Today, 4th June, I took my wife to the Wallace Restaurant in Manchester Square, London to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary.
I made the booking at around 10:30, but when we turned up at 12 there seemed to be no record of the booking. Luckily there was still a table available and we were quickly seated.
We were given a menu, which was a single sheet with the menu du jour, and a la carte menu on one side and the wine list on the back.
As we gave the waiter our order from the menu du jour, he looked concerned as he realised we had the wrong menu - then rushed off to get an up-to-date one. After several minutes, and reminding him that we were still waiting, he came back with new menus, straight off the printer (and with sales stats printed on the back).
While we were waiting my wife had ordered a glass of 'elderflower' from the list accompanying the menu du jour. It wasn't labelled as an alcoholic drink, but it was listed with Kir Royale and cost £4.50, so she assumed it would be alcoholic. What was brought to the table was clearly just a soft drink, with a straw. When my wife enquired the waiter again seemed to be surprised and confirmed that it was just a cordial - he clearly had no idea what was supposed to be on the menu.
We ordered starters of endive salad with roquefort, and goose rillettes with toast & salad (from the revised menu du jour). What was delivered to the table was not endive but cheaper chicory salad (and yes, my wife does know the difference) covered in big pieces of roquefort, and goose rillettes - but no toast. I asked the waiter whether the toast was coming soon and again he looked panicked and rushed off, eventually returning with some barely browned white pre-sliced bread that looked like it came from Tesco. The rillettes were accompanied by two pickled gherkins and and two pickled onions and some salad ruined by a sour vinegary cream dressing that I was unable to eat.
The main courses of duck with roast potatoes were equally disappointing. The potatoes were so bland and 'manufactured' in taste & appearance that I wondered if they were also bought frozen from a supermarket. There were no other vegetables or garnish, and hardly any sauce with the sliced duck.
We decided not to risk the desserts and asked for the bill. When it came I was surprised to find that an 'optional' 12.5% tip had been added. When the waiter returned I asked him to remove it and told him why. He confirmed that there was a big problem in the kitchen, apologised profusely, but said he would have to get permission to remove the 'gratuity'. I wondered who gave permission to add it in the first place, given that all the staff seemed to be well aware of just how bad the service and food was today.
My impression was that several key staff were absent from the kitchen, probably including the head chef, and that the serving staff were also fewer than required. They were bravely attempting to cover the normal service with quick and cheap substitutes for the normal high-quality dishes. They should instead have apologised to customers and closed the restaurant.
My office is close to the restaurant and I have taken large parties there at least five times in the last couple of years, as well as dining there with my wife once or twice every year. I have also recommended the place to friends and colleagues, partly for the beautiful venue but mainly for the good food and excellent service. I will hesitate to recommend it in future.