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Very poor meal at the Bermondsey Kitchen

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Monday 29 September 2003 8.05am
I went with my partner and two friends for my first visit to The Bermondsey Kitchen. I was expecting great food having read the good reviews on previous threads. We were all very disappointed with the overall experience. The waitresses, bar one seemed bored and disorganised. I could have forgiven that if the food was hot; it wasn't. At best it was just above warm. How on earth can food be served at that temperature when the kitchen is less than a few metres away?
FYI I had the Plaice, it was good but only warm. My partner had the Lamb, Fatty and uncooked at one end. Friend 1 had the steak and thought it was good. Friend 2 had the Plaice too and thought it waqs ok but only warm.
General ambience was ok but was too full of tobacco smoke; surely in this day and age it would not be too much for a minority of smokers to quit for the time it takes to eat a meal?
Which leads me on to my final point. Why were we offered only two slots either 19.30 or 21.00? The restaurant was not very full for the whole time we were there, which was less than an hour because the food came so quickly between courses! If we'd wanted fast food we would have gone to Mc D's.
I know that the owner reads this thread and we would appreciate a response to our collective comments.

Monday 29 September 2003 9.14am
Yes, the idea that you were offered two slots like that when it wasn't full reeks of self-importance and a West End mentality that I find very off-putting. I had a meal there one weekend without a reservation -- and it seemed a bit of a hassle to them to find us a table, even though there were many spare ones. They remained unused throughout our meal. I also agree that it can be too smoky. And, yes, the service is lacklustre at best. My friend and I had to laugh at one waitress. She's sort of sweet but seems perpetually BORED. She picks up your wine glass before you've finished, but doesn't bring the bill when you ask for it, that kind of thing.

The food, though, is in my experience absolutely delicious.

I hope they can get it right.

Monday 29 September 2003 9.45am
My pet hate is - hot food served on cold plates....lukewarm food implies that the food has been standing around in the kitchen...
or even worse, food take from the freezer - stuck in the microwave and when you eat it it's cold in the middle! - and the restaurant is a very expensive one!

Incidentally I went to Morrisons Supermarket at Erith and had the most wonderful meal for 3.98, half a chicken cooked to perfection, stuffing, roast potatoes, broccoli, carrots!....pity there is no Morrison's in S.E.1.!

Monday 29 September 2003 4.06pm
Dear Ian,

Firstly thank you very much for bringing your feelings to my attention. As always, its incredibly helpful for keeping us on the right track. I'll try to go through each of the points that have been raised. But firstly, can I ask if you complained or passed on your comments to the manager? I expect our food to be excellent at all times, and if people have not enjoyed it, we will always try to make it up to them as soon as possible.

Firstly, when you booked, you were offered an early or a slightly later slot. At that stage, we had 55 on the book for that evening, including a party of 14 and 3 parties of 7, and also a number of bookings arriving at 8 or 8.30pm. If restaurants allowed everyone to book for a simultaneous slot, they simply would not be able to cope. We normally find that more than half our customers just walk in without booking, so it was fair to expect a very busy evening. I promise that there is nothing at all arrogant about this planning - it is honestly trying to give us the best chance of looking after everyone properly. I also know that the largest party arrived 45 minutes after their booking, so during that time the restaurant would have been quieter than we had expected.

I am very upset that you found the service uninspiring. We have had good feedback about our service these days, but clearly some of the team are letting us down. I will speak to the manager and the team who were working that evening, because you clearly received the wrong message from them. We spend considerable amounts of time training our staff, not only in the technical side and the food, but also in customer service. As a local restaurant and with the majority of our customers as regulars, I know for sure that if we do not look after people, they will not return.

On the temperature of the food, I think I can see where the problem arose. Both the plaice and the lamb were intentionally served with room temperature vegetables (roast mediterranean vegetable salad), but they themselves should not have been cold for which I can only apologise. As the weather is getting cooler, we should perhaps adjust our menu as it of course means that the meat or fish would cool faster.

I am concerned that you found the lamb fatty. As you would have seen from the menu, we now source our meats from The Ginger Pig in Borough market, who specialises in rare breeds, in this case, Swaledale lamb. I am very pleased to offer these meats, because not only is the flavour much better but I can have 100% confidence in the non-intensive farming methods used which for me as a restauranteur is incredibly important. Swaledale lamb and Tamworth pork are fattier than your standard supermarket meats - indeed this is one of the reasons that the flavour is better. I will however speak to our head chef, Lisa Frost, to discuss different options - perhaps avoiding the cuts with the most fat. As always, there is no point serving people food that they are not happy with!

On the subject of cigarette smoke, I totally agree with you that smokiness is very unpleasant whilst you are eating. The back section of the restaurant is no smoking, following feedback last year on this website. I wish I could make the whole restaurant smoke-free, but I know that this would be commercial suicide and I am by no means in a position to lose so many customers. I would encourage anyone who is sensative to smoke to simply ask for a table at the back of the restaurant, where it should be smoke free.

I am keen to hear your response to these points. I am honestly distressed that your experience was negative. Apologies if this posting has gone on rather - I do want you to understand as much as possible about why we do things. But sometimes we are genuinely in the wrong and it is useful to be told this.

Best wishes,

Dela Foster
Tuesday 30 September 2003 11.27am
Well, I LOVE the fat on the Tamworth pig, and the Swaledale lamb. I shall be running to the ginger pig at Borough Market to buy my meat there in future, thank you for that tip.

Had supper there yet again on Sunday night, and our only complaint is that portions were far too big! We wished we hadn't had starters so we could do justice to the main courses. Bet you don't sell many puddings, Dela!
Wednesday 1 October 2003 8.12am
Yes, I agree with you. Our portions are often a bit big. I have never yet managed a 3 course meal myself!
Wednesday 1 October 2003 9.34am
thank you for your prompt response to my hopefully constructive criticisms.
I use the Ginger Pig myself and am pleased that you support the Borough traders.
The facts are this occasion there did not seem to be much organisation with the waiting staff and I concur with the comments made on this thread by "S"

<My friend and I had to laugh at one waitress. She's sort of sweet but seems perpetually BORED. She picks up your wine glass before you've finished, but doesn't bring the bill when you ask for it, that kind of thing.>

The meal was rushed with hardly a gap between starter, which incedently was delicious!

No excuse for cool food though, this needs attention urgently and also maybe a pep talk to inspire the serving staff.

Smoke in restaurants is bad and I stand by my comments that smokers should snuff out for the duration of the meal.

As for commercial suicide; maybe, but in the next year or so you will have to live with it as we as a country go down the NO smoking route.

I wish you luck with the B K and hope that you succeed.


Ian Glover
Wednesday 1 October 2003 11.20am
I recall that I did have one nit picking point about the waitress (but in some ways it added to her rather sweet unpretentious charm, and the charm of the Kitchen). She poured some wine for me to taste, and then filled my glass and then that of my guest; rather than the other way round.
Wednesday 1 October 2003 12.29pm
On the smoking front, I would like to add, that I choose my dining places where I can eat smoke-free.

ofcourse, I do end up eating in new places where I'm subjected to smoke, but do find it a big factor in deciding on returning.

as for silver service. I tend not to go to places too much where I have to remind myself of the correct eating procedure and ethics. I do notice it from time to time, but then remind myself to be gratefull not to be judged by my fellow diners for holding my fork in the left hand, when I'm eating off it. The correct size and shape of glasses also seems a bit of a waste of time, when your drinking plonk.

Wednesday 1 October 2003 4.49pm
Dear Ian,

Thanks for responding. You have indeed put in motion a number of different initiatives to deal with the points you have raised.

I do agree with you on the smoking front, and I will be happy if non-smoking is made law in all UK restaurants: the problem at the moment for me is doing my best to please everyone. If its illegal, then that's the end of the story really!

ps. I don't smoke myself, but some of my closest family and friends do.

anyway, thanks again to everyone for your support
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