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Jan 26, 2001 05:18 AM

Sittings- A veritable curse on the London Scene

  • s

Just tried ( via Amex ) to book a table at Chez Bruce after Andy's rec. I am informed that I can have a table at 7.30pm but the want it back by 9.15pm!!! I really want to give it another try after the last disappointing visit, just in case but I nearly always refuse to put up with restaurants behaving like canteens.

This seems to be getting worse in London, other examples

Mirabelle - 2 hrs
Smiths - 1 hr 45mins
Sugar Club - 2hrs
Club Gascon - 2hrs
Clarkes - 1 hr 50 mins
Christophers - 2 hrs

It is bad enough having to pay bills the equivalent of the GNP of a small South American country without them telling you that they need the table back at a set time. Without going on about MPW and GR, their places seem to be real culprits as well and don't even get me onto Conran owned places ( mind you you would have to threaten me with hot needles in the eyes to even get me into a Conran place) It is all the result of restaurants gathering together in chains and the calculator taking over

The next stage is the inevitable accountants led portion control ( Livebait- anyone?) Steaks being measured ( Chez Gerrard ) and tables being made smaller. I know people have to make a profit, that is life, but surely there must be some limits to this

I wonder if there is any other business where so much is paid to so few for so little?

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  1. I am sorry to hear that C*** B**** offered such a poor slot. I can't imagine anyone wanting to be in and out so quick. Pre or post theatre yes, but otherwise it's not much of an evening.

    My experience has often been that restaurants will take a booking, say they must have the table back by a certain time, then on the day, the restaurant is invariably less than packed and the time limit never becomes an issue. Especially true of Conran in my experience.

    I can honestly say that I have never been asked to leave a table in order to finish coffee or drinks at the bar, for example, because of some more customers waiting. However, I am sure that I have had plently of two hour dinners!

    The worst example of rushed service I can remember was at the Oak Room, when Marco was still there, and no time limit had been set at all. Our main courses arrived directly after we had finished our starters. Literally, the empty plates were removed by one gang of waiters and replaced by another posse. I didn't want to send the food back because I wasn't sure when we would see it again, or risk the wrath of MPW. Lovely food however, but not really acceptable service from a 3 star restaurant.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Andy Lynes
      Simon Majumdar

      There have been a number of times when I have been asked to move at the time of drinks and coffee.

      The Oak Room
      D'ell Ugo(sp?)
      Pont De la Tour

      Nowadays I always ask if they have a sittings policy and if they do I cancel my reservation. If they don't mention it. I tend not to move.

      My favourite response was from Michel Roux, who I chatted to briefly at Le Gav. when I mentioned sittings, he sniffed and said " this is a restaurant, not a school canteen". A legend a great and a god.

      1. re: Andy Lynes

        Surely restaurant sittings is also one of those time honoured traditions,akin to the cult of the celebrity chef (viz. Escoffier).

        I went to Bam-bou last week, had a res for 19h30. We lingered...nobody bothered us. But as we were leaving, we heard the maitre d' trying to calm some Americans who had booked their table for 21h00 and had been kept waiting (it was 21h20). When we got outside, my host said 'they told me that we had to be out by 21h00...' Until then I had been blissfully unaware of this policy, as they didn't rush us or hover at all. I'll never know if those people were waiting for *our* table - (the place was full) though I don't care as I'm happy the restaurant didn't make an issue of it. But I suppose I would care if I'd been kept waiting.

        The only times I've been asked to 'rush' was when I've rocked up without a reservation and have been given a table with the caveat that they needed it back by a certain time. I think that's legit - they gave me a choice, and I could have left it.

        1. re: Andy Lynes

          Where is MPW these days? We in the US never hear about him anymore. Is he still cooking?

          1. re: Jeremy Newel
            Simon Majumdar

            Now more of a restauranteur than a chef. He runs a number of places. I have tried most and I am afraid while MPW is a truly talented chef, the way he runs his restaurants leaves much to be desired. The Crighterion(Sp?) Mirabelle and others have a reputation for being over priced and for having surly service and ludicrous reservations policies

            I believe he is also involved in Titanic, quite the worst place in town. Loud, poor food and inordinately expensive

            It is hard to equate the MPW of today with the man who cooked so brilliantly at Harveys and The Hyde Park Hotel. I would question how much he ever cooks anymore. Be interested to know

            This was very much part of my complaint about the cult of the superchef