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You be the judge: Tea-timer faults downtown Charleston hotel for revoking children's menu

Camellias

After the grand opening ceremony of Hotel Bennett, located on Marion Square, on Friday, February 1, 2019, guests stopped by Camellias, the hotels champagne bar. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

There are two sides to every story, including those posted to Yelp and the like. And for those disputes, court is now in session.

The Post and Courier Food section weekly features a complaint that first surfaced online, along with testimonies from the patron and restaurateur.

You, the readers, are the jury. Join us in our Facebook group to weigh in on whether the customer is indeed right, or if the case should be resolved in the restaurant’s favor. Let’s enter the courtroom.

THE PLAINTIFF

MM R. lives in West Ashley. She spoke with The Post and Courier on the condition that only her Yelp name would be published, as is customary in this column, and explained she takes her daughter to tea every Christmas. The tradition dates back to when her teenage daughter was 5 years old.

Since Charleston Place discontinued its afternoon tea service, MM R.’s been looking around town for a suitable replacement. When she learned Hotel Bennett offered tea, she “was excited to go” and made a reservation for two.

THE DEFENDANT

Home to the first outdoor dining on the fringe of Marion Square, Hotel Bennett last February opened on King Street. The luxury hotel, which had to surmount a legal challenge from preservationists in order to begin building, features a full-service restaurant; French-style pastry shop; and Camellias, an all-pink Champagne bar where tea is served by day.

THE CLAIM

It took an extra beat before MM R. and her daughter were seated, but the two were finally shown to a table and given two menus: One for adults and one for children.

Although MM R.’s daughter had long ago outgrown children’s menus, the server reportedly said, “Oh, if she wants, she can do the children’s, that would be no problem. If I was her, I might prefer that.”

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In contrast to the foie gras toast, goat cheese tart and caviar-topped deviled egg listed on the standard menu, priced at $48, the children’s menu included a Nutella spread sandwich, grilled chicken nugget sandwich, scones and pastries for $29. MM R. says it was the miniature peanut butter-and-jelly that appealed to her teatime companion.

“My daughter said, ‘That looks really good,’ so our server said, ‘One children’s tea!’ ” MM R. recalls. “I had no intention of doing that: I didn’t even know it was an option. I came intending to pay for two adults.”

But MM R.’s daughter never received her PB&J. Instead, another server “dropped a three-tier (adult) service on the table and just said, ‘Here’s your tea.’ ” MM R. says she would have paid full price for the children’s service, since it’s what her daughter wanted, but she decided against protesting the surprise switch at the time.

“I didn’t want my daughter to have a memory of going to extra measures,” she says.

THE DEFENSE

Essentially, none: “We were disappointed to read about this reviewer’s experience, which certainly does not align with our standards at Camellias,” assistant general manager Hayato Nogaki said in a statement provided to The Post and Courier.

According to Nogaki, “During pre-arrival confirmation calls for our popular tea service, we inquire whether we should expect children. Our children’s tea menu, named for Peter Rabbit, is specially designed for kids 12 and under, based on portions and items. In this particular instance, there was obviously a miscommunication during the actual service itself.”

After being contacted by The Post and Courier, a manager got in touch with MM R. to rectify the situation.

“I received a gracious phone call from Hotel Bennett,” MM R. confirms by email. “The manager apologized sincerely for each area where they fell short. She extended the opportunity for my daughter and me and a couple of friends to enjoy tea ‘on the house.’ I consider her response outstanding.” (As for MM R.’s response, she updated her Yelp review, raising Camellias score from two to five stars.)

THE VERDICT

Everyone seems to agree that MM R. was right in this situation, but what about children’s menus generally? Should restaurants restrict them to elementary school-age children? Or does any minor dining with his or her mother have the right to order the chicken nuggets? Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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