Sunday, 3 March 2013

An Early Supper In Oxford - the Folly Bridge Brasserie

I often find myself homesick for France and longing to be back in my own home in that friendly, somewhat crazy commune, but I'm always aware that were I to be there I would be missing all that I have here and so, in order to avoid pining for greener grass, I try to appreciate the Here and Now. And for me that often means Oxford, one of my favourite cities.

So in that spirit, and because I was not obliged to work this weekend, today the Ragazzi and I went to Oxford to do a spot of necessary clothes shopping for me, and then to enjoy an early dinner at a restaurant by the river, Folly Bridge Brasserie.

It's a pleasant little place, full of quirky things to catch the eye, mismatched tables, little corners that resemble someone's living room, and it's by the river Thames which must be lovely in the summer when people are out punting and rowing, and the ducks paddle past and swans glide gracefully by...

We ate two courses and had one glass of fizzy white wine each and the bill would have totaled in excess of £65, had I not purchased a special deal online. And I found that quite excessive.The total cost of the ingredients for that meal could not have come to more than £18, at most.

As for the food, the main course (steak and fries with a handful of green leaves) was not generous and, despite the recommendations that we order rare or rare to medium steaks, and our request for such, when our plates arrived the several small pieces of steak were over-cooked and a little chewy. The crème brulée deserts were quite nice but ordinary, certainly no match for the velvety-smooth and creamy, crunchy-topped versions that I make at home.

If we had had a three course meal with a bottle of wine at a staggeringly over-priced £38, the bill would have been over £110. I appreciate that there are overheads, staff must be paid, premises in Oxford are expensive, heating, lighting etc all add to the costs of running a restaurant, but even so....

 Alas, no-one came to ask if we were happy with our meal, in fact there was no-one around while ate our first course, if there had been we would have expressed our disappointment with the steaks and I would have asked for them to be replaced. The Ragazza, who once worked in a restaurant, was trained always to ask "Is everything alright?" and told that if she didn't and someone complained then they would, quite rightly,  not be charged for that course. So when we received the bill for my daughter's glass of diet coke and the pepper sauce I'd requested, we were astonished to find that we'd been slapped with a service charge of 10% of the regular price of the meal. Now, I am happy to pay a generous tip for good service, but I rather resent being charged anything at all when it is, at best, merely adequate. That's just adding insult to injury, isn't it?

It's a shame. A few little extra touches would have made all the difference. A few chunks of baguette and a little pot of butter don't cost much, freshly-laundered linens napkins make a table look well-dressed, a refreshing carafe of water and ice-cubes would have been appreciated. Aren't such things standard in a decent restaurant?

I wonder if our 'online deal' meant that we were offered less-than the usual standard of food and service? Well, we will never know because we won't be returning, deal or no deal.


  1. Pity, it does look nice. Goes to show style doesn't make up for lack of substance.

    Complaining is difficult, often makes a poor experience even worse, if one is peaceable and dislikes acrimony, though sometimes when it's really warranted you have to do it or feel you've let yourself down. It's often said that one doesn't have to pay for things if they really aren't good enough, but it takes a degree of nerve to insist on that. I think Americans are probably better at making a fuss and insisting on their rights than we are. I think one is in a better position in one's native language and milieu, another advantage of being there not here.

    Service is so important, our favourite seafood place in Erquy usually has good quality food, but sometimes if one is a bit late into lunchtime it can get a bit tired and scrappy, but the service is always lovely, friendly, attentive and well timed, and that makes up for the occasional rare lapse with the food, better than good food but bad service.

    Worth e-mailing the restaurant with a link to this post, you have a readership after all, and someone Googling the restaurant might well stumble on it, so having written the review gives you the say you weren't offered when you were there. Tripadvisor is also a useful tool, people read it and take heed, and restaurants worry about it a bit I think. (Having said that, I often mean to sign on and write up about places, for good or ill, and never get around to doing it!)

    If they gave you poorer treatment because you had a special deal, more fool them.

    Hope you had a good day out otherwise and got some nice new rags with the Rags!

  2. Yes, I should have spoken out and returned the steaks at the time but I'm not comfortable when it comes to complaining, I'm far too English, and actually there was no-one around to complain to until it was to late. I even hesitated and re-wrote this post several times before deciding to publish it lest it was too harsh.


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