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.