Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ETHICAL REVIEW? MY ASS!


The way customers hear about a restaurant has dramatically changed over the past 2 to 3 years.
A good article by Fay Maschler in the ES would then assure you of a great occupancy for a long while.
However, with the democratisation of restaurant reviewing on the internet, it is really now down to consensus across restaurant reviewing/booking platforms to fill up a restaurant.

As a restaurateur, I always check our reviews online- toptable, opentable, Hardens, tripadvisor… I tend to check their sites every other day.
It is nice to know that every single guest has the potential to express their views and it helps us checking consistency and guest enjoyment on an almost day to day basis.
Also, sometimes guest take the time to email me directly to express their enjoyment but also their disappointments. I always make sure to respond as quickly as
possible after investigation and always try to buy back the trust our guests
have put in our brand.
It is not rare that we re-invites guests or sends them bottles of wines or Champagne or even reimburse their bills when we feel that we really made massive mistakes.
Those cases are very rare but they do happen.

But now we have almost felt the victim of a very nasty cocktail between Jeremy (diner) & London-Eating.co.uk(review site)

So last week, Jeremy after having diner here, sent Alice, our booking coordinator this email:

Date: 18 October 2011 at 12:57
Subject: RE: Booking from Jeremy , Oct 17th

Hi Alice,
Unfortunately we were not able to see the
kitchen last night, even though the restaurant was not full. In addition to my
email, I also asked a waiter halfway through the meal, who said it would be
fine. But by the end of our dinner, we had still not been taken to the kitchen,
so we asked again - by which time, we were told that the kitchen was closing!

I know it sounds like
a small detail, but my wife loves cooking, and it would have really helped to
make the occasion special. I hope if we visit again, we will be able to arrange
it.

Thanks
Jeremy

Upon receiving this email, Alice forwarded to me and after talking to my manager and watching the service on CCTV I replied with this email:

Dear Jeremy,
I was so sorry to read that you did not manage to visit my kitchen on Monday night when you came to celebrate your wife’s birthday.
It was really unfortunate, but as Alice told you, Monday night was very busy for us (the only table available was the one next to you) and the entire building was full.
Service is quite intense and it would have been considered as a safety hazard to have you coming down during the service.
However, I understand that your wife loves food and I really appreciate when my costumers are so passionate about food.
I noticed that your wife took many pictures during the meal and that is fascinating.
I wanted to send you one of my Anniversary book with a note, but Damian told me that he did gave you one upon your departure.
So, I was wondering if you were free Wednesday or Thursday next week.
As from Sunday, we are filming a week long TV programme with NHK (Japanese TV) with Harumi Kurihara – We would like to invite you for a complimentary diner for 2 – you will be able to visit the kitchen and meet myself and Mrs Kurihara.
Please do let me know if Wednesday or Thursday is good for you.
Kind regards
Alexis

I thought that it was the normal thing to do for a couple who did not have a chance to visit the kitchen.

Jeremy accepted my invitation promptly.

However, before receiving my reply, he did post a review on London-eating website stating that the whole experience was just ok and not good enough.
That the service was not up to standard- overall a bad review!
So when I checked London-eating, I was obviously unhappy with the review. I was going to take notes of it and learn from it. But I sadly learned something else when I realised that it was signed Jeremy.
I quickly sent an email to Jeremy to find out if it was him who wrote this email:

Good afternoon Jeremy,

I have just read with
horror our latest review on London Eating and it occurs to me that you share
the same name and dining date as the person who posted it. Did you do that
following my invitation back to the restaurant?

Please respond.
Kind regards

Alexis Gauthier

And this is the dreaded email I received back from Jeremy:

Good afternoon,

I actually wrote that
review the morning after our meal. We enjoyed most of the courses, but were
disappointed with one of the desserts, and the undercooked guinea fowl. In
hindsight I think the scores were harsh, and I actually emailed London Eating
last week, to amend the scores and some of the text. Unfortunately the changes
have not appeared on the website yet.

Please bear in mind
that I would not have written that review after your invitation, and they were
my own words - not my wife's. She was very much looking forward to the
occasion, so I would hate for her to miss out because of me. But whatever you
decide, please accept my apologies, and rest assured that the review is being
updated.

Jeremy

So here I was being reassured that that the review was being updated.
Updated by London-eating.co.uk following the order of Jeremy!

And yes, the review was magically updated during the courses of the afternoon.
So Jeremy’s review wasn’t just not good enough anymore- it wasn’t bad value for money anymore; Gauthier Soho became really good!
Unbelievable!!!
How many reviewers have managed over the years to transform their reviews?
I really wonder! But it seems so easy that I fear the whole thing is a massive joke.

As far as I am concerned I would not trust a word (good or bad) of what they publish.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bangkok Market- Short story



I have had a busy summer. One I will remember for the rest of my life and for many reasons.

One of the reason is my special trip to Bangkok open air food market. The really special market where Bangkok top chefs visit every night. Tee took me there for the second time
and I was as impressed as the first time; to be fair I could have been going thru the garbages of Phonm Phen, I would have found everything marvelous - (as long as I was next to Tee)
After a second thought, I can say that the garbages of Phnom phen are probably cleaner than Bangkok's most sought after chef's market.


Chef Tee




Market entrance

But hey! I am here to discover great ingredients and get a lot of inspiration.
The smell was absolutely umberaeable the moment I entered the market.
A snif cocktail of durian mix with sewage water.

As Tee said: you'll get used to it. And I did.
Everything was marvelous: meat coated in flies;
rats and cats going across the alleys.
Bodies sleeping on top of white river of rice bags. Pig heads hanging from coat hangers and
still dreeping of semi coagulated blood. Frogs swiming in their intestine and blood juice
and still looking like they are breathing!
Very weird for me but it seems to really excite Tee's senses and I bet he was finding those frogs absolutely delicious.
Brilliant! Circus, zoo, jungle- you call it what you want; here they call it FOOD MARKET!

Rusty Scallops!

Yet I managed to delect myself with the sweetest rambutan I ever had the chance to taste.
I bought the freshest prawn and the greenest Thai broccoli on earth.
Thailand is blessed when it comes to fruits & vegetables and this market is just amazing for that.
Rows after rows of perfectly formed Thai asparagus and other long stems.
You just can't resist that- and the good thing with this market is that,
despite the perfectly formed Thai products there is not a single fat-old pervert German in sight.

Green Thai Delights


Piggy Bag






Monday, April 18, 2011

Pollen Street Social un-edited

Monday 18th April 2011



So I feel slightly weird walking the streets of Soho on my way to sample the first opening night of Jason Atherton Pollen street Social. Weird because I really don't want to go- not really interested- not my job to sample restaurant on their first night- but I do it for Perm; I find him somehow attractive and good company.


He booked a table for 2 and has offer to take me there. He wants to be the first to review the place as a blogger so he can climb the ultimate blogger scale list and become, hopefully, the most read restaurant blogger- in front of professional weirdo blogger Andy Haller; re tweeted by Hardens and ignored by Gilles Coren.



Perm is good company; if not a bit gauche- he takes a while to relax- probably far too intelligent for his own good,. Anyway, the good thing about him is that he knows exactly what he wants; and tonight he wants to eat. he is starving. He hasn't eaten for 18 hours so I guess he is going to love everything as long as it removes its appetite. Sure to be a good review I am thinking. Lucky Atherton- I wasn't that well received by Perm when he visited us.


The front of the restaurant is impressive- Large bay windows surrounded by black walls- very original I said- Perm wonder if I am serious- probably takes me for a retard and leads me into the restaurant. he hasn't stop tweeting for the last 3 minutes- as if he has already started to post his review... The reception is small and the girl seems to be standing in front of hundred of keys and mail boxes- don't know why. The bar is there half full- I can start feeling the tones of the restaurant- wood, little bit dark, exposed light bulb, contemporary British Arts on the walls... Polpo meets Scotts. A good mix I think- no- no serious!


We sit down on a round wooden table- they use linen napkins- very nice. The waiters are not good looking; that is annoying. The menu is brought to us and we order 1 orange juice and sparkling water. Suddenly, Perm said he wants still water- too late I can't cancel my order- shit! we will never drink 2 bottles of water I am telling myself! wasted money. I am too tight. The menu is divided in 4 sections: cold, warm & hot, main course and vegetarian. The waiter tells us that eating at pss is all about sharing! I tell Perm- back to 98 and Asia de Cuba is here again! Don't think he gets it-too young and too starving I guess. So Perm orders many, many dishes. This guy is going to ruin me I think. meanwhile I indulge on the amazing sliced Pain de Campagne and the delicious butter.


The food arrives. It is complicated, micro leaves and sorbet are everywhere, the aim is very high. Everything is truly delicious for a first night. (Fair) Details of the food in Perm Blog.


I decided to visit the toilets: marble and wood= wow! (lounge music from Buddha Bar- not classy) I think.
On my way up I get stopped by another blogger- she tells me that she is here to be the first to review the restaurant as a blogger. I needed to tell Perm- quick- she decides to take a picture of me in front of the hanging meats downstairs. Not sexy- she will learn. I run back up to urge Perm to hurry writing his review.


We order pudding and then I feel like the room got electrocuted; everyone seems to be stressed; I see chefs looking across the kitchen window; waiters and managers going around trying to look busy. I wonder if Kate & Will have just walked into the restaurant; I turn around and guess who is here? The mother of all food blogger The inspirational and ultimate restaurant decider who made and destroyed everything that worked or failed in the world: Fay Maschler- Mama!



I felt really bad for the team; I know how much it is stressful to have her on your first night and wondered how Jason is copying in the kitchen. I am sure he is doing an amazing job. I ordered a delicious espresso; paid with my card , which they had to process the old way ( I thought : great it can't be declined like that!) Paid the bill- kind of cheap for the quality of the cuisine.



And we left. Didn't regret one minute visiting Pollen street Social after all...