Normally the Almeida restaurant in Islington, London is a very good restaurant and I have enjoyed eating there. For that reason I booked my family in for a Christmas day lunch this year for the second sitting in mid-afternoon. We arrived on time and were greeted by a very harassed lady who quickly took our coats and showed us to some sofas near the bar. The dining room appeared to be packed. She gave us a drinks menu and a wine list saying as she rushed away that someone would take our drinks order shortly. 15 minutes later nobody had been near us and so I apprehended a waiter who took our order for Bellinis. 10 minutes later we were shown to our table but still no drinks had appeared but I could see them sitting on the bar. I pointed this out but still no drinks appeared. I fetched them myself but at £11 each I was not best pleased. Although we had pre-ordered our food as requested when booking, a waitress appeared and said that we needed to order again, which we did. We then had a 4 course meal plus coffee.
The toast which came with the ham hock terrine had been made some considerable time earlier and was like leather and inedible. The terrine was good. The butternut squash soup was unremarkable.
The mulled wine and pear sorbet was good.
The vegetables with the main course were awful. Brussel sprouts had hardly been cooked at all to the extent that it was not possible to cut through them. The roasted parsnips were soggy and yet undercooked and the red cabbage was overcooked. The roast potatoes were not of the standard one would expect in such an establishment. The turkey was barely warm.
The dessert was advertised as "Christmas pudding, brandy cream". What was served was a pale coloured oblong sponge cake with some whipped cream. The cake was very brittle and shattered when attempts were made to cut it and there was absolutely no hint of brandy in the cream; it was inedible.
The coffee and mince pies were good.
Throughout the meal we were served very brusquely across the table with the waitress reaching across in front of other people without a word spoken, our wine was in a bucket being shared with another table and we had to keep getting up to fetch it. Many other things were unacceptable and so I called the front of house manager over and went through my concerns. Throughout he remained polite but appeared somewhat punch-drunk; it seems that I was not the first guest to express serious concerns. I informed him that I would not be paying the discretionary service charge and added that they had done serious damage to their brand image. It seems that they had completely overstretched themselves and seemed to have an attitude of to hell with the customers. I was not offered any reduction in the bill, which I paid and left. On the way out 2 other nearby tables made the unsolicited comments that they had heard me speaking with the manager and they agreed with everything that I had said. Shambles and rubbish were words offered.
I paid £257.50 for 3 people.
This restaurant is still probably very good away from a holiday period but this disaster seems to have been the result of sheer greed in packing as many tables in as possible without the resources in the kitchens or front of house to service them. I have written this review because I react very badly to being ripped off.
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