Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Poison Ivy

On Sunday, I quietly acknowledged that I have now been gracing this planet with my presence for 37 years. Clad in a lovely, warm coat - a gift from my Lovely Husband™ - we made our way to The Ivy to meet up with the ever charming A&B for dinner. As it happens, I have had a long-standing self-imposed obligation to treat A&B to dinner there, so it was my shout. And just as well, I think, because it put me in the position to do something about an injustice that might otherwise have obtained.

The food was lovely. The service was pretty poor. Here is one example of the level of poverty. I ordered a side of vegetables to go with my main course. It didn't arrive along with everything else. By the time I caught the attention of a waiter (their attention was not easy to attract, and I wasn't in a good position for attracting it), I had finished my main course. Only then did I get the chance to ask where the side dish was, and only then (after another few minutes) did it turn up. By which time it more or less constituted a separate course, albeit on the same plate.

In between receiving dessert menus and actually being able to place an order we waited about 20 minutes. In between placing dessert orders and having the things turned up, we waited about another 20. Then again trying to get some attention so that we could ask for the bill. The place wasn't especially busy, and they didn't look in the least bit short-staffed.

So, when the bill arrived (£300 for four of us), the service charge was somewhere in the region of £36, and had already been added. They had also added an additional cover charge of £2 per person. I asked to have the service charge removed, so the woman sorting out the bill (who was about the fifth or sixth member of staff who had dealt with our table that night) went away and got the head waiter, who asked what the problem was with the bill. I just said I wasn't happy to pay the service charge because the service had been quite poor. He promptly took it off, and the world improved just a little bit.

I've been to quite a few good restaurants in my time. In every place I've been that charges the kind of prices we were paying, the service has been exemplary. In The Ivy, it was not so. Sadly, I think they are now relying on their name to continue to bring them customers, despite not offering good value for money any more. I feel particularly sorry for the chefs, who send out excellent food, only to have the overall dining experience undermined by the serving staff. And I feel sorry for the serving staff who individually can be attentive, friendly and helpful, but collectively are not organised well enough to run the restaurant properly or efficiently. But there you have it.


Inexplicable DeVice said...

A belated happy birthday to you.

It's a shame your dining experience wasn't closer to top notch, but snaps to you for not paying the service charge.

David said...

I would like to second those congratulations on withholding the cover charge - I daresay the service charge should also not have been paid.

"Service" and "cover" both have the whiff of the stud, would the equine semantic have fulfilled instead?

I am at a loss, as you know, why people would attend such an "open wallet" establishment in the first place. The celebs have their private section upstairs, apparently, so it is less of a hob-nob and more of a low probability brush.

On a related note, is the hateful emergence of the term "fine dining", because to my cynical view it is the triumph of the "open wallet" over good food.

Qenny said...

No, no - it was the service charge that I didn't pay. I paid the cover charge, since in theory, that's for the linen, which we did use.

The last time I ate there, which admittedly was a while ago, there were slebs eating downstairs, but I think it's become more popular now with the hoi polloi, so bumping into someone in the loo is about as close to The Famous as you now get.