8th September 2015
Smollensky's Bar and Grill The Strand.
Photographs, edits and words by me
I have something a little different for you all today - a restaurant review! I've mentioned eating places before and my instagram is full of foodie posts, but I haven't really done a proper review of a venue and so I thought I would start now! I visited Smollensky's in June with some friends and my sister after a trip to the V&A for the Alexander McQueen exhibition. The exhibition was beautiful (my second time going) and after walking round for nearly two hours, gazing admiringly at garment upon garment, we decided it was time for some lunch. We are all a little fussy in my group and so we needed to find a restaurant that would be suitable for everyone and that is when we happened upon Smollenksy's Bar & Grill located on The Strand.
Being a bar and grill we figured that it would pretty much have something for each of us and a quick glance at the menu proved that we had found a good spot to rest our legs and grab a bite to eat. Smollensky's is tucked away downstairs and the decor is stunning! It's got that premium restaurant look on one side matched with a sexy dark undertone of London nightlife brought about by a fully stocked lit up bar and grand piano on the other. Basically, it screamed city hotspot! When we got there it was quiet, but I can imagine the place livening up during the evening as glamorous urbanites float down the stairs and cocktails start flowing. Thankfully, we were able to just sit in peace for the time that we were there.
We were quickly seated by a kind and welcoming waitress and drink orders taken and received swiftly too. The menu is compact, but I like that! There is just enough that there is an option for every eater, but it also allows you to make a quick decision without having to flick through multiple pages and ponder your decision for too long. I hate having to decide between too many things! The other's quickly settled on a burgers and a hotdog and I decided to go for the salmon (I literally like to think I'm classier than I am!). Our waitress soon came back over to take our food order and we joyfully sat chattering as she went off to put it through and we waited for our meals. And waited. And waited. Unfortunately this is where things started to go a little downhill for us and I feel a little guilty seeing as on a whole I liked the place but we really did wait a long time for our food to come out. What made it especially frustrating was the fact that there wasn't that many people in the restaurant and no mention from the staff of a hold up in the kitchen. Even if it's not what we may want to hear, it's definitely better to inform your customers than keep them guessing and getting more irritated by the minute.
Eventually our food was served to us and by a different waiter this time, I think ours may have gone home for the day. The other's joyfully tucked into their much anticipated food and I finally got to taste my salmon. Major points to the chefs at Smollensky's because it was perfect! I like my salmon to be soft and flaky but still quite juicy and it was all of those things and more! The crushed potatoes and mango salad complimented it perfectly with the just the right flavours and portions. I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the meal I had chosen and my irritation at the long wait soon disappeared... but not for long.
We were then left waiting again for our plates to be cleared as staff walked past us and ignored us, we weren't even offered a second drink considering we finished ours about a quarter of a way into eating. We sat and chatted for a little bit before trying to get someone's attention and when we finally did we were waiting around again to receive our bill. There was a stark contrast in comparison to our original waitress and part of me was really desperate to have her back. I have worked in the hospitality industry and I know that attentiveness and a good attitude are key to giving your customers the best possible service. IT was practically nailed into my brain by my former bosses, so that is why I couldn't really understand how we could just be left there with hardly a 'how is everything for you today?'.
The final blow came when we looked over our bill and found a 12.5% service charge added on. Now, I am by no means opposed to giving tips (like I said I worked in hospitality!), but I've never been keen on the idea of a 'discretionary' service charge being added on to my final bill. I feel it shows that the restaurant has assumed you received the best service possible and as we all know, this isn't always true. Sometimes I leave it there if I'm happy and I've enjoyed my experience, but if I've found some faults with my visit then I will ask for it to be removed. In this case I decided that even though the service wasn't as good as it could have been overall, the food and the original waitress really did meet expectations and so rather than pay the 12.5% we decided we would leave a tip that better suited our experience. We ushered the waiter over and asked for it to be removed so that we could leave a tip in cash on the table. I would like to think that he simply smiled and said 'of course' but seeing the end of that giant hill we were rolling down was in site, you can bet we got a surprised and then frosty look as he walked off to change it for us. We decided to quickly pay the bill and leave a fair amount of tip money on the table and then leave as we were no longer comfortable. My sister noted that on the way out she saw the waiter talking to who we assumed was his supervisor and the two glared at us as we ascended the stairs to the safety of the street.
I find it a real shame that our visit turned so cold after what started as a really welcoming and warm lunch in the heart of London. I don't want to put anyone off visiting Smollensky's though and I imagine that at times it's probably a fantastic place to eat and sip on cocktails with a group of friends or even have a meal with the family! We were just unfortunate enough that we were forgotten about and there is no excusing bad customer service from one defiant waiter. I would be willing to go back and I've seen online that they also have a restaurant in Canary Wharf, so I feel it may be worth checking out a different location before making my mind up completely. To be honest though, I would do anything for another bit of that Salmon!