Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Frustrated and Furious at Fifteen London

Anyone who has watched The Food Network knows who Jamie Oliver is. He has done a variety of shows dealing with food from a variety of angles, including showing people how to cook it, trying to increase fresh food awareness with young children, and trying to give troubled teens a second change through cooking. So naturally we wanted to try his famous restaurant, Fifteen London, where kitchen staff consists of people coming from troubled homes or lives, trying to change the course of their life through cooking.

Located in Shoreditch, the restaurant itself was a ways away from central London, probably one of the longest Tube rides we’d taken this visit to London. The atmosphere inside was definitely casual with a lively, loud dining room filled with groups of people and families. We were shown to a slightly tippy table, but the server quickly leveled it out by putting a cut down wine cork under the leg.
Vanilla and Strawberry Lemonade
To start we ordered a vanilla and strawberry lemonade, which turned out to be very refreshing, lightly sweet, and not too tart, with a hint of vanilla detectable. The ginger presse was sharp tasting with a strong ginger flavor to it and a hint of lemon.

We started with tortellini of crown prince squash, roasted garlic, marscarpone and crushed amaretti and sage butter. The tortellini was hand rolled, and the squash within was rich and creamy. The fried sage on top was aromatic and crispy, flavoring the butter the tortellini were swimming in, complimenting it well without overwhelming them. The crushed amaretti added a crunchy contrast to the tender and light pasta. The lightest potato gnocchi with braised Savoy cabbage, Fontina and pancetta pangrattato was indeed light and pillow soft, dissolving in your mouth without chewing, and was contrasted with crunchy breadcrumbs.

Make Shift Table Leveler
The seared diver caught Dorset scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, cavolo nero, crispy shallots and balsamic dressing was devine. The generous portion of scallops was buttery, and the puree was light and creamy, with the balsamic dressing giving a dish a hint of acidity to lift the dish to another level. The char grilled Thirsk Farm lamb with new season borlotti beans, Swiss chard and walnut salsa verde was unfortunately not as tender as we expected it to be, while the accompanying items added nothing to the lamb which bordered on inedible. 

What should have been a fairly quick meal turned into an unnecessarily long meal due to the delay in dessert. Our server checked in a few times and noticed that dessert still had not arrived, and let us know he would check in with the kitchen. As time passed and no dessert appeared, our server became increasingly annoyed with the kitchen and apologetic that we had endured a pause longer than normal between our mains and our dessert. After 40 minutes, the manager and another server arrived at the table to our left with our dessert. Our server quickly flagged them down and they brought them to their correct table. Unfortunately one of the desserts was incorrect as we were brought a panna cotta instead of a tiramisu semifreddo, and the server quickly left to rectify the mistake.

The chocolate brownie with vanilla cream and crushed honeycomb was very dense and the chocolate was very dark, to the point of bitter, although we enjoyed the crispy bits of honeycomb within the ice cream on top.

Dorset Scallops
When the tiramisu semifreddo with Amedi chocolate mousse and espresso syrup finally arrived, it was too cold and stiff to be served at the temperature it was. It was so hard that I couldn’t put my spoon through it without stabbing at it for several minutes to get a small chunk off. The server apologized for the tiramisu semifreddo, saying he had never seen it served so cold that one couldn’t put their utensil through it, and promised to see if he could get the desserts taken off the bill due to the wait, as well as the state of them. Unfortunately, he returned with the bill stating that the manager wouldn’t allow him to remove the desserts.

Char Grilled Thirsk Farm Lamb
I asked to speak with the manager directly and asked to have the desserts taken off the bill as we waited longer for dessert than the rest of the meal had taken. As well, I told him about the state of my dessert. He thankfully did finally agree to take the desserts of the meal, but not before arguing with me that it was the servers fault and therefore I should request to take the 12.5% optional service charge off instead. Although it’s true the wait could’ve been the servers’ fault, the state of the dessert most certainly wasn’t. When he returned with the revised bill, he informed Moo that he had spoken with the kitchen and said that I was incorrect and the Tiramisu semifreddo was supposed to be served at 14 degrees, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I obviously had no idea what semifreddo was, and perhaps thought it was a traditional tiramisu instead of a semifreddo. I couldn’t believe that instead of taking the items off the bill and leaving it at that, that I wound up sitting there being lectured and told that I was unknowledgeable and ignorant. I was absolutely shocked and upset that restaurant management would treat a paying customer this way, when the quickest, easiest and most hospitable way of handling this situation would have been simply to take the desserts off the bill, apologize and walk away.
Chocolate Brownie

Since he seemed hell bent on arguing with me about this, I tried reasoning with him once again that the Tiramisu semifreddo was far too cold to be served as it was, since I had to stab it repeatedly with the spoon to get a small bite, that I did know what semifreddo meant, and gave him my card to tell him I was an experienced food blogger, and therefore at least was somewhat educated on food. Still unwilling to let it go, he once again insisted that we remove the already optional service charge as it must have been the servers fault. He also couldn’t resist once again telling me that I was uneducated bovine who didn’t have a clue what semifreddo meant.

Tiramisu Semifreddo
Least to say having to spend time arguing with management wound up being fairly upsetting and ruined our dining experience, considering the lackluster lamb, the long wait for a disappointing dessert, and having to argue with the manager to take desserts off a bill that cost only 6-7 British Pounds each, a very small fraction of the overall bill we were wound up paying which was well over 3 figures without the desserts. After the manager finally left, we quickly paid the bill, slipped the server a cash tip to ensure he actually got something, and left upset and angry. Although the food itself wasn’t stellar, it wasn’t terrible either, yet it has been our least favorite and most frustrating dining experience to date.

I would recommend that based on the manager's customer service skills at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London, that they send this manager to a course on customer service or replace him someone who is willing to resolve issues without resorting to belittling their customers. Even had I been wrong, it would have been easier for them to simply remove the two desserts from the menu and send us quickly on our way out the door instead of spending all that time arguing with me and potentially making a scene in the restaurant, because they had no idea whether or not I would be the type of customer that would get up and start yelling. I would also highly recommend that Mr. Oliver spend less time living the life of a celebrity chef and more time overseeing the business that bears his name, because I highly doubt any restaurant owner would want a customer dealt with as we had been. Never in this bovine’s life had I had management treat Moo so poorly over so little money, and for a problem that was easily rectified. I hope this is a one-time incident and that it has never happened nor will it ever happen to anyone else. However, if you are the type like us to actually bring up problems with your dining experience to management, save your time, money and dignity and skip Fifteen London, because you’re likely to leave more upset than it’s worth.

More photos at PhotoBucket!

Fifteen London
15 Westland Place
London, UK N1 7LP
011 44 020 3375 1515
Twitter: @JamiesFifteen

Fifteen London on Urbanspoon

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