A top French restaurant in Belfast has apologised after a rodent was spotted running amok on the premises.
Bastille, on the Lisburn Road, opened its doors to the public two months ago and has received rave reviews from critics.
But a complaint was lodged with Belfast City Council’s public health department yesterday after a group of diners claimed they spotted a rat in the restaurant on Monday night.
Timothy Kirkpatrick was visiting Bastille for the second time with his wife Katrina and two other couples when they spied the rodent.
Mr Kirkpatrick (40) said: “I’ve been to the restaurant before and we really enjoyed it so went back again with our friends.
“It was about 10pm and there were about 20 other people there. We had just finished our main course when we saw the rat running through the restaurant.
“The ladies at our table were terrified and put their feet on the chairs — as did most of the other women in the restaurant.
“At one stage the rat sat on top of a woman’s handbag for a good 10 to 20 seconds. I couldn’t believe it, I don’t think anyone could.”
Mr Kirkpatrick said he was very disappointed in the way the restaurant handled the situation.
“The staff tried to catch it and continued to serve food,” he added. “It was quite unbelievable, to be honest.
“They didn’t apologise or offer to waive the cheque or anything. At the time I didn’t mind, but the more I think about it now it is just ridiculous.”
A council spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph that staff from their environmental health service investigated reports that a rat was spotted on the premises, but that an inspection showed no evidence of infestation.
She said: “Environmental health officers visited the restaurant this morning and carried out a thorough inspection. No evidence of rat activity was found at this time. However, bait was laid by the business as a precautionary measure.
“We will continue to monitor the situation over the next few days and we are satisfied that no further action is necessary at this time.”
Bastille’s general manager Guillaume Rabillat said a rodent had been spotted on the premises, but denied that it was a rat.
Speaking before the health inspection, Mr Rabillat apologised and said he was confident further investigation would show it was a one-off incident.
He said: “I spoke to my staff who told me it was a mouse, not a rat. As soon as I heard about it I called pest control who were in place first thing this morning.
“We have no idea how it got in, but I am convinced it ran in through either the front or back door. I am 100% confident that there are no rodents in the restaurant.”
He added: “I am very proud of Bastille and how well it has done since we opened.
“We passed all health and safety checks just two months ago and I am sure the health committee will discover there are no mice or rats in the kitchen or anywhere else.
“I am so sorry to any diners who were there that night and who suffered any shock or upset over the incident. We offer our sincerest apologies and will do what we can to make it up to them.”
Belfast Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Kirkpatrick, a member of the health and environmental services committee, said the incident could tarnish the Lisburn Road’s reputation for fine dining.
He said: “Lisburn Road’s restaurateurs are very proud of the reputation this area holds. I am very concerned that one-off incidents like this are enough to damage everyone else’s reputation and may deter people from leaving the town centre and going to the Lisburn Road to dine.
“It is essential that this type of incident stops right here.”