21
Jan
09

Dining alone, service and the Med Kitchen

I think where I sometimes fail as a true foodie is that if I fall in love with a restaurant, I want to go back again and again, ordering the same food and loving it just as I did the first time. It’s comforting knowing a place and its staff fits you just right, but isn’t exactly going to get me in the foodie blogging hall of fame anytime soon. Even though I am such a loyal customer, I haven’t been able to find anywhere in London to lend my constant patronage to. There were a few places in Camden that we loved, Hi Sushi Salsa, Haché, but nowhere in London Bridge has stolen my heart yet.

It did get me thinking about the places that we used to frequent a lot and why we kept going back there, despite some challenges to our loyalty. A favourite in Dublin was Acapulco, a typical Tex Mex place that everyone seemed to love. But seriously, we put up with a lot of snarky attitude from the serving staff there. Quite frankly, if you didn’t have a reservation you might as well be dead to them, but we went back again and again for the fun atmosphere and the better than average food.

So if you love the food and you love the restaurant, how important is the service?

The Med Kitchen
We’d been to the Med Kitchen off Shaftesbury Avenue before and trust me, their chips are amazing. Crispy and thin, just like mounds of fries I used to consume in France, perched precariously next to a heap of moules mariniere. This time we had done our usual lap of the West End looking for somewhere that struck my fancy and we’d walked past dozens of places, but I have such a hard time deciding, that we just hit the Med Kitchen again. Sigh! Am going to have to start dragging my copy of London By London or Time Out with me wherever I go now. As a stand alone restaurant it’s great, but I can’t forget it’s a chain and I have such a strong abhorrence of chains, just because they are everywhere in London. The food is great at the Med, we ordered the meze platter to start with warm toasted pitta, C had a chargrilled Donald Russell steak sandwich and for a change, I ordered a very simple spaghetti with tomato and basil. Am very much trying to get back to the basics of food, without more than 5 ingredients.

But this review isn’t about the food, it’s about the service. Our waitress was so pleasant, coming over all the time to ask how we were doing, did we want more pitta bread and pouring the wine for us. We felt very taken care of. Midway through our meze platter, a girl came in alone and sat at the table beside us. Very gutsy, I thought, as this was a relatively cosy restaurant and even with a book, I can’t imagine ever going in alone. She ordered and then sat, and waited and waited. She waited so long, that we were feeling excruciatingly mortified on her behalf. After about a 20 minute wait, she asked her waitress, the same girl as ours, about the ETA of her food. The waitress smiled apologetically and said ‘well it does take a while, I’m sorry’. So the girl sat and waited some more, just staring out the window. Eventually her starter came, I assumed it must have been something time consuming that had to be baked or prepared fresh.

But no it was brushetta, so toasted bread topped with tomatoes and basil took nearly a half hour to prepare. She had it eaten in minutes and sat waiting for her next course. Is the kind of service you get when you come to a place alone, ordering no wine and therefore, maybe not leaving a huge tip? Perhaps the waitress had forgotten to send the order through to the kitchen, busily taking care of her other tables. I know that when I worked as a server, that sometimes I forget to tell the kitchen to send the main courses through but I would always have been extra nice to single patrons. Despite the fact that we received the friendliest service from the Med, the experience was a little tainted by watching this girl wait and wait…  for toast!

My verdict: I would definitely recommend the Med Kitchen, particularly if you are just looking for a snack or a light bite, but don’t go in alone unless you have a good book! Price: About 60 quid for a shared starter, two mains and a bottle of wine.

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