'Rat ran onto my lap' - Ramore Restaurant staff kill rodent in front of horrified diners
A popular north coast wine bar was open as normal yesterday hours after a "rat the size of a cat" ran onto a customer's lap.
A customer also described how she and other diners witnessed the rodent being crushed to death at the eatery. The Ramore Wine Bar in Portrush was visited by council pest control officers yesterday, but no infestation was discovered.
The clean bill of health meant the restaurant was free to open, although it is unclear if the incident will affect its four-star hygiene rating.
Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne said it may have been better to have shut up shop at the time to ease public concern.
Ballymena woman Alexs Wallace (25), who's now a special needs teacher in London, was visiting the restaurant with husband Peter, friend Stephen Houston and another friend on Tuesday night when they encountered the unexpected guest as they awaited their meal.
A video of the incident at the restaurant, which is frequented by famous faces such as golfer Graeme McDowell, went viral on social media.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said yesterday that it is "aware of this incident and environmental health officers are currently investigating".
The area of the restaurant where the rat was sighted appeared to be closed when the Belfast Telegraph visited yesterday afternoon, but the rest of the Ramore complex was open.
The Ramore posted Easter opening hours on social media which indicated that all its restaurants would be open. However, the business failed to respond to requests for comment or to issue a statement.
Yesterday, Alexs said she was "getting over the shock" of a rat appearing on her lap as she awaited her dinner.
"We had ordered our food when suddenly we saw a commotion in the corner," she recalled.
"A few people had stood up and were looking up to the ceiling.
"Then a man, who must have been a member of staff or someone on maintenance, came in with two big brushes and walked over to a table.
"He prodded the rafter and this rat the size of a cat fell onto the table, and the place just erupted into hysteria.
"He tried to trap the rat on the table with the brushes but missed it, so the rat started running around the floor.
"It ran towards us, jumped onto Stephen's legs and crawled up the back of my chair onto my lap. A man said, 'Miss, the rat's on you, we need you to get up.'
"I screamed and bolted, and they proceeded to trap the rat under my seat with the brush and crush it in front of everyone with the heel of their shoe.
"There were kids screaming their heads off and blood squirted everywhere.
"It was awful. I saw them lift it and take it somewhere."
Alexs revealed how a waiter then appeared bearing their food.
"Everyone was standing there in disbelief and this boy came out with two pizzas and said, 'Rocket and pesto pasta, anyone?'
"He had just come out of the kitchen and had no idea. We asked him to take it away.
"No one came to speak to us - we asked to speak to someone, and I think it was the manager who came over.
"They moved everyone to another area, there was disinfectant and someone cleaned the floor.
"They refunded us, gave us a free meal which they made fresh, and said we could take a dessert.
"We ate our dinner, however I don't think any of us tasted our food."
Alexs slammed the restaurant's handling of the situation.
She added: "We saw the blood.
"There are probably better ways of dealing with a rat that size in the middle of where people are eating - more hygienic ways."
Alexs feels that the restaurant should apologise and reveal how it is addressing the incident.
"My husband called and asked to speak to a manager [yesterday morning] and a woman said, 'Sorry, we've no manager here right now, we've nothing to say,' and hung up," she said.
"We were really shocked.
"I don't think I could go back to the Ramore Wine Bar.
"From a health and safety perspective it'd be good if they put information out about what they are doing to tackle this.
"It might put the public's mind at ease.
"A public apology or comment would go a long way."
Her friend Stephen (26), from Broughshane, described "shaking off" the rat after it jumped on the back of his legs, and described the way in which it was killed as "properly grim".
"Its tail was trapped with the chair, they held it down with the brush and brought the foot down on the head - it was properly grim, there was a blood patch on the floor and people screaming.
"We were in a side section of the wine bar.
"This was in front of families and children.
"The mother of one family was absolutely raging.
"It was total madness, there were people in the middle of their dinners just staring.
"When the wee fella came out with our food we pointed at the blood stain and told him to take it back.
"The restaurant could have handled it better.
"They could have cleared the area before dealing with the rat, and after trapping it they could have removed it humanely."
Mr Houston said that he felt the Ramore Wine Bar should take "whatever measures necessary" to ensure there's no more vermin.
"If they opened today [Wednesday] I would want to know what they did between last night [Tuesday] and today - you need pest control, a deep clean," he said.
"I think the restaurant should definitely issue a statement on how it is dealing with this to reassure customers.
"I would also like a public apology."
A staff member at the Ramore told the Belfast Telegraph that there was "no manager available" to speak to before hanging up the phone.
The venue also failed to respond to a request for comment via social media.