Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Eating Out: Invisible Diners at The Hix in Soho

On Friday we had tickets to see the play of the moment, Anna Christie, starring Jude Law, at Donmar Warehouse in London. I'd been looking forward to seeing the play for weeks, even months. (More about that on my other site Strindberg's Daughter, here, soon.)

In addition to the theatre, though, I'd also been looking forward to going out to dinner with good friends. It had been a long time since our last theatre evening.

Because it was a Friday and everyone had had a busy week, we decided to do a pre-theatre dinner. I proposed two places, Hix of Soho or Pollen Street Social in Mayfair. In the end we plumped for Hix, since it's closer to the Donmar, but wouldn't you believe it, the same day Pollen Street got a Michelin star. By then it was too late to change so we settled on Hix where I'd been with the Englishman a couple of times, but our friends hadn't yet tried.

The female receptionist (or Maitre d'?) was on the phone and didn't make eye contact as we arrived at Hix, which didn't seem like a good sign. We waited but there was still no reaction from her to our arrival. Finally a waiter showed us to a table and asked if we'd like to look at both lunch and dinner menus, since we were in between the two (it was half past five). It occurred to me that perhaps this explained the woman's behaviour at the reception. Perhaps she wasn't on duty yet...?

After being shown to a round table in the middle of the almost empty restaurant, we asked if we could sit at another one with a comfortable sofa for us girls to lean back against.

'Of course,' said the waiter. We settled down at the table and ordered some drinks. I spotted the woman from reception, clutching a clipboard to her chest, whispering something to our waiter just a few feet away from us. About ten minutes later the same friendly waiter came back and very, very nicely, told us that he'd made a mistake and that the table was needed by a larger party. (We were four and the table was for four people.)

I gave him a look which I hoped conveyed puzzlement.

'With the table next to you we can make eight,' he explained. As we began to move away, nodding towards the reception area, he added, 'She's not very happy with me.'

Now I felt sorry for him and laughed, 'She didn't like us either.'

The food at Hix was good, meat cooked just right, but the whole meal was overshadowed by the rude welcome. I also couldn't but notice that while we had our meal, there was a notable lack of diners at our previous venue. Nothing at all happened; there was no rejoining of the two tables. It didn't really matter; it was just annoying, since meal at Hix is not cheap - we spent a lot of money on wine and food, and the service.

A picture of the invisible diners who made us move tables...
So Hix, a lesson for you: if you ask your guests to move tables, at least try to make it seem as if there is a credible reason for pissing them off. Also give your reception staff lessons in customer service. Diners really like being spoken to when they arrive at your restaurant.

The moral of the story for me is: never recommend a restaurant to friends.


booketta said...

Hi Helena
I love your blogs and I have sent you a PM via Facebook. I don't know if you have picked it up yet but just in case. It is an invitation to be my guest on my blog.

Mrs P said...

Well that has put me right off!! I like Mark Hix (well in as much as I have his recipe book and the way he is on the telly) I would never go somewhere where the customer is not the first priority after the food! x

Dicky said...

Yep, that's a good rule to go by, "never recommend restaurants to friends." Why is it that things always go wrong when we do stuff like that?

I really like Soho in the early evening (not so keen at 2am) and its one of my favourite places in London.

Helena Halme said...

It's not my policy to vent every little frustration on service around London, but this was just so annoying, that I couldn't resist. No reaction from Hix as yet - I would have been surprised if they had made amends, to be honest.

Boketta, I hope you got my email? I'd LOVE to be a guest blogger on your fantastic site.

Helena xx

aurora raby said...

How interesting!

We had exactly the same poor treatment by staff at Mark Hix's sea food restaurant In Lyme Regis. Although the fish was cooked well and the ambiance was great such poor service and rudeness is unforgivable.

Thanks for the post. Lets hope they read it and do some follow up training.