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I went with a friend pursuing one of the best burgers in London - according to Daniel Young's Young&Foodish blog. In this respect I was not disappointed. The burger was truly fantastic. It's a pity, then, that in all other respects this place was a shambles.
First alarm bell was when we arrived and I gave my name saying I had a reservation. The guy behind the desk looked at this book and simply to me – ‘I haven't got your name’ - then he just looked at me. I surveyed the half empty restaurant, waiting for him to say something like "Sorry sir, there has obviously been a problem with our telephone booking system, Not to worry we of course have a table for two – please come with me.” But he obviously didn’t attend my imaginary school of basic restaurant service and all I got was silence. I wondered what he expected me to say. Was he preparing for a pantomime performance of “Yes I did!” “No You didn’t !” ?
I finally said to him “I booked by telephone an hour ago.” He responded – “Yes – I don’t have it.” \i said - irritated now – “Obviously I’d like a table for two anyway so do you have one or not?”
The second alarm bell was the after he finally said ‘Of course we have a table for two’ – he asked us to wait in the bar for 10 minutes while the table was made ready. Again I surveyed the empty restaurant with at least 3 visible tables already ‘ready’. So I asked if we couldn’t be seated straight away since I didn’t want to drink anything before eating. He said they were for other people and it wouldn’t be long. So I agreed to go the bar – where we waited and waited. One couple were shown to one of the ‘ready’ tables. Then after complaining to a passing suited person who - I was told - was the manager of the hotel, who finally showed us himself to one of the other tables that had been ‘ready’ all along.
The food itself was delicious - my friend had the cauliflower soup followed by the merguez sausages, I had the Mal burger. The burger was genuinely one of the best I have ever had.
Since my friend had 2 courses and I just the one – I asked them to bring the soup and the burger together which they did. When my friend finished the soup I was nowhere near even half way through the very substantial burger. But we waited an age for the merguez to arrive. When I asked Mr. Attitude about it – that’s what I’ll call him now – his reply was a ‘Yes it’s coming’ with that whining intonation that makes it clear what he is really saying is “Hark at Mr. Demanding here – where does he think he is – Buckingham Palace?”!
The last monumental wait was when I tried to pay – the bill came quickly enough but we waited 15 minutes for someone to finally come with the card machine.
Finally, as we left my friend asked for her coat – but they couldn’t find it. Twice they took her to the cloakroom to point it out and twice they cam back empty handed and just left her standing there.
Meanwhile I was looking around the place realizing just how shabby the fixtures were. The place is decked out in cheap stained veneer wood. Everything looks worn and the furniture and the floor have areas where the black stain has gone and the pale wood underneath shows through. Most of the surfaces were tacky and tables in the bar were visibly dirty with obvious crumbs and glass marks.
Finally my friend searched the restaurant herself and found her coat in an area adjacent to our table where the hotel manager had deposited it. The restaurant staff had simply left my friend to her search. When she emerged with the coat – she said to Mr. Attitude – “I found it”. His reply was a flat “Oh Did you?” For me this was the final straw. I immediately tore him off a strip telling him the reply was not “Did you?” in a situation like that. I enquired as to his awareness that he was meant to be in a service role and asked him if that’s the way he thinks he should treat restaurant guests. I said all of this very loudly, audibly annoyed with him.
It’s a shame that Mr. Attitude and the shabbiness of the place – but mostly Mr. Attitude – spoils the great work done in the kitchen. I have worked in restaurants and I know exactly what the chefs I have worked with would do with Mr. Attitude if he served their customers like this …
Comment on this reader review
Food 9 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 4
Friday, February 25, 2011
I tried the 2 courses for 19.95 and thought it was excellent value and excellent food. All of the ingredients are local and fresh. Granted it can be a little quiet but I think that's because its hidden under the hotel.
Comment on this reader review
Food 8 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 9
Friday, February 04, 2011