I have an idea for restaurants everywhere. Maybe, just maybe, you should do some analysis. How long does your average party of two take up a table? Your average party of four? Your tables that make reservations? Your tables that don’t make reservations? If you do this type of analysis, you will avoid treating your customers poorly.
Like Chick ‘n’ Sours did to me when I popped in at 12:20 pm on a Sunday, hoping for a quick lunch. I knew I’d be in and out in 45 minutes. I know myself well. I don’t know if you can believe this, but I’ve been feeding myself for over 40 years! Unless there was a problem in the kitchen — the restaurant’s fault, not mine — I would be quick. Very quick.
So I walked in off the street and asked for a table at a restaurant that doesn’t really seem like the type of place where you need a booking. I was led downstairs to an empty dining room. I lie. There were maybe two tables seated and it’s a pretty small dining room so it wasn’t empty. The host asked me “Where would you like to sit?”
“Well,” I responded, if you’re not too busy, I’d love a table.” (I prefer not to perch.)
Immediately, she responded. “Well…I don’t know…we have a lot of bookings today…I’ll have to check.”
Restaurants everywhere, don’t ask the question if it’s a false choice. And don’t make a big deal about this if your restaurant is still going to be half empty an hour later when I leave. (And for the record, I’d be the first person to take the bar if the restaurant were full.)
Why do restaurants prefer mysterious unknown **future** business over mysterious unknown business sitting **right in front of them**? Money, I know. But if they did the analysis I suggest, they would not freak out about these situations. I imagine a world in which they instead think, “Ah party of one. She’ll be done in 45 minutes. We’re usually pretty quiet between 12 and 1 pm. We’ll be fine.” I’ll chalk this one up to inexperience and move on.
I liked my fried chicken at Chick ‘n’ Sours (unphotogenic as it was) although maybe the xian xian spice was a little too subtle. I also REALLY liked my fried aubergine. And the wall of print blocks from an old printer in Manchester on the wall. And the light fixtures. Hipster central! And the music! I really liked the fun music.
The Verdict: Go, but make a booking and sit where they tell you to if you want to maximize their utility and forget about your own. Even when they are empty.
This is my second visit to Shotgun and I’ve come at a bad time. It’s 3:45 pm on a Tuesday. There’s one occupied table in the place. I stand at the door, by the host’s table. I stand and stand and stand. No one comes. So I walk to the bar. There are three people behind it, busy unpacking things, cleaning. Even though I think I’m pretty visible, they don’t see me. But I swear to God I am pretty sure they know I’m there. They’re just not ready to talk to me.
A woman comes up the back stairs and sees me. She looks at me, oddly, and then looks at the people behind the bar. She does one of those head nod things to them. The “UM THERE’S SOMEONE HERE” head nod. The staff turn and look at me.
“Oh! Can I help you with something?”
“Uh, just wanted to have a late lunch and I’m pretty sure you are open all day, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. Do you want to sit at the bar?”
All the tables are empty. Except for the one occupied one. I don’t want to sit at the bar. I have a big bag with me (Mulberry Sample Sale) and my handbag weighs 20 pounds and I just want to sit down and have some space. They let me sit down at a table.
A server drops by and takes my order. Pulled pork sandwich and a side of mashed potatoes. Although they don’t call them mashed potatoes. That’s fine. I just can’t remember what they’re called. I order a class of the house wine on tap too.
And I wait. And I wait. And I wait. They bring me my tap water. And I drink that, because I am thirsty. I am pretty sure they leave the bottle with me because I pour another glass, but later, the bottle disappears when I am not paying attention and I wonder why they would do that, take the bottle away. Because I still want water.
And I wait some more. And finally, they bring me my glass of wine. Finally. “Sorry for the delay,” they say.
And eventually, my pulled pork with a side of potatoes and two pickled okra arrives. I had joked about the lack of veg at Shotgun on Instagram a few weeks earlier. Green salad for you, or nothing. “You could have the pickled okra,” they told me. It’s not obvious on the menu. Next time, I will ask for a whole big portion because it’s great and okra is hard to get right.
And my pulled pork sandwich is great too. Although I am still not a fan of the bread, which is just too soft for me. Too wet. I need more structure. I mentioned this on Instagram too a few weeks back and Marina told me that she prefers the soft stuff.
I have never been one for white bread so consider that.
During my first visit to Shotgun, I had the brisket. It was fantastic. So get that. But the service was off then too. “We need the table back at 7,” they told us. “Yes, we know,” we told them. “We’re flexible so kick us out whenever.” The hostesses stood there at their stand, staring at us, willing us to leave.
The eye…the window to the soul.
(Later, the staff give us a glass of wine each, on the house, at the very narrow bar.)
The Verdict: Go, and eat all the delicious meat. But beware staying longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes. And don’t go to hang out at the bar either. It’s only meant for sitting.
I went to Dillman’s for lunch the other day. It is all dark and cozy with chandeliers. My server said “for sure, for sure” a lot. It was distracting. Also distracting? The rose was listed under “Whites” on the wine list. Less distracting? The chicken liver and lovely toasty warm brioche. A very generous, tasty and satisfying portion at $9.95.
Seriously…the pace of change in London is unbelievable. There’s a new skyscraper — The Shard — and London Bridge Station is completely unrecognizable. (Classic moment: I had to ask one of the station masters WHERE TO FIND THE TRAINS. Also, where did M&S go?? I found it. Eventually.) The area around Old Street even more so unrecognizable. There are new coffee shops everywhere, and the dodgy Chinese ballroom is now Rotary Diner, with the most gorgeous of jewelbox bars in the basement.
I was in London for the 4th of July. What do all the American employees of an American company in London do in London on the 4th of July? They go to the Rotary Bar Diner for PULLED PORK. And it is unbelievable fantastic. (Although the corn bread was a little on the dry side.) Amazing to see “American” done so well on this side of the Atlantic, but after Pitt Cue Co., I should not be surprised.
Also, the lemonade is AWESOME.
All that being said, they revealed their British side by only providing us with ONE measly little napkin each. Why don’t British people like napkins??? I have always wondered this. Also, the service at Rotary was slllooooowwwww.
The Verdict: Go, please. Although I hear they might only be a pop-up so go soon.
Long-term readers will know that on Fridays during the summer, I can leave work early if I want to. And I’ve been trying to do that this summer, trying to get out there and explore places and do things and see things. Someone told me that I would love Beatrix so I went to Beatrix on one of my Friday afternoons. Because I am trusting like that.
And I did like Beatrix. Sort of. I mean, I liked the chairs. There are a lot of different chairs at Beatrix. It’s one of those new-school/old-school all day free-wifi restaurants with lots and lots of chairs for people so you can sit down or you can stand up or you can stay for 20 minutes or you can stay for EIGHT HOURS (like the people across from me did). Lots of interesting, different chairs. Really, there’s something for everyone. Really, it felt like a total ripoff of London’s Hoxton Hotel.
“Have the burger,” some guy at the bar urged me. “I just did and it was really really good.”
Apparently that man has never had a burger in HIS ENTIRE LIFE.
Because the burger was shite. Super shite. Overcooked sawdust.
And the fries were undercooked.
And the pickled vegetables were still too raw.
When I left, I was angry at myself for wasting my Friday lunch here. Very angry.
All that being said, they were jackhammering the road outside the restaurant and you never would have known it inside the restaurant. That’s some good sound-proofing they’ve got going there.
I eat at Carriage House a lot. Sometimes, I get off the train after work and I think to myself “Whole wheat pasta in the microwave at home or dinner at the bar at Carriage House?” That is WAY too easy a decision to make. I like it here. I like their wines, I like their service, I like their food. Sadly, the Lyonnaise salad and its soft pillows of pork belly is off the menu for now — I’ve been eating a lot of that — but then the asparagus popped up and it is LUSCIOUS. Slow poached egg, sherry and sorghum vinaigrette, cornbread crumbs, crawfish tails and béarnaise. Pretty fantastic. But also, apparently, now off the menu. God damnit.
So here’s what I think of though while I sit at the bar at Carriage House. I look out the window and I see all the people all going to all the sports bars and I wonder…with food this good RIGHT HERE, why would you go to a sports bar for waffle fries? Why?