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Woman suspects restaurant of being racist - so she rings them up to test them

Mirror logo Mirror 13/03/2018 Harriet Clugston

a person smiling for the camera: Credits: PA © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: PA When Fatima Rajina suspected she had been 'racially profiled' when refused a table at a French restaurant in Welwyn Garden City, she decided to investigate further. 

Fatima, who is British-Bangladeshi, had been visiting the town for the first time with Nasar Rahman, who is British-Pakistani.

They had gone into a Côte Brasserie branch, where they were allegedly told there it was "reservation only" by the waiter.

A member of staff at the Parisian-themed chain is said to have informed the pair they couldn't be seated for brunch, despite the fact Fatima could see several empty tables.

However, the PhD student, who comes from Luton, suspected there was more to it.

Unconvinced, Fatima said she and her friend then decided to phone the restaurant using a "white accent" to try and book a table, the Hertfordshire Mercury reports.

They were promptly told a table would be available in 15 minutes.

She explained: "We went to Bill’s first and they said they were chock-a because of Mother's Day.

"They were very apologetic about it, very polite, and as we don't know the area well we asked if they could recommend somewhere else and they told us to try Côte .

"We turned up and a woman told us to wait a moment at the door, before a white waiter came up and said 'sorry we only take reservations' - no hello, no nothing."

The reception they got gave Fatima "an instant gut feeling".

The PhD student, whose work at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London focuses on British Bangladeshi Muslim identity, took to Twitter to vent about their treatment.

It quickly struck a chord with others who could identify with the pair's experience.

She continued: "As we were walking away my friend turned to me and said ‘do you think we just got rejected because of our skin colour?

"We just felt that was the case but we wanted to put it to the test.

"So he called up and put on the poshest accent he could and said 'hello we are really interested in booking a table for Mother's Day, do you have a table?'

"And they were very polite and said they could offer us one in 15 minutes."

"He confronted her and said 'well why wasn't I offered one when I was in the restaurant ten minutes ago?’

"She got really flustered and said if we came straight away she would give us one but obviously we said 'well we don’t want the table now’ and told her that we would be taking it further.

"After the phone call we just got in the car and felt so upset, so we just went back to Luton and ate there.

"It reminded me of things when my parents were young, when there used to be signs on restaurants saying 'no Irish, no blacks, no dogs .'

Following the incident, Fatima and Nasar have written reviews on TripAdvisor, Google and Facebook, and Fatima says she wants an apology from the company.

The 30-year-old said: "I'd like a public apology for how we were treated.

"I'm aware that Welwyn and Hertfordshire as a whole is predominantly white, so I don't know if its a lack of training or what but I'd recommend better training.

"I think they would only say something because it’s gone public but of course I also expect that franchises like Cote are probably not that fussed about ethnic minority customers as we're not their base.

"I don't think they particularly would care about us essentially."

MirrorOnline has contacted Côte Brasserie in Welwym Garden City and is awaiting a statement.

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