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St. Martin- In- The- Fields Church in London, England WARNING

Hi All!
We recently went to London, England and, as per our Rick Steves' guidebook recommendation, visited the St. Martin-In-The-Fields church. The first time we went, the food in the cafeteria was delicious and the church was fascinating. We decided to visit a second time. Just after we finished our dinner, we saw at least three rats/mice running under the table adjacent to ours. We let the management know that there were rats in the cafeteria, and they shrugged off our concerns with a "mmmhmmm". I would be careful about visiting this church and eating there! Although I do understand that rats can be a common occurrence in a crypt, they shouldn't be anywhere near the buffet lines or kitchens!

Posted by
26374 posts

What did Trading Standards say when you reported it?

Posted by
2788 posts

Also, be careful, ladies, with your purses. A woman in our travel group had her purse stolen here in the cafeteria. She had the straps across the back of the chair and someone very quietly walked away with it. Just because you are in a house of worship doesn't mean the pickpockets aren't there also.

Posted by
2638 posts

As for things getting stolen, you have to use your common sense and kept your purse, backpack, etc., in sight. Don't hang things on back of a chair, so easy for people to take.

Posted by
8293 posts

"She had the straps (of her purse) across the back of her chair" and it got stolen. Wow! Who would ever have thought it.

Posted by
970 posts

The rats are certainly a problem. The incident should be reported to the "proper authorities", whoever they are. St. Martin is located in one of the busiest urban areas in the world, so it is no surprise that someone lost their purse.London is a safe place, but that doesn't mean it is empty of thieves.

Posted by
2788 posts

Yep, Robin and Norma. I cautioned her not to leave her purse dangling on the back of the chair. That's just foolish. I had on my Rick Steves moneybelt under my clothes with the important stuff (credit cards, money, documents), no purse, just a very small amount of money in my pocket to pay for a sandwich. I recommend the moneybelt.

Posted by
425 posts

They say that in London, as with ANY big city, ANYwhere, you are never more that ten feet from a rat. In a restaurant, one would not expect them to be VISIBLE though!!
Roger

Posted by
635 posts

After several years, I finally convinced my wife she doesn't need to lug a purse around on vacation. She now has "travel clothes" where the shirts and pants have pockets that can hold her lip stuff and a little cash. Everything else is in her money belt. It appears that American women have a "must carry a purse" gene. I kept asking my wife what she had in her purse and when she planned to use it. After awhile it became obvious to her that most of it was ballast. I'm the one that always carrys the umbrella, map and guidebook. That's what cargo pants are for.

Posted by
1035 posts

I would not take this caution as a reason never to visit this lovely church or even to eat in the cafeteria. Perhaps this was an isolated event. Maybe the rats were pets who escaped from an annual blessing of the animals. Given the prominence of the place, I would expect that any hygienic issues would soon be corrected or else we'd hear about them closing the place. At least I hope so. My daughter was more weirded out by the fact that we were eating on top of dead people. I tried to tell her there were lots of dead people underground almost everywhere, but that didn't seem to help.

Posted by
12040 posts

Hey, but the music they play upstairs is divine. PS- By some strange coicidence, "Ratatouille" is playing on the TV as I type this. Perhaps the rat was the secret chef?

Posted by
1590 posts

We have lunch here every time we visit London. We enjoy the food and the atmosphere. This church is actively involved with helping homeless people. Profits from the cafe help these causes. Ancient buildings usually have mice. Surely if the place is now some sort of health hazard, the authorities are investigating? Assuming it is not suddenly some sort of health hazard, it seems cruel to be ruining its reputation.

Posted by
26374 posts

at least three rats/mice Not to make light of it, but there is considerable difference between mice and rats. Mice I can expect to see from time to time in an old stone building - you may see them on the Underground too, but if you had had 3 rats under a table that would have been something. Which was it?

Posted by
11798 posts

I was once a cook in an Old Sacramento restaurant. Any place that's been around for awhile, especially if it's near water is going to have mice and rat problems. This won't make you feel better but I've always heard for every mouse you see, there are twenty you don't see. There are ways to keep them away from the food but you can't eliminate them entirely. We were walking one night in Venice and happened across a HUGE rat scurrying into a hole in the side of a building.

Posted by
1 posts

As someone who lives in London and frequently eats at the 'Cafe-in-the-Crypt', I'd like to plead for some sanity here. I very seriously doubt that they are rats. I have seen the odd mouse and have always mentioned it to the staff, who have (without exception) responded to my comments and not shrugged them off. Any building of this age will inevitably have an occasional problem with a mouse. They will be eradicated. Then they will return some time later. That's just the way that it is. But they are mice. Not rats. I've seen rats in London. And I've seen them in NYC. But I've never seen one in St Martin-in-the-Fields. Anyway, everyone working in food establishments has to undergo food hygiene training. And as someone who runs a small food business and has done that training, I am convinced from what I've seen that the staff at St Martin-in-the-Fields are much better trained than the majority of other places in London. I, for one, will continue to eat there and support its work. I'd encourage others to do so too. It's an excellent venue in the West End of London - plenty of atmosphere, good food and reasonable prices.

Posted by
1 posts

I'm sorry to advise those who were hoping for something larger but they are in fact mice. And I can't even claim it's a church mouse (or 3) – just one of the issues we face, like many of our neighbours in London, operating from a Grade 1 listed building constructed in 1726.
However, we take the issue of mice very seriously and we have called our pest control company back to address this sighting. We had a recent unannounced visit by the Environmental Health Team from our local authority, (Westminster City Council) in response to a customer reporting to them the sighting of a mouse in the Café. I am pleased to advise that the inspector was satisfied that we are addressing the issue and noted that we have a strict daily cleansing routine for all our food preparation, service buffet and Café seating areas. On the comment about the theft of a bag - any bag left unattended in a major city tourist destination is vulnerable, even those on the back of a chair you are sat on. Thefts are not very common at St Martin's as we do have a security warden and advise our visitors to keep their bags with them at all times, even when they are in church – the word thief and morals don't go together in our experience. There are many challenges to being a busy attraction at the heart of a large city, but I hope this shows we are doing all we can to address these and give the best possible experience to the hundreds of thousands of people who visit us every year.

Posted by
843 posts

Unfortunately, when in an urban setting, vermin will find their way to a place with food. Even the FDA allows a certain number of rat hairs to be present in our canned/jarred foods because it would be rather impossible to eradicate them in places where food is prepared. They call it "natural contaminants". I am grossed out as much as the next guy, but its a sad (and disgusting) truth that perhaps a majority of food establishments in London (or other urban settings) will have had a rat or two cross their threshold on a nightly basis. Now, an infestation is another thing and I'm sorry that you actually had to see the things. I probably will go back to St. Martin's cafeteria on my next visit because it is probably as sanitary as any other well-run place in London. Augh, maybe I just won't look down!

Posted by
970 posts

I've lived west of London and visited more than a dozen times. For the record, I have seen exactly one rat (and it was a rat) crawling along a rail at an Underground station. St. Martins is a popular local and tourist place. If mice or rats were infesting the place, it seems unlikely no notice would be taken. They should not be there, of course, but there is the possibility that they were "strays" who had managed to find their way in. No one would doubt that there are plenty of mice in London's ancient structures and plenty of rats in it streets.

Posted by
332 posts

Excellent response, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Thank you.

Posted by
143 posts

The best church music on the planet when I've been there. Only twice but I was transported to Heaven both times. Absolutely amazing music, so creative, innovative, inspirational, theologically progressive. Wow! I hope to get there again when I'm in London in August and maybe even eat there. I won't even mention a mouse or rat or theft problem to my wife.

Posted by
1035 posts

"Excellent response, St Martin-in-the-Fields. Thank you." My thought too. The food there is average at the very best. Rat or mouse, if you see one in an eating establishment in the daytime when it is full of people, assume the place has dozens (maybe hundreds) running around at night. The fact the place is old doesn't cut it as an excuse if food is being served.

Posted by
1137 posts

St.-Martin-in-the-Fields has been a regular stop of ours on all of our London trips. The food is delightful, fairly priced and the cafeteria area is always quite clean. If someone saw three mice under an adjacent table, in a 300 year old basement in London, I wouldn't get my knickers in a knot over it. We've experienced much, much worse in New York eateries.

Posted by
340 posts

George took the words right out of my mouth!! St. Martin's is always one of our stops for a tasty and economical lunch, as well as wonderful music. We're looking forward to going there again this fall.

Posted by
2788 posts

I agree with George and Mary. This is going back on my favorite places list. Great lunch spot, and yummy salads and sandwiches.

Posted by
1137 posts

An even better spot not far from St. Martins is Gordon's Wine Bar. They have a website. Arrive at 1100 for lunch or you will be swamped by locals from the nearby offices. For dinnner, better be there at 1640, 4:40PM to beat the office hordes and get an outside table. Get the house carafe of wine, sorry no beers, it's a wine bar after all..... The food on the buffet is old English fare. None better....

Posted by
8293 posts

Kent, you cracked me up. "Just don't order the ratatouille" Do you recommend the mousse?

Posted by
1035 posts

" We've experienced much, much worse in New York eateries." Like what? Rodents in plain site? Were you eating in a Times Square KFC?

Posted by
2349 posts

They were probably lost. They were FIELD mice.

Posted by
991 posts

Nice one Karen! As an acute Anglophyle, I always feel it's necessary for me to defend all things English. This one is a bit harder because now I have to defend English mice. Yes, they are everywhere and one of them is just so darned cute. A very lot of them..not so cute. It's very off putting to see them in a restaruant but in a crypt? You'd expect to find them in a crypt. And a crypt with a restaruant? They think they won the the mouse lottery.

Posted by
2788 posts

I was checking out George's suggestion to try nearby Gordon's Wine Bar. This place looks fantastic. http://www.gordonswinebar.com/hfood.php Use the "Click to view menu" to view some of their home made cheeses. A whole section of the menu for cheese! Looks like the mice should be going here. They'd have their choice of brie, camembert, gouda... Laurel, you are so right; ONE mouse is adorable! Mouse lottery...LOL!

Posted by
112 posts

In addition to being entertained by all these posts I can now add a couple of places to try to eat to our list when we go in August. I will save the rodent story for my companions til after we have lunch. I can't quite make it with just a money belt and carry the Veloce Guide Bag as a cross-body bag since it holds water, camera, and other essentials for two of us. I never have to take it off and have it in front of me at all times, including meals.