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Harlem Cafe 'worst ever salad' becomes best seller despite Tripadvisor review

By Jonny Bell

Published 13/09/2016

The board on Bedford Street has attracted swarms of customers.
The board on Bedford Street has attracted swarms of customers.
Harlem Cafe owner Faye.
The notorious prawn salad.
Harlem Cafe on Belfast's Bedford Street.

The online reviews of many a keyboard warrior have become the bane of many a restaurant owner's life, but one Belfast cafe has taken them head on in a very different approach.

The Harlem Cafe is offering its customers the chance to experience the "worst salad one woman ever had in her life".

The offering is in response to one woman's review of its prawn salad on the Tripadvisor website.

And the award-winning cafe thought it could only respond by advertising the fact.

Billed as a "superfood" dish, it includes prawns, rocket, seeds, raspberries, strawberries, quinoa and vegetables topped with shavings of cucumber and carrot.

Chef Faye McFarland told the BBC she took the critically review personally.

"I made it, only for one woman to chop my ankles off - that's how I felt when she wrote the review," she said.

"But advertising the dish has attracted people. I think they just want to try this amazing worst salad."

More: Revealed: Ulster best restaurants, cafes and chefs named at Irish Restaurant Awards 2016

Fay said she does consider customer reviews from the likes of Tripadvisor.

The notorious prawn salad.
The notorious prawn salad.
Harlem Cafe owner Faye.
The board on Bedford Street has attracted swarms of customers.
Harlem Cafe on Belfast's Bedford Street.

She added: "If it is a genuine complaint - and people do have the right to complain - if it's a size issue, overcooked, greasy. I will take it on board and go back to my chefs.

"I dislike Tripadvisor. I feel it's a hidden way for people to vent their anger and they always seem to add a bit on and make it sound really bad.

"And I just thought I'd tell everybody in the world about this salad."

Despite the review many of those who have tried the salad have been surprised about how good it is.

One diner was attracted to the dish by the advertisement, he told the BBC: "I wondered just how bad it could be - and it was actually quite nice."

The cafe advertised the dish on its sandwich board outside the Bedford Street establishment. Among those to share an image of it was the Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner.


A photo posted by Sophie Turner (@sophiet) on


Faye has owned the the Harlem Cafe for the past seven years.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't know where I got the idea from. We would put specials on the board or quirky sayings at times and I just thought why not this review.

"And the response was so good we kept it up.

"The tourists' response is incredible. The Americans come in and demand to have a try the prawn salad.

"While this is a bit of fun, these reviews can be very harming. People don't realise I have a staff of 33 and the damage their reviews can do.

"I am an approachable person and would always encourage people to come to me and tell me their concerns before they leave and we can sort it out there and then and they don't need to write the reviews that can do a lot of harm."

And asked what is the star of their menu - as opposed to the worst of the menu - Faye added: "It's our seafood chowder.

"It is a fantastic dish, all local ingredients all freshly prepared - it's delicious."

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