Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Yauatcha: How Not to Treat A Customer

Food blogs are funny things. Ultimately it is just one person's snapshot view of a restaurant. What would bring you to read my views on a restaurant you may well never visit? I guess like all critics, as a s/he is read more and more, the reader compares it with their own experiences and they learn to trust the critic's opinion, or not. They may also come for the writing, or they may even come to satisfy their raging food-porn obsession if the blogger has spent a suitably grotesque amount of money on the latest SLR wonder box of tricks. Did you SEE the bokeh on those?!

Food critics for the New York Times have rules about the number of times they have to eat at a restaurant before they can review it. As to with the Michelin process. Too many times have I seen negative reviews because the kitchen sent a few bad plates out of the thousands that week. It may even have been the only bad plates to get through the pass all year. Nonetheless, bloggers often write up a scathing review and move on to the next terrified bastard holding everyone to Michelin levels. For things that are cheaper like burgers/street food, I will generally try to go several times before writing it up. I understand that everyone pays the same amount for each plate but if only 1% of the orders are duds then it is unfair to say the quality is poor if you’ve only been once and gotten unlucky.

So although its easy to gloss over mistakes in the kitchen, what is unforgivable is poor or rude service. Rude service is like a screaming baby on a long-haul flight. You see, poor food can be mitigated by excellent, caring service; a heart-felt apology can make you forget even the most collapsed of souffl├ęs. However, even the smoothest chicken parfait or most decadent of chocolate cakes, would not dilute my anger at being treated rudely by the staff.
So why am I bringing this up? Well a recent birthday dinner at Yauatcha was ruined by awful service. It was doubly a shame as the food is really rather good, if not a tad expensive. My Better Half and I turned up at 6pm on a week day and even though the restaurant was more than half empty they still made us wait five minutes at the desk to check their 'lists'. Our request for tap water over bottled was rebuffed and not brought until the third time of asking. As our third guest was running late (ended up being 40 minutes late) we ordered two cocktails at a tenner each. We only got these about half an hour after sitting down.

Steamed Chicken Dumplings

The second my friend arrived and sat down, our waiter came over and told us that the table was only free until 7pm and so we’d only have 20 minutes to order and eat. Taken aback I questioned why we weren’t told this when we arrived and generally it is customary to have a table for at least an hour and a half. I was given a Gallic shrug: made worse as he wasn't even French. I can only assume they thought we were timewasters and cheapskates (despite the cocktails). Also, everything that was brought to or taken from the table was done without any trace of a smile or acknowledgement. One waitress even took my friend’s plate from under her while she had the last dumpling still in her chopsticks! Of course by the end of the evening it was almost 9pm and nothing was said about the earlier comment or any apology offered. The cheapskate theory seems to be vindicated. I should also point out that the restaurant never got more than three quarters full at any point in the meal.

Crispy Duck Roll

Safe to say that all this totally ruined the evening which was a shame as a lot of the food was really good. Duck rolls were crispy and heavily filled with tender fragrant duck. The venison puffs were rich and meaty, although got a little sickly by the end. The char sui buns were light as a feather and the best traditional versions I’ve had while the steamed chicken dumplings were equally fantastic and full of flavour. Also, although strange to see macarons in an Asian restaurant, these were delicious , apart from the soapy lavender one.

The restaurant wasn’t to know it was my birthday, nor can they control every waiter all the time. Frustratingly I paid the 12.5% service as I was so angry I couldn’t face any further confrontation. Nor did I mention the issues to management on leaving, I should have, I know. But equally, for a £40 a head I shouldn’t have to. 

I emailed the PR for the Bacchus group letting them know of the issues and if they had any comments. I was 'thanked for my feedback' and notified that the manager will 'file it in their records'. An apology really does seem too much. UPDATE 27/02/2013: I received a sincere apology from the general manager. Although this post will stand as it is, I do feel slightly more inclined to return.

Venison Puff
Steamed Char Sui Bun
Fried Vegetable Dumpling
Sweetcorn Taro Croquettes

Selection of Macarons
Food: 8/10
Service: 2/10
Value: 7/10
Overall: I dont care. I wouldn't go back.

Square Meal Yauatcha on Urbanspoon


  1. I agree with you. I have been there a number of times, on a date, with friends, with family... you name it. Food great (apart from the crab), service always poor, a little arrogant,not very attentive, trying to upsell. I wet back purely for the food.

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