Posts Tagged ‘stroud green’

Resto 14 N4 coffee fruit, Stroud Green

May 29, 2018
IMG_1806

A perfect coffee served in the German Gymnasium.

Hmm, a coffee shop rather than a resto really and strictly speaking not within the rules since I paid up front. But sometimes the quality of service in an establishment is such that one is forced to comment on it even if only to encourage the management to put things right. With this in mind the description will come first and the notes on how to improve things afterwards.

N4 coffee fruit (Yes, lower case. It used to be known as the altogether less irritating Vagabond.) is a pleasant enough room to sip coffee and do the crossword. If you have coffee. Being mid-morning the room wasn’t busy and I was the only person in the queue. I waited for the guy by the till to look at me so I could make my order.

But he was busy. Busy making coffee? No. Busy out back? No. Busy tidying up tables? No. Just busy not serving customers. He was looking down at something. What could it be? I turned it over in my mind. A generous man would say he was looking through a stack of orders and making sure that he’d memorised which one belonged to which customer. Subsequent events would suggest otherwise.

He eventually looked up and I ordered a double espresso and sat down. And waited. I perused the paper and observed a few people come in and order after me. Including a man with a cute fluffy dog, who was obviously a hit. After about ten minutes I was starting to wonder where my coffee was so found it less easy to focus on Janan Ganesh’s skewering of the Brexit crisis and its catastrophic effect on strategic policy thinking among our political leadership. I observed that everyone in the coffee shop had arrived after me and also that they all had coffee.

The till guy was chatting to a friend on a table at the window and occasionally looking at his phone. I fixed him with a basilisk stare. He looked up absently then went back to his phone. The woman on the coffee machine was similarly gripped by social media. It must have been 15 minutes or so since I’d gone in.

So I got up on my hind legs, walked to the counter and asked for my coffee. ‘Coffee?’ ‘Yes, a double espresso.’ ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ Till guy was still absorbed in his phone. The coffee arrived without comment from either party and I drank it and left.

This was the worst service I’d had since a legendary dinner in Margate. But in a spirit of generosity I offer a few pieces of advice from one customer service worker to another.

  1. When a customer comes into your business look at them. It will help you to realise that they are a human being and not just a disembodied voice. You might also consider taking the experience one step further by smiling at them.
  2. While you have customers in the room observe them – do they need anything? Make eye contact to give them the opportunity to speak to you. Not only will this make them feel looked after it might also encourage them to buy more things.
  3. If you do make a mistake apologise.
  4. If you do make a mistake apologise.
  5. If you DO make a mistake apologise.
  6. In person. Don’t let a colleague do it on your behalf.
  7. Do not under any circumstance play jazz lite over your sound system. Combined with the combined nervating effect of high amounts of caffeine and bad service this could result in a Falling Down style situation. You don’t want that. And more to the point nor do your customers.

0/10

#Coffee #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

 

Resto 11 Pizza X Drink, Stroud Green

April 16, 2018

On the site of the now defunct Gustavo’s (not missed) Pizza X Drink has another go at the bargain pizza market. They pull it off nicely. They’ve decluttered the room, a good thing, and kept the big windows so you can do some people watching.

Water was delivered immediately I was sat down (good call as I had a raging thirst from watching Middlesex crush Northants on the hottest day of the year so far) and I perused the menu. It looks more complicated than it actually is. Either you pick your own sauce and toppings or you take one ready made. I went for a Mexican with a side salad and a pint of Stella.

The beer was chilled and delivered by the manager himself (a cheerful feller who was also busy training his staff, good thing). The pizza was good without being amazing but at £5 for a man-sized portion I wasn’t complaining. Properly fiery jalapeños, ground beef and onion were perfect for me. The disappointing thing was the base, which was a bit on the pale side, I’d have liked a bit more crunch. The salad was a generous measure and they remembered to hold the red onion.

All in all Pizza X Drink is perfect if you want a quick pit stop to meet friends or on the way out. And for a total of £13 you’d find it hard to eat that well for that kind of money elsewhere in Stroud Green.

8/10

#Food #London #N8

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016-18 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 37 Walnut, Finsbury Park

August 2, 2017

IMG_1048.jpg

I was disappointed to find that the previous occupant of this site had closed a couple of months ago when I  was in search of my usual post-seminar, pre-quiz meal of pizza, Nastro and rocket salad. What had put paid to the outfit I’m not sure as there always seemed to be a steady enough stream of customers. I’m hoping that Walnut, the new restaurant, endures as this was an excellent meal.

It being early evening it was pretty quiet. The room hasn’t been altered much except the seating is now a mixture of café style and more formal dining (though not overly so). We warmed up with a round of cocktails (£5 in happy hour, worth doing as a post-work wind down on their own) while we had a look at the menu.

The selection on offer is big enough without making your brain ache. I went for the starter special of razor clam (one of my favourite things) in a salad with bacon. The clams weren’t drowned out by the salty bacon and the whole thing was despatched very quickly. The main of hake was perfectly cooked with plenty of crispy green beans propping it up. We shared some noticeably good chips (truffle and parmesan gave them a bit of oomph) and I wished I’d had a bowl to myself.

Alongside this a bottle of Pinot Gris was delicious and reasonably priced for the quality. Did we have room for dessert? Probably but we also had an eye on meeting friends down the road so we got the bill. Service was friendly without being too chummy and we left happy. Recommended.

8/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

 

Resto 36 Hanna Maria, Finsbury Park

July 25, 2017

We were looking for pre-quiz eats but it being a Monday most of Finsbury Park’s more refined venues were closed. So we turned to Hanna Maria, which has been around for a long time but which I’ve never visited before. My only previous acquaintance with it was Luca the Pizzaiolo from our football team. He had a dynamite right foot but was a determinedly erratic attender of football matches.

Thus service at Hanna Maria would make Luca proud. On arrival the man making the pizzas, having no English, gave us the Italian equivalent of a Gallic shrug before we sat ourselves in the back room. The room is a bosky bricolage delight. Past old album covers suspended from the ceiling one steps into a log-pannelled den facing a surprisingly well-appointed bar. I liked it.

IMG_1040.jpg

Eventually someone appeared to give us menus and after some confusion we ordered. Pizza is king at Hanna Maria and they have plenty of toppings listed. We took half a metre to share and though we picked two different toppings I couldn’t discern where one started and the other finished. It didn’t really matter, the whole thing tasted really good. Crispy charred dough around the edges and plenty of good stuff on top.

The side salad was bigger than expected and though it contained raw red onion (I spurned it) this was mitigated by some excellent olives. The Pinot Grigio was drinkable but nothing more. Several people popped in to ask us if our food was okay, which it was, but when it came to getting the bill we had to go up to the desk. For twenty quid a head it was good enough value for a filling dinner with booze on top.

So I’d recommend HM but with the proviso that you’re not in a hurry. The pizza is excellent but Luca’s spirit lives on in the randomness of its delivery.

7/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto #4 Quê Mę

January 23, 2017

Abutting the Yak on Stroud Green we paid a visit to Quê Mę in search of freshness and spice. We got both. A platter of sea nibbles to kick off was a good choice with battered this and soft shell that all being eminently munchable. Bun Hue for main was a richly flavoured bowl of soup with plenty of prawns and vegetables swimming around within.

Our waiter had apologised for being slow to take our order as it was his first night but he had no need to be concerned, everything went smoothly on the service side of things. A full room on an early Saturday evening (in contrast to La Porchetta a couple of doors along) showed that Quê Mę has successfully cracked the price/quality equation for this stretch of restos, where the competition is fierce. The only downside was a lack of good quality wine. I should’ve stuck to beer.

7/10

#Food #London #Vietnamese

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #94 The Old Dairy, Stroud Green

November 7, 2016

img_0330

I must have been to The Old Dairy a hundred times or more for a drink but I don’t recall ever having eaten there. Fresh from a refurb and with options in Stroud Green thinning out (Gustavo’s, I notice, has bitten the dust) we took a table in the Dairy of a Saturday night.

Well, that makes it sound easier than the process of getting a table actually turned out to be. Could we have a table for 5? The guy said he’d check. I could see at least five empty tables immediately in front of me and I was pretty sure there were more next door but hey, it was a Saturday right so maybe they had a lot of bookings. Our man had disappeared and was next seen taking a payment from a customer having, goldfish-like, completely forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.

Another server strolled past – were we waiting for something? Table for 5 please … oh, I’ll just have a look. Hmm, been told that before but on this occasion we did get a table, a nice big one. Everybody gruntled again.

The menu is pretty extensive and has a lot of tempting things on it. I opted for chicken livers to start and then venison for a main. Would we like drinks? You betcha – wine for the adults and a beer for the teenager. ‘How old is he?’ ‘Seventeen, is that a problem?’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Well, the manager said no but we protested that if he was eating he should be allowed to have a drink. A concession was made. Everybody happy again. The wine, a white Rioja, was very good and our waitress charm itself in the face of disintegrating gruntlement.

Four starters arrived but where were the chicken livers? Somewhere else, obviously. Somewhere else for long enough that I asked the others to start without me while I looked for the livers. Eventually they arrived and were okay but seemed to have come from very large chickens. The livers I liked but the sauce had too much raw heat and some pointless cold cherry tomatoes in it. Squid on the other hand looked good.

More drinks? Sure, same again please. Ah but no, you see the boy could have one pint but not another. ‘Are you sure?! I mean that seems a little inconsistent.’ ‘I’ll check with the manager.’ Nope, it’s a one drink policy. We took it philosophically. Mains taking a fair while to arrive it was clear that the kitchen was having a slow night. Or that hungry bar customers were taking precedent over those in the restaurant. But when it arrived the venison was decent, if a little undercarbed with potatoes of the straw variety making a meagre contribution. But I snaffled some (good) chips from the chicken muncher across the way. Crunchy cabbage was a good thing. Did we want dessert? Hmm, I don’t think so.

The waitress could see that we weren’t entirely happy about the way things had gone and did a good job of emollience but it really should have occurred to the manager that a personal visit to the table might have been wise. I don’t like it when managers leave their staff to face the music, it’s happened too often at work to me in the past. It might just have been an off night for the resto but for over forty quid a head I expect a bit better. Oh, and I forgot to mention the health and safety testing floor chip.

To end on a brighter note the highlight of the evening were the plates! Hand turned pieces of lovely crockery that showed off the food very well, I coveted them.

5/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #72 Q&T Vietnamese Kitchen, Stroud Green Road

September 3, 2016

After a packed week it’s been hard to keep up with doing the reviews so this one arrives a few days later than intended. I’ve had my eye on Q&T for a while as Hanoi Phô was a bit of a disappointment and an alternative for Vietnamese yummies within walking distance would be a good thing.

So we went to Q&T to meet an old friend who curiously had been to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand but not Vietnam. It’s BYOB (which we hadn’t been aware of beforehand so we hadn’t BOOB) with a £1.50 corkage but I decided to stick to soft drinks with one eye on an 8 o’clock train to Paris to catch the following day. A good homemade lemonade was delicious  – tangy and not too sweet. We shared some starters of summer rolls, morning glory and satay chicken. All very good and I only wished that we’d ordered more.

But then again I mightn’t have had room for the phô, which was a big bowl of rich soup with a generous helping of prawns and noodles accompanied by the usual veg to lob in at your own desire. Good hot chilli was what I wanted and it’s what I got. At around fifteen quid a head and with friendly service it’s no wonder that the room was full throughout our stay. Recommended.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Review #41 La Porchetta, Stroud Green

May 2, 2016

A stroll from Highgate to Stroud Green had as its final destination La Porchetta, a local stalwart that operates in an increasingly competitive environment for pizza in this neck of the woods; as one commentator put it there are more pizzerias per hectare in Stroud Green than in Naples.

So how does La P fare? On a Friday evening it wasn’t difficult to get a table, which is not how I remember it a few years ago. Famished, one of our number made the rash request that everything we ordered be brought at the same time. This instruction being followed to the letter it meant that mains of pizza and green salad arrived with olives and bruschetta – meaning that in the intervening twenty minutes or so I was left to glug (pretty good) Montepulciano with a rebelliously grumblyhungry stomach. A waiter with more initiative might have at least brought us the olives – or I guess we could have just asked for them. Either way it was a mistake.

The pizza was excellent – the diavolo had salty, meaty pepperoni and a tasty base. I demolished it tout de suite. The salad was nothing beyond chopped stuff but went the way of the pizza too as I was a very hungry chap.

Otherwise, the service was a bit off – they could easily have sold us another bottle of vino (we were four at the table) and plates were cleared before they were barely finished, indicating that our presence was no longer required. Which would have been understandable if we had been behaving boorishly (we weren’t). Or if there was a queue out of the door. Tellingly that wasn’t the case.

6/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

 

 

Review #37 Exotic of India, Stroud Green

April 17, 2016

This being the final venue of an Overground pub crawl from Moorgate to Finsbury Park my critical faculties were not quite as finely tuned as they were at lunchtime. I’ve been to the Exotic before and I think it’s had a refit since then, which is welcome. Poppadoms, chicken madras and okra went in and were yum. Conversation flowed as it will after a lot of liquid refreshment. I can’t remember the service so it must have been fine!

I didn’t visit the jakes.

7/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #30 Gustavo’s (?), Stroud Green

March 21, 2016

This was a curious one. Friday evening often finds me in the Stapleton in the company of friends and this week we were peckish. The Stapleton would usually be followed by Il Pic Diav but I was hamstrung by The Rules of 2016 and had to persuade the others (and they were reluctant) to forgo the IPD and find somewhere fresh to try.

Not being at our most energetic we went across the road to Gustavo’s. At least I think that’s what it’s called, they’re not listed on google maps. Gustavo’s sign was saying ‘Closed’ but there was activity within. Friday night at 8 o’clock would be a strange time to turn away customers. We peered through the window and made willing faces to the waiter. He came to the door, turned the sign round and let us in. Shortly afterwards several other customers turned up and the room soon became over half full. I leave to the reader to decide whether Gustavo (or his minions) ever intended to open that evening.

There being no licence we had to source our booze from the Tesco’s down the road (my friend firmly ruling out a £2.99 red from the offy on the corner) and returned to order. A calamari starter, unbreaded but cooked to perfection with a little salad, was delicious but hardly enough to keep the wolf from the door. And soon it was a very hungry wolf.

Pizza came and went, but for other people. There was pizza for some diners in the room who had arrived after us but more gallingly it seemed that they were delivering takeaways to half of Crouch End.

A clearly under pressure waiter was coping manfully in the face of passive aggressive snarks from the hungry hordes at our table. Just as it was being debated whether we would decamp the pizza started to arrive. A near miss. Not everyone was happy with the pizza but I thought mine rather good. Lots of topping and a good base. Whether it was cooked in house or brought from across the road I can’t tell – the oven by the room wasn’t operating and we had no means of seeing where the things were being made.

We departed in semi-rancour and as I walked past later on the waiter was stacking the chairs at the end of service. He gave me such a mournful, baleful look that I didn’t dare take a picture from in front of the restaurant but waited till I’d sidled towards Finsbury Park to get a shot from a distance.

5/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap


%d bloggers like this: