All reader reviews by debbie

Smollensky's (Canary Wharf)

I most certainly agree with the last person - I'm so fed up with these automatic tips and I never EVER leave anything extra, however good the service, when they add the money on your bill. It's just rude... if they can't work out how much to pay their staff, they really shouldn't be in business.. and besides, when did the 12.5% kick in automatically?

Anyway, I am writing a review for Smollensky's. Having written just under half a year ago, and having come here quite a few times, I reckon I have to write again. I know this restaurant well enough to have written with a lot of confidence about their poor service in two branches in the area.

I was somewhat surprised therefore, to see a full restaurant this past Friday. It was certainly buzzing and so were the four waiters! That is perhaps the lowest number of waiting staff I have seen yet, at Smollensky's and most certainly the lowest waiting staff to diners ratio!

I was very pleased with having decided to go there for dinner. We had decided to go to Browns, but they forcast a 20-30 minute waiting time, so we thought we would venture back to Smollensky's, even though it is always a disappointment.

The merguez starter was a little lacking in presentation, and the relish slightly too sweet for my taste but nevertheless quite charming.

The chips were the most perfect I have had in a long time, and we both went for burgers which were actually quite good.

Unfortunately we were too stuffed for dessert and too tired for a coffee, but in all, I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Our waiter was the highlight of the evening - having expected to lounge around for a typical half an hour in between short bursts of service attention, we were pleasantly surprised that he remembered to serve our drinks, check that our food was alright, offer us dessert etc, not hold us up waiting to pay the bill.. and all that with a smile!

Only thing I would say is, the floor manager could have been a little less dismissive - he was sitting at a table by the door perhaps with some business partner. We did not get prompt attention until he got up from the table and we realised he was actually working there. We were passed straight on to another lady in a suit - the delegation was a little swift and unfriendly. But that's a comparatively small detail in the grander scheme of things... hopefully it wasn't just a one off, or a star stand-in waiter service that we experienced that evening because we might be tempted to go back sooner by choice, despite the still slightly over-priced menu and the 12.5% service charge...

Monday, October 29, 2007
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 7 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 5 | Value for money 5


The Gun

I must say I was terribly disappointed with this restaurant. I had read all the reviews on london-eating and was looking forward to some great service and food when we went on a Friday night.

From the reviews, I wonder if the reason for my bad experience was that we didn't book for a private party?

We went just for a dinner for two. The place was quite loud, and when we walked in, there were a group of people waiting for cabs outside who had obviously just been dining as a group. When we walked in, the group of waiters by the till did not notice us. The door opens straight into the dining area as the place is laid out like a pub with dining tables. We were left to stand with people looking at us from their tables, for a couple of minutes before a waitress came to give us our table.

We were given the menu, but it took a while for anyone to take notice of us again.

It turns out that there was a group of people sitting at two tables to either side of us who were getting a lot of attention and some among them were a little over-lubricated perhaps.

There were about 6-8 waiting staff who spent most of their time crowding around the till, which was not far from our table.

We were served first by an abruptly friendly Canadian waitress (if that makes any sense) who spoke very fast. The order was taken but our drinks and started took its time to arrive.

For the main course, they forgot one of our side orders, although it was rather nondescript.

I have to say I was disappointed with the choice on offer, and wanting to try something different I opted for the Spaetzle in truffle sauce. Unfortunately, what turned up was a heap of oil-soaked doughy fingers. The flavour was certainly pleasing, because I like truffles, but it was a terrible disappointment.

The other main course ordered did not boast the freshness expected and experienced at another local restaurant which also sources its fish "direct" from Billingsgate market. Perhaps, the usual chef was absent that day?

The waiting staff seemed very inexperienced, aloof and disengaged. Unfortunately, I failed to soak up any atmosphere and had much too much time to notice that the place needed more attention to the decor. The bar is certainly its piece de resistance, but the lack of atmosphere draws ones attention to the blank windows and walls... something was definitely lacking in our visit.

Unsurprisingly we passed up on any coffee or dessert. I wonder if anyone else has had such an experience of this apparently excellent restaurant?

Thursday, October 04, 2007
Overall rating 3 stars
Food 4 | Service 3 | Atmosphere 2 | Value for money 4


Wagamama (Bank St)

Unlike the last commentor, I have seenJapanese people eating at this restaurant. I know that oriental people only eat here for the convenience, and let us not patronise the "Westerners" who eat here regularly - people around Canary Wharf know their food (on the whole)!

Wagamama is slightly overpriced for what it is, agreed, and my regular 42 from the menu can be a little temperamental, depending on how much pickled ginger the chef feels like piling on top, but I have to say it's good canteen food. The portions are also very good.

If you like, it's Japanacised canteen food, and for what it is, it's very reasonable compared to the other food you get within the Canary Wharf centres.

The service is hectic but invariably good and friendly - even when we had to order our green tea twice last time we were there (but then it came twice too!!)

It's always noisy in there, but the acoustics are good enough for you not to have to shout to hear your conversation.

And the chocolate fudge cake with wasabi, well... don't start me craving for that!

Thursday, July 05, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 7 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 6


Cafe Brera (Cabot Square)

Amazing...ok the prices have gone up, but they do the best sandwiches and coffees around Canary Wharf. The rolls/sandwiches are imaginative, freshly made and toastable, lovely!

The service is super-efficient as well - it's a coffee shop, but handles very busy lunch hours superbly.

I love. I love.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 8


Tiffinbites (Canary Wharf)

Since Tiffinbites has decided to enlarge and focus on their bar, I'm afraid the food menu has become more limited and less appealing. I came here with my husband last month and was disappointed to find mostly unimaginative take-away style food unless we wanted the typically super-hot beer food. When I asked if I could have one of the hotter dishes but without the heat, the waiter said that it was not possible because everything was pre-prepared.

We could no longer sit inside in one of the nice booths in the restaurant because we were there to eat and not just drink, and the evening having been cold, the excessive air conditioning outside the restaurant made our meal rather less enjoyable.

We used to think the food at Tiffinbites was quite nice, albeit a bit overpriced for what it is, but were very disappointed it's now focusing more on its booze...

In addition, the menu is chaotic in presentation - I think it's gone over-funky!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 4 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 4


La Figa

Lovely restaurant - the waiters are energetic and friendly. Even though the last time we went, we were sat next to a big party of people who just drank themselves to very high decibels of noise and smoked their whole way through, the food was delicious and the service was good enough for us to enjoy our stay.

The desserts are also lovely, even though we gave up after being so tired out by the noise - despite the large group next to us suddenly calming down when they finally ordered their food!

Would definitely recommend this restaurant!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 9 | Service 8 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


Caffe Nero (Canary Wharf)

No prizes for guessing that the atmosphere in here is lacking, that is why more people go to Starbucks across the square.

I actually prefer Nero's coffee to Starbucks, but this branch has appalling service. I have twice been asked if they can give me a paper cup because they are closing soon (in 2 hours!) and when I asked for a mug, there were plenty.

They were cleaning the toilets with the door wide open near where I was sitting on one occasion, and mopping the floor around where I was another time (not because anything had been spilt - but I guess there weren't many customers, so they thought they could save time after closing) long before they were due to close.

I don't even come here anymore, even if Starbucks is packed full. Any other Nero's but this one, thank you very much!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 8 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 5


Carluccio's (Canary Wharf)

I love this restaurant - the food is always reliably tasty and the service is fine, if you wave around enough.

It's always packed so booking is a must on a Friday evening!

I must say, I wish this chain hadn't gotten so successful, because I do believe that it has become less creative and characterful, the more branches its opened, and the more samey the menus have become - pity. I wish it still felt like a deli-restaurant. I still love it though!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 7 | Value for money 8


Plateau Restaurant

A nice experience of an over-hyped restaurant. It is purely a "designer" restaurant, the focus being in the design of the layout and furniture, and its food.

The service was reasonable, the food itself was nothing special, and extremely overpriced for its lack of character, however, it was fun to observe.

Interestingly enough, we were given a very nice booth facing the kitchen, where we were able to observe the habits of the kitchen staff. Because the waiting staff repeatedly forgot to close the sliding doors - something often corrected by the head waiter as he checked up on procedings - we had a constant view of one of the bins in the kitchen.

We were not disappointed, as we knew what to expect, it was fun but not worth paying the money to experience again - except perhaps to lounge around in the bar, which was very nice and had a good view.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 4 stars
Food 5 | Service 5 | Atmosphere 4 | Value for money 2


The Sunborn Yacht Hotel

I have to say, I was appalled at the service here. I didn't even get as far as the restaurant. My husband and I have never been so rudely treated at a place of hospitality before! We came here to enquire about hiring out a room for special occasion dining and had made an appointment.

When we approached the reception desk, we were unceremoniously put aside and vaguely pointed in the direction of some sofas to wait while the staff saw to some business matters with someone with a laptop.

We had waited for over 20 minutes, while the three, poorly presented, reception staff joked about with the laptop lady. My husband and I were about to walk out when a very inexperienced-sounding lady, approached us.

We were then given a very disappointing tour of the restaurant and private rooms. The decor is very reminiscent of 80's casino film sets and the restaurant was reasonably presented although not what you would expect from their brochures and location.

Unfortunately, the Sunborn Yacht is someone's great idea and could do very well for business, but it is tired looking, staffed by unprofessional poorly trained people, with a poor command of English (even though they are not foreign) and our visit simply served to cross it off our list of venues to consider.

What a disappointment!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 0 stars
Food 0 | Service 0 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 0


Mem Saheb

The best-kept secret in the Docklands. Our favourite Indian, if not overall favourite restaurant in the area! I have to say, when we first discovered it, it was a pleasant surprise - it doesn't look like that much from the outside, and the location is a bit off the beaten track, but my is it worth it.

The service is charming, the food is delicious though - I can't eat food that has too much heat, but they don't just pile on the heat at this Indian - it is spiced properly. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS PLACE!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10


All Bar One (Canary Wharf)

Great if you're here for brunch on a lazy Saturday morning. Not if you're in a hurry to go anywhere though. The service is a little lazy too! Although I love the atmosphere and location - if you have time to spare, and have a lot to chat about, you won't get bothered very much by the service - there were just two of us and we ordered a simple brunch deal. It took about 20 minutes...!

Can't wait to come back and waste some more time... seriously!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 8 stars
Food 9 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


Sri Nam

I wouldn't recommend eating here on a Friday night. The bar downstairs is too noisy and the smoke travels up from the stairs - although I suppose that won't be a problem soon.

It is supposed to be more upmarket Thai, but unfortunately, the design of the building does not allow for very comfortable restaurant dining, when the bar is in full swing. I haven't been here for lunch, but would not recommend you trying to get past the bouncers on a Friday night!

The food is not bad and service a little unfocused and non-descript, the decor is nice though. I don't think I'll be going back too soon.

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 6 stars
Food 8 | Service 7 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 6


Lilly’s Restaurant, Bar and Grill

I love this restaurant and I don't know why London-eating has not published any of my rave reviews!

My husband proposed to me here - although we didn't test the special occasion factor by making it a big show. We love this place and especially like to sit in the booths at the end of a quiet day.

The food never disappoints and even though it's not the cheapest around, that's why we think of Lilly's when we need a treat. The service is always great, the people are always friendly and attentive, and discreet when we are just relaxing and enjoying the very warm and confortable atmosphere.

I cannot recommend this restaurant enough!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 10 stars
Food 10 | Service 10 | Atmosphere 10 | Value for money 10


Prezzo (Docklands)

Is this Mexican? I thought it was supposed to be Italian a la Pizza Express, but rather less substantial even!

Bring back Chimichanga's, even with the scorched Chicken and so on!!!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 2 stars
Food 2 | Service 2 | Atmosphere 0 | Value for money 2


SuperStar Excel

I have to say I was not impressed with this restaurant a couple of years ago, when I came first. I had not been back until the beginning of this year, when I heard from friends that the Dimsum had vastly improved and they actually had a Dimsum chef now.

I have to say that the food is very good. I heard a few months ago that the dinner menu is not much to speak of, but took the plunge of going there for Father's Day, a week early.

The portions are slightly less than at most Chinese restaurants - I expect that is because of the prime location the restaurant is in, so that it serves mainly Western customers, especially those from the hotels nearby. I imagine this is the best value restaurant within hotel and Excel walking distance.

However, the quality of the food was mostly excellent. We asked that no MSG be added to the food, and were impressed that they really didn't add anything and the food was cooked superbly.

The only thing I would now fault the restaurant with, is the service - some of the waiters are very nice. One of them is a little shy and retiring. The shape of the restaurant layout means the few waiters that are there, often will not see people coming into the restaurant when they are at the door. There definitely needs to be a bit more training for the waiting staff.

The toilets are always in good order, an important thing to note about Chinese restaurants, I find. The restaurant is very nicely decorated. The amount of parking now available has improved, although that is very difficult to remedy beyond the current situation, because of its location. I have to say, I hope they improve their waiters, because they deserve to do well!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 7 stars
Food 9 | Service 6 | Atmosphere 6 | Value for money 8


Smollensky's (Canary Wharf)

I have a love-hate relationship with this restaurant!

I love the location, it's very comfortable to sit in, wherever you are in the restaurant. You can have a nice intimite and quiet dinner despite the bars downstairs pumping away with their loud music (including the Smollensky's one itself) and the only fault about the location, would be the ticker bar outside and the Reuters' news screen that casts strange lights across the restaurant.

Anyway, the food is fine, the price is reasonable for Canary Wharf, as Canary Wharf standards go, this is no special restaurant (but then neither are most of them) but everything is perfectly fine for a general night out.

The service can be pretty appalling though. The waiters don't offend, but I find they are the same in the Wapping branch of Smollensky's too - they have a tendency to stand around and do nothing when you are waiting to be served.

I have never been in this restaurant when they are short-staffed. I often come on a Friday evening when the bars are still full, and there is almost always enough staff for a waiter per table! Unfortunately, there is never much of an atmosphere, except for what you create yourself. The waiters are inattentive, from the moment you step into the restaurant, and make no connection with you throughout your meal.

It is such a shame - because I still come here from time to time, but definitely for the nice comfy bench along the edge than for the service!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 5 stars
Food 7 | Service 1 | Atmosphere 3 | Value for money 7


Las Iguanas (Royal Festival Hall)

Loved it!

What a lovely restaurant! A colleague a group of 15 of us for a leaving do. A couple of people had already been to the Leicester branch and loved the food. And what a recommendation!

The restaurant was packed on a Thursday evening - even by 7pm when we had our booking. Unfortunately, the airconditioning broke down, but because of our big group, we were not able to get moved outside.

It was a pity - if not for the heat, I think I would have gone for dessert - the food was amazing, everyone loved their starters and mains, the drinks were fun - even the non-alcoholic ones.

Our waiter was very capable - even though we thought we'd confused him with our orders. When we asked him to repeat our order to make sure he'd got all 15 down right, he almost remembered which orders belonged to which person - we were impressed.

You can put your details down on the las iguanas website for a 10% discount card as well, and they were very good about that. The leaving colleague also got a complimentary drink on the house, which was a simple touch.

I'm definitely signing myself up for the 10% card, but discount or no discount, I sure am coming back here with my friends!

Friday, June 15, 2007
Overall rating 9 stars
Food 10 | Service 9 | Atmosphere 8 | Value for money 8


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