Reviewing the reviewers -

Shown above: Venison dish at Hydro Hotel, Eastbourne, in May 2011

A look at 'reviews' and 'previews' for dining clubs, food coupons and other contrivances designed to get customers into hotels and restaurants seems overdue in this column.

As you probably know, is one of a plethora of websites offering to place potential diners in the restaurant of their choice...

... Or that attempt to persuade customers to go to a restaurant they might otherwise not have chosen.

I have used on two occasions - for English's Restaurant in Brighton, and The Hydro Hotel in Eastbourne, both of which offered good value for money.

Not only that, gives points, which can sooner or later be accrued for an occasional free meal.

Having been reminded by of their existence earlier this week, when they said I had not used them for a while, I promptly attempted to book with a favourite restaurant in Hove.

The site kept saying "no bookings available"... all the way through to October.  Annoyed, I rang, and Shelley at was kind enough to take my irascible query seriously.

It turns out that the restaurant in question is closed now, for reasons that are not clear.  However, Shelley went on to advise they appeared to be open from the beginning of October for bookings.

There is some doubt about this, and she has promised to follow up.

When someone goes to this kind of trouble, it does more than warm the cockles of your heart, it makes you very keen to use their service again.  You know that you will get someone on the end of the telephone if things go wrong...

And sometimes things do go wrong. That's what telephones are for.  It's simply that many firms intent on winning people's money but careless about customer service go head over turkey.

Hydro Hotel, Mount Road, Eastbourne, BN20 7HZ
1.      Roast Sussex turkey served with bacon rolled chipolata, parsley and thyme seasoning and cranberry sauce, £10.95 or
2.      Escalope of turkey Maryland served with tomato half; banana fritter, sweet corn fritter, bacon and Madeira sauce, £10.95

To try out your own chances - and be in with a chance to win occasional free meals with, please click here.

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