I've been to Salt House on Abbey Road a few times and have really liked it! It's a pretty, friendly gastro pub; the food and wine list are good and decently priced, and the atmosphere is really casual and comfortable. I'd love to call it my 'local' but last night (Sunday), the place hit all of my pet peeve buttons at the same time.
They were totally unprepared for the number of diners, even though they were fewer than on a weeknight. It's not a new restaurant, and they have always been open on Sundays. This really gets to me. There's no good excuse for a place that has so much going for it but messes up due to inattention to 'little things'.
There was only one waiter for a room of 12 or so tables. There are usually two or three for two sittings' worth, but there are far fewer diners on a Sunday so reduced staff would be normal (and not usually a problem). But for some reason last night it was -- ultimately when it became obvious that the party of 10 at one of the tables was going to monopolize the waiter's time, a diner finally got up and went to the maitre d' and said something.
I can't imagine that this party of 10 walked in off the street without booking (we were just two and we had booked) so why the restaurant manage this more efficiently? The maitre d' then stepped in as a waiter - and apologised to other diners, and jumped right in and did a great job -- but why did it take a complaint?
Also, I hate false advertising. On yesterday's menu (made up daily), there was mulled wine. When we ordered at 19h15 (15 minutes after sitting down, even though at that time, there were only two parties - the waiter was not in evidence) I asked for a glass. The waiter advised that they had just put the wine to steep and that it would be another half hour before it was ready. I revisited the issue at 20h45, when I ordered pudding (there was an almost unacceptable wait between courses), he said it still wasn't 'ready'.
For G-d's sake! The place stops serving at 10, so when did they plan to start ladling out the mulled wine? Seems fairly evident to me, but if they list something on the menu that takes hours of preparation, shouldn't they start working on it ahead of time in anticipation that someone might want to order it? My feeling is that someone forgot to put it on the stove, or they changed their minds. But if this was the case, I would have appreciated some honesty - the waiter could have just said 'Look I'm really sorry, there isn't any' or 'we forgot to make it'. And same with not being able to staff up on a Sunday or handle the business...then just don't open for dinner on Sundays. But don't do a half-a**ed job.
Sorry to rant but if I didn't like it so much, I wouldn't complain. After all the food was great (langoustines with aioli; roast partridge on a bed of spinach; fantastic suet pudding which I barely got to taste because my date scarfed it up so quickly; and un-greasy banana fritters).
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