One of the pleasures of travelling through Italy is stumbling across a small trattoria with no menu, but superb food. Whatever they have fresh, that is what they put in front of you. Why bother with a menu, when they won’t have half of it?
I was reminded of this at Bricole. Why do they have a menu when almost everything that we asked for was off? And why oh why, oh why not tell me before I’d pondered the menu, poured over every offering and ordered? Veal and sage ravioli? Off. Fried pizza stuffed with toms and cheese (have you ever heard such a perfect dish on a menu anywhere)? Off. Croquette? Off. Even the one dessert (or desert, as our charmingly, non-English speaking waitress said) that I wanted was off. I wondered if I’d wandered into the café from Peter Seller’s masterpiece: Balham, Gateway to the South.
So instead, we were pointed towards what we could have, and got on with it. The lamb ham was gorgeous. The pecorino, the arancini, the pasta. They all worked. They all worked very well.
But, and this is a big but; a butt the size (if not the grace) of Jennifer Lopez’s delicious derriere: the service sucks. Big time. If it was just that the waitress didn’t speak English (it is an Italian restaurant after all: fair play to have Italian waiting staff). Or that they didn’t have half the menu (the explanation, given after one has chosen not before, being that: “we make everything fresh so, come the weekend, we have run out of things”. What, so you make lots of fresh stuff on Monday? How fresh is that come Sunday then?). Or even that we sat ignored for 15 minutes. Or even that the replacement for the missing veal and sage ravioli was touted as beef, but I got ricotta and spinach.
No, these could all be forgiven by great food, it was an off day, members of staff (as the excuse given to me) are all new, young and inexperienced. What can never, ever, not in a million years in any establishment anywhere be forgiven at a place where anybody is paying is rudeness. Not just rude; insultingly, needlessly rude. I mean, this isn’t Moscow in the ‘80s or Wan Kei. This is a new Italian deli/trattoria/restaurant in genteel Marylebone.
All I wanted to know was where the loo was? Not an unreasonable request in a restaurant, not one that, in a place that I have not been to in its current configuration before, would seem out of place. But no, the response on asking the waiter was a dismissive “I can’t be bothered talking to you” waive of the hand, one so brilliantly done by our Italian friends, yet so, so out of place here. Our friendly (non-English speaking) waitress witnessed this insult and, to her credit, immediately jumped in to assist.
Now given the ineptitude of the waiting staff, there was bound to be a fault on the bill. There was: the delicious bottle of wine (a Crema), recommended by the head honcho had been omitted. I always, always tell restaurants when they have missed an item off the bill, much as I would pipe-up had they added something that I had not had. That is both fair and reasonable. I confess, however, that I was so angry that I momentarily contemplated not telling them. That, however, would have been wrong. Unfair on the place, unfair on the owners. Instead, having told them about the missing wine, I did something that I never do either: I asked for the tip to be removed from the bill. On being asked why, I explained. In full. With hand gestures; we’d had a lovely meal. The food was very pleasant, but the service was worse than a Gareth Bale hat trick at the Emirates.
Of course I will go back: the food is too good not too. I just hope that my act of rebellion has either: (a) lead to the sacking of the moron involved; or (b) lead to him working out that insulting paying customers is not the way to make this restaurant as good as it could, and I really hope does, become.