We arrived at Clos Maggiore excited to celebrate our marriage at what we thought would be one of London’s “prettiest” restaurants. We left after just one drink with quite a different impression.
There was an undeniable air of deceit surrounding our booking. We booked our table having requested the “fairy room” (the cherry blossom room). On the phone, we were told that although the restaurant cannot guarantee a table in that room, they do indeed consider “occasions” when allocating seats. I made clear that we would be celebrating our wedding day, and the gentleman on the phone reiterated, emphatically, that they do in fact give weight to big occasions.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were disappointed and, frankly, a little confused as we were led to a dimly lit and noisy table outside of the cherry blossom room. We asked one of the waiters if there was anything that could be done and were promptly met by the manager for the evening, David Janszki, whom I can accurately describe as smug and curt at worst, and merely unhelpful at best. Without looking into our booking, the manager informed us that nothing could be done. Another waiter, in an attempt to be helpful, told us he would look into the matter. Five minutes later, David returned to tell us again that nothing could be done—at least this time it seemed that he had taken a moment to look at our reservation.
David informed us that some of these people had bookings made in “early May”—this is likely untrue, a point I will return to in a moment. We explained that this was our wedding day, and we were led to believe that although tables in the cherry blossom room could not be guaranteed, they would consider big occasions in allocating seats. Not true, said the manager. That room is booked on a first-come basis, and besides, “90% of our bookings are occasions”. Oh, okay. So please do remember, as all occasions seem to be special occasions, don’t bother going if it’s a special occasion, because ipso facto you’re not that special… surely, there’s a new slogan in there somewhere.
Cue the real deceit surrounding the reservation. Their stock response is simply that they “cannot guarantee” a table in the cherry blossom room. But, instead, it sounds like they can guarantee that you won’t get a table in the cherry blossom room. Think about it: if they allocate that room on a first-come basis, and they know that they have bookings from “early May” (still coming back to that point), well then they know that after the first seven or so of those bookings, anyone who books after will not be getting a table in the cherry blossom room. Why, then, am I being told only that they “cannot guarantee” a table but that they do consider occasions when allocating those tables. My wife asked that very question, if you know that room isn't available, why are you telling people you can't guarantee a table, why not just say it's not available? To this, David said, yes, that would be a good idea... Yes, I agree, David, it would be. At least the "special occasions" point was probably not a lie, just simply wrong.
So, why do I find it unlikely, or at least surprising, that some reservations had been made in early May? Well, my birthday is at the end of May. My at-the-time fiancé, now wife, was actually looking to book a table in the cherry blossom room for my birthday in late May. She tried to reserve a table online, but the website came back with a message that bookings would “be back soon!”. That was 10 May. I’m not quite sure what David means when he says these tables have been booked in “early May”, but whenever it is that “early May” refers to, it doesn’t sound like it’s any earlier than the middle of May.
Aside from (or maybe in addition to) the inaccurate information and generally poor communication surrounding the booking, and an increasingly irritating though persistently unhelpful manager, I mentioned earlier that the table we were given was noisy. Turns out someone decided that Friday evening was a good time to do building works on the female toilet, and it was that work being done which was causing the large ventilation system directly above us to rattle and creak. An early sign of the ineffectiveness from David, he explained this by saying “Ummm, well, there’s, uh, work being done on the female toilet… I think… so…. yea…”. Oh, this also meant that there was no working female toilet. Yes, that’s correct. There was no working female toilet.
Just one other observation: as we were greeted by the hostesses, although they were very nice, they certainly seemed to be surprised when we told them we had just gotten married—they were friendly, they were excited for us, but they were surprised. This was a little confusing for both of us, because by that point the hostesses had already located our reservation in the system, they were just waiting for the table to be cleared. I guess my question, then, was, “why are they surprised? isn’t the occasion noted on our booking?” Who knows, “90% of their bookings are occasions”, so maybe they don’t make note. Still knocking around for that slogan.
In the end, we paid £50 for four glasses of grappa, listened to the sweet sounds of building works through a rattling ventilator, were treated to a contextless story from David about how long he’s worked at the restaurant, and all of us used the only operable (male) toilet. But hey! It was our wedding day, we walked out smiling, happy to leave one of London’s more overrated establishments, and excited to take a table at a competitor restaurant in the area, which we managed to book last-minute, while sitting at our dark, noisy little table at Clos Maggiore.
How about this? “Clos Maggiore: who the hell do you think you are?” Maybe that’s a slogan that works in both directions.