I'm not averse to reviewing my reviews. I was here last year. It was very good. God enough to go back, and confidently, with friends. A return visit makes for fairer judgement.
That's not to dismiss negative criticism from customers on these boards....the customer is always right...but a lot depends on your measurement standard ON THE DAY. So what we judge on is a snapshot. Hence the repeat visit. Was it better the second time around? Well, a grudging "yes". You see, there was and is an ongoing set of problems. Significantly, the staff seemed happier. Both of them. Yes....just TWO waiting on for what was, after an hour into our excellent lunch,..a busy restaurant. I counted 29 covers. The line between profit and loss, in any restaurant, is an extension of the same line between good and poor service. Irvins...you NEED more staff.
OK. To practicalities.
1) The food. Excellent presentation, good flavours, accomplished techniques...but oh dear me, the portion sizes are very inconsistent. Someone is NOT doing the background costings. I had the Craster Kipper salad. It was very good, as last time....but looky here, we are on a bloody fish quay, for chrissake. I can BUY a kipper for £2 and that would serve four for starters...so why is the fishy stuff so meanly distributed on my plate. Sorry guys....but you are becoming forensic. Next time I'll buy a kipper and smuggle it in to mix with my salad.
Fish cakes...big, succulent, luscious...excellent; certainly more VFM than the kippery one....and the Scotch egg....wonderful, everyone said so...clever to get the runny yoke but its all just practice...so VFM again become a consideration. Overall, this is us liking it. If things are tight in this business it is false economy to prune away at portion sizes...that way you will lose the clientele...who tell.
2) The wine. We are not in Park Lane....we are in North Shields. If we want a bottle of Chateau bottled Margaux we will pay through the nose for it....savour it....and pass on our compliments to the wine waiter. If we want a glass of house wine then it should be GOOD but reasonably priced. It was and it wasn't. All agreed that there was some arrogance in the wine department....but worse was to come.
3) The service. What to say without repetition? The service scraped by on good humour and good luck. There is a management input/training scarcity as well as a shortage of bodies waiting on...if you believe you cannot afford more staff you should know that in the final analysis you cannot afford less staff. The balancing of the books is difficult but not impossible. You DO take bookings so you should have SOME idea of how many staff are needed....yes, NEEDED.
4) The bill. Now listen up. This mandatory service charge has GOT to stop. We are BIG tippers for BIG service and 10% may well be our mark...but that is OUR prerogative, not yours. They all do it, you may say. No, they do not all do it....I remind you again, this is the North Shields Fish Quay....check out the other restaurants. I did.
5) The ambience. Open kitchen...hmmmm....never sure about this. I like the mystery of "how it is done" and am unsure about wanting to see just how damned busy it all is whilst I am waiting for my Cod ( Good but miniscule. 'nuff said) as it seems that the visible procedure becomes the point of focus. It is what it is...until something goes wrong THEN the almighty debacles twixt chef/chef and chef/waiter and Maitre de/head chef etc is right out there in the open It has been commented on so it must be true...er....a customer said so. Music good and as unobtrusive as it was unnecessary.
6) Finally a real area of concern. Vegetables. You remember vegetables. The pretty coloured things that accompany your "meat" and balance the meal. Oh, you CAN have some...but they are EXTRA. Why? This is a RESTAURANT and I deserve a balanced meal. Include, please. Not a negative option..just a carrot or a florette of broccolli or a sliced bean or two or a nicely softened ..well, you get it.
And so we ate and enjoyed...again. We moaned afterwards, just a little, about the things mentioned abve. We praised the staff for working so hard and the chefs for turning out such good food. Generally speaking, we all agreed that we would come again. Some would not...I read the reviews...but if you don't support ventures like this you will be throwing away your Brasserie....and that would be a pity.
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