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Poor service knocks the song out of the Bluebird

May 19, 2009

I grew up in South East London and as a child I would go to the local pie and mash shop with my family every Saturday afternoon. It was stuffy, noisy and as basic as you could get with white tiles on the wall and a vending machine for drinks. We would share tables with other people and you would be in and out in less than 30 minutes. At  £4.00 a head we would leave very full and very satisfied, and the service was always fast.

With ‘cheap’ restaurants and cafes, people generally expect poor service and as a result you sometimes get certain walks of life avoiding such establishments, some may call it snobbery.  So when you go to a restaurant which has the brains of Conran behind it and customers from areas such as Chelsea and Pimlico, you assume and expect great, attentive service (and decent food).

The Bluebird Restaurant on Kings Road, Chelsea, has been around for a while now and generally attracts local business people and Chelsea mums. I’d never really been interested in going in, but since restaurants such as Bluebird, Cantina and The Chop House have started serving £15.00 two course lunches there really is no excuse to not to go in (well there might be once you’ve finished reading this).

I was being treated to lunch by a colleague,  there were five of us and we were all hungry. The huge restaurant was empty; waiters and waitresses floated around wiping creases out of table cloths and we sat and waited, and waited, and waited. It took approximately five minutes for us to decide what to eat, and 25 for them to ask what we wanted to eat. Please note, they hadn’t even asked us what we wanted to drink yet, so I had to ask if we could order our drinks as well.

In the old days I would have said that it would be unfair to judge a restaurant purely on the speed of service, but as the pressure to leave a tip or to (sometimes begrudgingly) pay a service charge has increased over the years, I can not help but take everything in to account.

This is a shame though, as the food overall was very satisfying. I ordered the chicken and ceps (mushroom) pie. I would like to point out that the pie came on its own, and when I ordered it I expected a recommendation of a side. Instead, on the request of my colleague at the end of ordering, he picked three sides he felt would accompany our meals. One was green beans; the other two were salads, one of which was covered in parmesan. Only one of the five meals would have gone with this particular side, and I can guarantee you lettuce does not soak up the juices of a pie well. YES, I am being picky, but this brings me back to my point on service.

Overall our food was delicious; I renamed my pie ‘the beast pie’ as it was enormous. The pastry was flaky and the chicken was tender. My colleagues nettle risotto was creamy and flavourful and the fish pie had big, meaty pieces of fish. But I still left unsatisfied due to the service. Maybe my three week stint experiencing New York restaurants turned me in to an arse, but service was as important as the food.

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ couldn’t have been more spot on; maybe the Bluebird needs to start thinking about upping their prices again – but only if they up the service.

Average spend per person (lunch menu) £25 including drinks
Blurbird Restaurant, 350 King’s Road

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