had departed before most of the others at the table and had left sufficient quetzales with her friend to cover the cost of her own meal. Our guest on that evening, himself a restauranteur and a close relative of an important local politician had, needless to say, not been part of this particular group of under-paying diners, but this did not prevent the manager of La Escudilla from coming over and accusing him to his face of being a liar and a cheat.
This new manager, clearly a prize idiot, is also a gutless specimen, because he refused to come up to the table to interact directly with my consternation. Instead he hovered at a safe distance and proceeded to call over the security guards from the entrance and dramatically instructed them not to permit such 'gente sin verguenza' to return to his restaurant. He needn't have bothered as his attitude and behaviour had already done the trick. I have never been treated with such shameless disrespect in any restaurant anywhere in the world.
Why wait until we'd finished our meal to spring this on us? And why would this fool risk the reputation of his employers for the price of one plato fuerte ordered weeks earlier? My strong suspicion is that the sum in question had been discounted from the salary of the waitress and that she had therefore instigated this fracas. The gente sin verguenza are surely those that manage their staff in this way.
I did of course refuse to pay for the extra meal and when the bill came the waitress had written on it "Ojo...no pagó la milanesa', and then asked for a tip!
For a decade Riki's/La Escudilla was by far and away the busiest evening venue in La Antigua, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. The Rough Guide still speaks of queues, but in truth both the gilded youth of Guate and the trendier foreigners have moved on, and thanks to this kind of kamikaze management it's starting to look like it did in the early nineties when it was a funeral parlour. We'll be going to the Rainbow Cafe instead from now on. (Rudy likes the breakfast there and we enjoy their open mike evenings. Their fajitas may not sizzle, but they're a delicious and very affordable dish nontheless.)