I often eat at Eat. My favourite item on the EAT menu is the Texan Chilli Hot Pot (“A warming beef chilli with smoky chipotle chilli, kidney beans & red peppers, served with wild rice & a coriander crème fraiche”). EAT rotate their menu which means that they don’t always have the Texan Chilli Hot Pot. They probably only have it one week in three. During those other weeks – the “bad times” as I call them – I have to choose something else. I often go for one of their salads, either the Simple Chicken Salad (“Potato Salad, Chargrilled Chicken Breast, Mixed Salad Leaves, Cucumber, Dijon Mustard Dressing, Cherry Tomatoes, Peas”) or the Simple Tuna Salad (“Skipjack Tuna And Potato Salad, Cos Lettuce, Free Range Egg, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber and Red Onion with a Dijon Mustard Dressing”). However, there is a slight problem with these salads. The potatoes are always slightly undercooked.

I’ve tweeted about the issue. This was back in September, when the United Kingdom looked set to tear itself apart:

I think it was possibly that tweet which made many supporters of the “Yes” campaign realise that there are more important issues than nationalism and instead voted to stay in the Union until the potato issue was resolved – you’ll note that it received one retweet and was favourited by three people, illustrating my influence on social media.

Here’s a more recent tweet on the subject:

That tweet didn’t have any historical impact. At least I don’t think it did, it’s too early to tell. No retweets though.

I bought a salad again today. Same issue:

2 favourites. Clearly this issue resonates with the public. I decided to email EAT:

Hello EAT,

I eat at EAT quite regularly and often buy your salads – usually the Simple Tuna Salad but sometimes the Simple Chicken Salad. I quite like your salads but find that the potatoes in those salads are often (always) undercooked. Is this a deliberate policy? Please could you give your potatoes an additional five minutes or so during the boiling process as I think this would make them nicer to eat.

All the best,


Shortly after, I received a reply from a nice woman named Sue:

Dear James,

We are sorry that you have experienced an issue with the quality of the potatoes in the Simple Chicken salad you bought at our Strand shop. They are supposed to be cooked so that they are still waxy and firm but certainly not undercooked and crunchy.

Your feedback has been shared with our food development and production teams who take such comments seriously.  Quality checks are carried out throughout production and they will ensure that our potatoes are cooked to our strict specifications.

We appreciate your loyalty and would like to invite you back to receive a replacement salad, of your choice on us, free of charge .  Please take a copy of this email with you when you next visit EAT. and show it to a member of the team who will be happy to help you.

I hope this goes some way to help restore your faith in EAT. We look forward to seeing you again soon.



Oh folly, Sue. Obviously I am not going to print out the email and take it into EAT to claim my free salad. The staff would be confused and then the manager would be called over and I’d have to explain the whole situation and it would be awkward and then every time I went back they’d all look at me and think “Oh, look, it’s Potato Guy” and no-one wants their nickname to be “Potato Guy”. It would be awful, and for the sake of one salad, it would not be worth it. Now, this is not the first time I have turned down the offer of free food from EAT, and it may appear as if I am boasting about my wealth by wilfully disregarding these offers of salads and mash but that is not the case. Granted, I don’t do too bad for myself – I earn a five-figure salary (seven figures if you include pence) but I am aware that it could all go wrong and I may find myself on the streets and may regret my decadent ways (“To think, I turned down that free Simple Chicken Salad! Such hubris!”) Still, I can’t claim my salad.

I emailed Sue back:

Hi Sue,
Thanks for replying so quickly and also for your kind offer of a replacement salad. However, the issue was not with my specific salad today, this was not an isolated incident. It happens all the time. It’s consistent.
It makes me wonder if our attitudes to potatoes are incompatible. Could you expand on the details of your “strict specifications” re: boiled potatoes? It might be that what you consider to be “waxy and firm” is what I consider “undercooked” and that’s just how things are, in which case I’ll avoid the salads in future and choose something else, like the Texan Chilli Hot Pot (which is very good, by the way).
I’ve mentioned the potato issue to friends and they’ve also experienced the same thing, which makes me think that it’s not just me being fussy. It’s a real problem.
Kind regards,
I have not yet received a reply from Sue. She’s probably busy speaking to the food development and production team to get more detail about their potato specifications.
Sue has been in touch:
Hi James
Thank you for your reply.  I understand that this has not been an isolated incident and it is not the case that you are being fussy.
We have had intermittent problems with undercooked potatoes and our food technical team have been working on this.  The team have advised that the cooking time for potatoes has now been increased to ensure our potatoes are cooked consistently.
I hope you will continue to enjoy all our products including our salads and you will notice an immediate improvement.
I’m not going to claim credit for this, but next time you eat a potato, think of me.
Although Sue promised an “immediate improvement”, I decided to wait for a couple of days to let the new potato cooking process settle in and let the chefs at EAT get used to the new regime. On Monday, I went into EAT on the Strand and decided to give it a go. I bought the Simple Chicken Salad:

I was happy. I decided to email Sue to say thank you:
Hi Sue,
Just wanted to send you a quick note to say I tried the Simple Chicken Salad today and, unless it was my imagination, the potatoes seemed much better.
Thanks for everything!
Sue replied:
Dear James,
Thank you for your email.
I am pleased you have given the salad another try and that you have noticed a difference.
I think I might marry Sue.

6 Comment on “POTATOES

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