Recently I went out to see a show with some friends of mine and we followed this up with drinks and dinner.
We had a great time. The show was witty, topical and a lot of fun and with a few drinks under our belts, we expected that dinner at an American-eatery-in-Soho would contribute some delicious state-side vittels to finish off our evening.
But the restaurant didn’t take reservations – a pet peeve of mine. And in London it’s occurring with greater and greater frequency.
A case in point: a friend and I had arranged to catch up at no-bookings Italian ‘tapas’ joint just off Carnaby Street. We planned to be there just before 7pm, not because that’s when we thought we’d be hungry or because the time was convenient for us but to ensure we got a table.
I remember when sans booking restaurant chain Jamie’s Italian opened in 2008 and we thought we’d head to one to give it a try. We queued outside – no room inside for waiting – for a ‘barely acceptable’ 15 minutes. I’ve been to a Jamie’s Italian only once since then – we were lucky to have only a five minute wait.
To say I am put off by this policy is putting it mildly. I accept that if I haven’t booked I have to take what I can get but this we-don’t-take-bookings nonsense does not demonstrate any care for the customer’s experience. I don’t want to have to trawl the streets of Soho for a meal because of this free-for-all approach. What ever happened to looking after the customer?
The Italian tapas restaurant’s website offered an explanation of sorts: apparently their casual Venetian ‘bacaros‘ are designed to encourage the locals to pop in for a bite to eat and to build a sense of community among the regulars. They have four sites in Central London, none of which take bookings. Who are these ‘locals’ I wonder?
In any case it would appear a) these places are doing rather well and that b) the standing in line has become a badge of honour, After all, if you’ve queued (or waited in the bar) for at least an hour, the food had better be rave-worthy, or at least good enough for you to tell everyone about. I don’t know about you but after an hour, my palate becomes a little less discerning, swamped by either the drink-while-I-waited or the sounds of my stomach growling with hunger.
Luckily last night’s drinks were at a favourite watering hole just two doors down from a no-booking restaurant we were keen to try so my friend kindly did a little reconnaissance before we gave up our pre-dinner perch. And the meal was delicious.
But I have my reservations as to how long I really would have waited for it.