VENICE’S sky-high restaurant prices are almost as famous as the city’s miles of canals, with arguing over a bill in St Mark’s Square as much a part of the tourist experience as taking a gondola trip under the Bridge of Sighs.

But last week police were brought in after a group Japanese tourists were charged an eyewatering €1100 (£970) for four steaks, a plate of fried fish and some water.

The report shocked even the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, who asked for the claims to be looked into immediately.

“We will thoroughly examine this episode, we’ll check to see if the complaint was made properly,” he tweeted.

“If this disgraceful episode is confirmed, we’ll do all we can to punish those responsible. We are for justice – always!”

The four Japanese men paid the bill at the Osteria da Luca and only complained to police when they returned to Bologna, where they are studying.

Local campaigners Gruppo 25 Aprile who argue for “sustainable tourism” and whose members include gondola builders, doctors and lawyers, have taken up the case, saying the greediness of the St Mark’s Square eaterie “undermines the good name of Venice and causes harm to all Venetians”.

There was also a suggestion Asian tourists were seen as something of a soft target.

Last November, Luke Tang, a university lecturer from Birmingham, was charged £463 for a meal with his parents at a different restaurant.

The week before, a Japanese couple was charged €120 for a plate of spaghetti with lobster, when they had expected it to be €8.

It’s not clear if the bad publicity will affect Osteria da Luca. The restaurant has shocking reviews on TripAdvisor, with 83 per cent of them describing it as terrible.

One wrote: “Overpriced and bad quality. Worst experience ever. Don’t go there. A waste of time. They just take your money.