Just got back from a glorious 2 week trip to Vienna that was amply aided by Chowhounders Sturmi and Shermy and that I'll recap in excruciating detail in the general Europe board, but I wanted to post a quick post about Gordon Ramsey's Plane Food at Heathrow. Since the Vienna trip ended up being so much more reasonable than we expected we decided to splurge a little during our stopover at Heathrow and try our first Gordon Ramsey restaurant. Giving people a relaxing place to eat quality food while traveling seems like a brilliant idea and since we love the UK version of Kitchen Nightmares we wanted to check it out.
First impression was that it was styled in a 60s sort of airport style, which was cool. However, our first sign of a problem was that our server was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. The other servers mostly seemed fairly together but ours was all over the place. We ordered and then waited about 20 minutes for a glass of water. Normally this would be a little annoying but having to ask three different people for water when you've been in dehydrating airplanes all day is terrible. We got martinis that had a weird cloudy citrus-y thing going on. We figured it might be a particular style of martini that we weren't aware of but I think it was just crap dirty martini "mix."
Our starter was a shared plate of risotto which was pretty good. Well cooked and flavorful, it was the highlight. Granted it took over a half hour to get it, but at least it was nice. The second we finished the risotto our server asked if we were "ready for our main courses." We were like, alright, they want to move us through because obviously we have a plane to catch.
After saying "yes" we then waited over a half hour before our server came back, apologized, and said there was some problem and that it would be right out. A while later the manager came by and said it would be ready in "one minute." About five minutes later, starting to worry that we would be late to the gate, we started to count down from 60, with a plan to leave if it didn't arrive by the end of the countdown. It was literally within the last few seconds that the food finally arrived. Well over an hour after ordering. In an AIRPORT where you have a tight timeframe.
I left out lots of moments when my wife or I asked the server or the manager to please hurry it up. At the next table over was a C-list Hollywood actor and the members of his vanity rock band. They arrived about 20 minutes after us and were served about 20 minutes before us. When we asked why they were served so quickly, the answer was that they were in a hurry. When we eventually left they were still sitting there talking about nonsense.
Anyway, the food was a cod dish and a salmon dish, as well as a side salad that we let the server upsell us back when things were more promising. The salad was absolutely nothing. The salmon was fine but the cod was raw in the middle and smelled and tasted like the fish itself was rancid. When the server asked how our food was we said that we couldn't eat the cod and that there was no time to order something else. She took it back and said she'd remove it from the bill. Here's where things get REALLY annoying.
The manager came over and asked us what was wrong with the cod. We said it was raw in the middle and smelled and tasted off. He told us that the kitchen had taken it apart and decided that it was perfectly cooked and beautifully flaky. Now, we're not Gordon Ramsey or anything, bu we're not rubes. We've eaten and cooked a lot of food and my wife has taken a professional food safety course as part of a major culinary program. We know when a piece of fish is rotten. This fish was wiggly and translucent in the middle and it stank of ammonia. The fact that this manager was trying to make us feel wrong (and waste our precious few remaining minutes before getting back on another plane) was offensive to me. I've seen Ramsey dress down a patron on his shows before for sending something back that was cooked properly but I'll take a more skeptical eye towards that in the future because this was no matter of opinion: The food was rotten and poorly prepared.
IF Ramsey himself had come out and called me a stupid donkey for sending that back I still would have stood my ground. But to have this random guy talk down to me like I've just eaten at my first non-McDonald's was too much.
To add insult to injury the bill for 2 martinis, one app and ONE entree came to over 50 pounds, about $77. This included a 3 pound "TWO TOP TABLE FEE" which we had no warning about, and a "DISCRETIONARY" 12.5% tip that I will promptly be disputing with my credit card. I'm sorry, you don't get to give me bad service and attitude and then add a discretionary tip to a two person table without any warning that that might happen. At that point we literally had to run to our gate (stopping only to get a prepackaged egg salad triangle sandwich at a lunch counter for $4 or so) so I couldn't dispute anything. Obviously Plane Food knows full well that their location means we won't be regular customers, so they don't care, but we could have had a great experience and gone to other Ramsey restaurants. Not a chance now.