In the past two weeks I have had two outbursts of post-restaurant distress syndrome. The first was when I was in Iberica on Great Portland Street, London. At 8.45pm I was told my friend and I could not have another glass of wine or dessert, we must leave the table now and apparently we’d been told about it at booking.
My friend had booked the table and of course there had been no mention of it, only that they were busy. But the thing was there were empty tables. Somebody had a rule book and they were following it ruthlessly.
Which poses the question, since when was dining out not dining out but grabbing a window? Knowing you can’t take a lot of time over a complicated menu when you don’t know how large the tapas are, so you fear under or over ordering. There’s simply not time for that. Or in depth conversation. Or relaxing with food and friends…
I wonder if Iberica is under new management. There was a hideous new paint smell and the balcony area had been closed in, a metaphor for the experience. In the end I had to get irate with the manager who got the head waitress who calmed me down. Then she bought a cookbook for each of us in case we wanted to cook tapas at home, I suppose because we’re never going to be allowed in the restaurant again.
I am in mourning. It was one of my favourite and most relaxing restaurants with one of the best croquettas con queso ever.
What is this ratio? Some restaurants going under and some reinventing themselves as expensive fast food with an endless turnover? It’s a fast treadmill and one that is hardly affordable. Emotionally that is.
My next sad experience was in Roka. A few days in advance I’d wanted to book a table for Sunday night. No chance of the restaurant, but we could go downstairs in the bar. No chance of going on a waiting list for the restaurant. No chance of anyone cancelling, ever.
I told the non-English speaking surly girl that this was an important person, a Hollywood A-list film director, but I didn’t say his name because it was real. I’ve read those articles where you ring up and pretend you’re a famous person to see if you can get the table.
No chance. We were in the bar and we had the table from 8.30-10.30pm. really? I said, on a Sunday night? People are going to come into the Shochu lounge and demand dinner at 10 30 pm? You’re really throwing us off the table? ‘Two hour maximum stay,’ she said.
Because it was the A-list Hollywood film director had requested and near to the Charlotte Street Hotel where he was staying we went ahead with the booking, only to be further horrified.
We ordered lamb cutlets, chicken skewers, crab hotpot and various other delights. But the waitress said: ‘If you want some really nice meat you should try this.’ We said we’ve already ordered enough meat, we don’t need any more. She said that we should have the really good meat -Wagu beef as well at £68.00 a portion.
We tried to get into are you telling us the meat we’ve ordered is not the nicest meat and I tried to get into do we have to spend our limited two hours being sold meat we don’t want, but life is too short, and so is two hours.