Friday, 5 October 2012

Downtown Mayfair "Cipriani" London


I had, without a doubt, the worst dining experience ever, in London last night at Downtown Mayfair "Cipriani" (15 New Burlington Place)
First and foremost, what set the wrong mood off very early in the night was the service, or OVER service if I can give a name to it.  It was extremely disruptive and intrusive all night long.  Like parent to kid, hanging over the dinner table saying, “drink all your milk and finish your dinner or no dessert”.  Why I didn’t ask the server to back away and give us some space, I do not know. We were 7 people seated at an oval table and if the server leaned over me once, he leaned over me 40+ times to pour water, wine, more water, more wine, pass plates, pick up plates, and pour more wine. It was completely unnecessary.  His arm was in my face all night. And I mean, between bites of food, I had to put down my fork and lean back for fear of getting elbowed in my nose.  All by a waiter wearing a white dinner jacket and bow tie, circa 1960, Casablanca.  If this is the only way to reach someone in that corner, than this table is too small for 7 ppl.
Food was entirely average. If all else fails, I’ve always known Cipriani to serve wonderful food. Not last night.  Or, is it that this food is just passé? But then, great food is never passé, so I think its just lazy cooking at this stage of this brand.  My salad was below average. A bowl, a small bowl no less, of chopped cucumber, avocado – not ripe enough – and tomatoes, thrown together.  That’s it. Not terrible, but its something anyone can manage to make at home.  At Jean-George in NYC, I once ordered a tomato as an appetizer.  That’s it. Just a tomato.  It was the most exquisitely prepared tomato known to man.  Presented like a piece of art and that flavor is still with me long after its not offered the menu any more.  I assure you this cucumber, avocado, tomato salad was a long, long way off of that. Not an ounce of anything special about this.
Cipriani can do pasta I understand.  I had A’matriciana.  Fine. But fine is not fine, if you know what I mean. Frankly, it was too oily and too much sauce vs. quantity of pasta. 
Atmosphere in the restaurant is non-existent.  No music, unless you count a group of 12 singing “happy birthday” to a family member.  I thought I was in a sports bar for that minute, but then I realized otherwise.  It was the servers buzzing around in their white dinner jackets and bow ties, singing madam this and madam that.  I wonder where the cigarette girls where. They would have completed the picture.  And the book shelf with the contrived arrangement of books made to look like people read “Porsche” or “What to Cook and How to Cook it” all the while waiting for your food to be brought to you. Who concocted that as good restaurant design?  Or is that what the waiter was leaning in for, actually?  A good read.
And then, the inevitable:  the bill arrives.  And it’s extortionate. Almost uncomfortable.   Of course the prices are on the menu, but when you are hit with a bill of hundreds and hundreds ….and hundreds more £ pounds, you think the better of the choice to come here to begin with.  The “buffet” of desserts that our server brought to the center of our table, was pithy, fluffy and amateur.  All white, all meringue of some shape and at bill time, I notice first that they are £11 each.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. 

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