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Is the Crab and Winkle restaurant in Whitstable Kent's most divisive restaurant?

Is this Kent's most divisive restaurant?

One woman's complaint that she had been refused use of The Crab and Winkle's toilet while booking a table generated fierce debate about the Whitstable eatery's policy.

Crab and Winkle (20625483)
Crab and Winkle (20625483)

The highly-rated restaurant opened in 1996 above the Fish Market - located with stunning views over the harbour.

But over the years it has generated some controversy regarding its customer service.

KentOnline this morning reported how a fuming mother and daughter had blasted it for “letting them down” twice in one weekend.

Sara White says when she asked to use the Crab and Winkle’s toilet while booking a table for the following day, staff refused to let her use their premises as they are for “customers only”.

To make things worse, when Ms White and her 83-year-old mother, Sheila Bliss, arrived for their meal the next day the eatery was shut - despite the pair only being 10 minutes late.

One of the owners of the restaurant, Elizabeth Bennett, rebutted the claims and said she will not tell guests when it closes early as she is “not their nanny”.

"If they haven’t got the decency to ring me, I am not going to increase my phone bill trying to phone them - this is not kindergarten,” Mrs Bennett said in response.

Sheila Bliss and Sara White Pic: Sara White (20625642)
Sheila Bliss and Sara White Pic: Sara White (20625642)

In 2015, a Crohn’s disease sufferer spoke of her dismay after she was refused access to the restaurant’s toilet.

Mother-of-two Lucy Barber was directed to the nearest public toilets - about 100 metres away.

Mrs Barber returned to the restaurant later in the day to show an NHS-authorised card allowing her to use the toilet, supplied by the Crohn’s and Colitis UK charity.

But the owner of the restaurant, Peter Bennett, responded: "The restaurant toilets are for paying customers, not for people who walk in off the street. Customers are paying for the facility and I don’t recall my wife mentioning to me that she showed an NHS card. My wife said the lady was very persistent.

"If she has one leg, they don’t come up the stairs and use the restaurant toilet when all our customers are there paying for that facility, and public toilets are just 100 yards away down the road."

Crohn’s disease sufferer, Lucy Barber, was not allowed to use the toilet in the Crab and Winkle restaurant. Picture: Martin Apps
Crohn’s disease sufferer, Lucy Barber, was not allowed to use the toilet in the Crab and Winkle restaurant. Picture: Martin Apps

Reviews on Trip Advisor are mixed - with many praising the food but some slamming the customer service.

Owner Peter Bennett has even responded to some of them and defended the restaurant.

One review stated: "Due to traffic issues in the local area, we were delayed slightly and arrived a mere five minutes late to our booking. As other establishments are usually more flexible and accommodating, Crab & Winkle was not, berating us for being late and locking the doors to prevent us from entering, despite our apologies for being late. As such we did not eat there due to appalling service and treatment of customers."

Another reviewer wrote: "We arrived six minutes late and the front door was locked, so we rang the bell and finally a lady opened the door and greeted us with a tirade of verbal abuse and would not allow us to come in to the restaurant."

But other customers have praised the restaurant's food and service.

One reviewer wrote: "Revisited here after a few years as we have moved away but wanted to take my son and his partner to Whitstable.

"Had a fabulous meal with great service and can’t wait to come back. It was such a lovely experience, went home happy."

Another stated: "We’re an Australian couple just passing through, had locals recommend [Crab and Winkle] and was most impressed. Nice view over the harbour too. Save this one, you’ll love it."

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable

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