• 10Jan

    Rivington Grill

    This is my first blog in the Middle East and what better way to kick off with a visit to a ‘British Theme’ restaurant.

    Rivington Grill is set in the Old Town district overlooking the lakes, soon to be and under the awesome sight of The Burj. There is an incredible amount of construction going on all around the restaurant which is totally out of the control of Rivington Grill, but boy is it noisy!

    We went to this restaurant because we were on a walk about around the Old Town the day before looking for apartments to rent as we are going to be living out here for a few years. We stumbled across what we understand was a manager outside the restaurant who was an Iraqi and a charming chap. After some discussion he persuaded that we should try out the place as a lot of work and effort had been put in to opening up this new restaurant. We did just that the following day, Oh dear!

    The place as you would expect being brand new is spotlessly clean with chefs working behind counters that are in full view of the customers. Good start. Going through to the restaurant we were amazed at how many staff there were and not many of them British – which is not a criticism.
    Despite the noise outside from the building works we thought we would enjoy some alfresco dining as this is the only time of year you can do this without the weather being too hot.

    As a table was not ready outside we were asked to sit at the bar whilst the table was made ready, right move. At the bar we ordered a drink and in no time at all the table was ready. Making our way to the table the waiter took the drinks to the table which again you don’t get very often in the UK, right move again. Taking our seats my wife was given the wine menu as she was drinking and I could not as I was driving and there is zero alcohol tolerance when driving out here with a straight to jail policy if caught! Wow the price of quite ordinary wines are £40 – £120 a bottle or for the cheapest wine by the glass is £6ish.

    Then came the menu well this is not British food as you would know it. Its British named food that has a twist that from what we ordered failed to impress. Because we were unsure about the place in terms of culinary excellence we thought we would play safe and start off slowly, that turned out to be a good move. My wife ordered a ‘Welsh rarebit’ which had flaked smoked haddock in it on what looked like a piece of Mothers Pride – the latter I suppose was British! This was a single slice of bread served on an awful off white/brown 1960’s chunky style crockery and this was about £9ish – it looked very sad indeed. As for the taste well it was pastey, thick and heavy, it was not good.

    As for me well I ordered fish pie and this came out in the same awful style crockery and looked like it had been left under the grill too long. The sauce was tastey and there were some healthy chunks of fish. As for the size well for a fish pie that cost £20ish you would have thought you would get a small garnish of vegetables and something more than a small breakfast bowl of pie – you don’t and its mean!

    We didn’t have any desert as the main meal took an age to arrive despite it only being a slice of fancy cheese on toast and tiny fish pie.

    Now for the staff. You know a place is new when all the staff are super super super friendly and this is over bearing. From an outsider looking in there is considerable overlap with regard to duties and this manifests it self into a muddle. It is so obvious that everyone is trying really hard and there now needs to be a rethink about how in your face this needs to be. When we first walked in on the first day just to see what the place had to offer all the staff were lined up along the service counter and it was like everyone had come out to say hello – not very British thats more American! So to prove how silly this was I walked down the line and saluted everybody – you have to break it up somehow!

    Conclusion

    Would we go back? Not at those prices as the quality is not sufficient to raise the value (Value is proportional to the quality divided by the cost). The staff are willing and eager but need shaping and training to understand how to be proficient and not so over bearing. As for the food portions they are mean, slow to come to the table, and presented on some pretty awful lack luster china.

    Improvements

    • White china all the time – painters don’t start with a dirty canvas
    • Give the staff some boundaries to curb their eagerness
    • Provide some vegetables with the main meals – they are the cheapest things to provide
    • Sort the wine list out – even for Dubai its not right
    • Its difficult to make cheese on toast look good but a garnish would not be a bad start
    • Don’t charge top prices when world war three is taking place at the end of your terrace
  • 03Dec
    Address Drakes Restaurant
    Venue The Clock House, High Street, Ripley, Surrey. GU23 6AQ
    Score 4/10
    Food Evening Dinner
    Bill £400 for 4
    Date Aug 2008

    This is a single Michelin star restaurant, and with such an accolade you may think you should be blown away with every mouthful and gold plated to boot. However you should prepare yourself for disappointment and need never worry about having a mouthful. We were a party of four and with one bottle of wine and with one aperitif each the bill was £400 – ouch!

    This place is not about food it is about art and the chefs talent to create those dishes that should be mounted, polished and placed inside glass cabinets with little plates that detail the lengths to which he has gone to prepare such delicacies.

    We arrived at 19:00 (note the military timing its important) on a warm summers evening and we were greeted at the door to take names and coats. No problem. We were then taken to our table to the rear of the restaurant and we took our seats and asked if we would like any drinks. Sounding good. We ordered an aperitif each and started to look at the menu. My wife saw there was a garden with guests in and thought why not take our drinks outside as we don’t get many summer evenings when you can do this. So I got up from the table to find the waiter to tell him what we would like to do. “Non monsieur, as you need to order now so the chef can stagger the orders and as you booked your table for 19:15 then you need to order now”. At £100 per head I think I am entitled to eat sitting on the roof if I choose. He was having none of it.

    I returned to the table and told my firends that we were not allowed to go outside as we must order now. Correct me if I am wrong by all means but surely the chef is working for the guests and not us working for the chef. Any way we did what we were told and obeyed.

    After much deliberation two of us wanted to order the tasting plate in place of a starter and main whilst the other two wanted a starter and main. Would you think that was easy? Definitely not as we were told by the waiter that if two wanted the tasting plate then the whole table had to order the tasting plate. So, trying to understand this I asked what if we were a table of 2 would we be able to order the tasting plate. “Yes”. Now this logic was getting under my skin and I thought now it’s play time. “OK great” I thought “can we have another table set up next to this one and then treat us as two table?” “No” was the reply. “Why not?” “Because we are fully booked”

    I just wish I had started this blog site many years ago as I have so many gems like this.

    Anyway once again we complied and decided to order a tasting plate for four.

    Then came the wine order. As you might expect Drakes has a sommelier on hand and is quite probably very knowledgable. Well I freely admit that I am not one life’s great wine connosseurs and I do not feel restricted to red with meat and white with fish. So with this in mind spending the bank on a bottle is not my idea of fun. We will happily spend £20 on a bottle but after that then everything is soured by the price. My wife took responsibility for this and she too shares a similar understanding. She tried to ask for something that accommodated both pallet and wallet but kept having it pointed out to her that there were better wines to have with the starting plate. At times like this, waiters be warned for future reference, you should not push my wife as she is quite capable of standing up and letting the whole restaurant know what wine she would like. She didn’t this time and after a third time of asking she got what she wanted. She always does!

    The wine arrived and it was great. The food arrived and wow, your knives and forks are surplus to requirements. It looks beautiful but you sure do hope that there are about twenty of these dishes to come! Sadly not as there were only five in all and needless to say you were left hungry. Some may say well its not meant to satisfy any hunger its just a taster. Well I’m sorry to say that at £100 a head I want some satisfaction!

    Then came desserts. These too are masterpieces which lend themselves to taking the perfect picture for your web site much like a skinny cat walk clothes horse is to the latest fashions i.e. something that looks great when dressed but not something you should take the covers off!

    Finally we ordered the cheese board between four, well this took the biscuit – no pun intended! Because cheese is cheese there is not much you can do with this to dress it up except enjoy it. That would have been easy if there had been enough of it. The portions were so small you could be forgiven that war had broken out and rationing was the order of the day. In fact what was served was not enough for one let alone four. So those of you with a shakey hand and rather concerned about cutting too large a slice at a cost to your table you need to have an excuse prepared. I suggest you don’t tell the table you are full as they will not believe you.

    Now the bill, what could be simpler? It came perfectly itemised and tallied to the penny, marvellous. However as is so often the case service charge was not included. Now instead of leaving this to our discretion we were told no less than three times that service was not included together with much smiling and insincere “hope everything was alright with your meal, sir”. On reflection I should have got up from the table and announced to the whole restaurant that service was not included and seen where that would go, alas I didn’t.

    Improvements

    1. Nouvelle cusine should not mean ‘see what we can hide beautifully on an empty plate!’
    2. A sommellier is a nice touch but such a refined and knowledgable pallett should be complimented with the skills that recognises a table that would not know the difference between a bottle of Yellow Tail and a 1989 Cheval Blanc.
    3. Customers should not feel they are working to the chef’s timetable.
    4. A menu should not create an opportunity that divides a table like the tasting plate does i.e. everyone has it or no one has it
    5. If you are so desperate for a tip include it on the bill without all the begging at the end
    6. Don’t become super friendly when the bill arrives it’s nothing the customer will feel good about
    7. It should not be a problem if guests want to take their aperitifs outside when it can be clearly seen that this is an opportunity others are enjoying.
    8. There are some great cheeses but the portions should not require the cutting skills of a key-hole surgeon.

    Conclulsion

    Would I go back? Not if I’m hungry, as it would seem rather odd to go back to a restaurant that cannot feed you faster than your hunger can be satisfied and mugging you for the privilege.