The Devil is in the Detail
There are days and there are days…..On this particular day, recently, I was not exactly fizzing with life, in fact I was positively Mrs. Hot and Bothered from Barnes. In a big way. Sometimes, it’s just the little things that get you, isn’t that true? There’s a small shop in a side street in East Sheen which sells unusual bathroom accessories and other interesting bits and pieces, door knobs, number signs, door furniture, that sort of thing, where over years I have spent quite a lot of money in my capacity as property developer and interior designer. Three years ago, prior to moving to Azerbaijan as an expat, I had somehow managed to accrue a credit note for the not exactly princely sum of £14.99 which had no date limit and, as I believed, came attached with plenty of goodwill towards me as a good customer. Now, back in Blighty, I needed to replace one cupboard knob for the grand old price of £4.99. They had it, I bought it and handed over said credit note. Oh my word, the bad grace in which this was eventually accepted after several visits to the shop and some heavy negotiation on my part, was quite something. I was very rudely snapped at by the grumpy bulldog like owner and forced to exchange all my credit’s worth at once because, apparently, she could not do business with someone like me. Off I trotted with two spare cupboard knobs I didn’t need, thunder in my heart, contemplating the shortsightedness of this business owner and totting up the completely negligible interest that may have accrued over three years, I was that cross! Needless to say, next time I’ll take my custom somewhere else!
On that very day, I had arranged to meet a fun young American friend for lunch, another Baku expat who was visiting London for a few days. (For anyone who would like to do real time online exercise, I can only highly recommend her website www.balleness.com!) I had booked a table for us at fashionable London destination restaurant, The Wolseley on Piccadilly. Coincidentally, I happened to have a voucher for a champagne afternoon tea for two here, which had been filed away, pretty much forgotten and was several years old. Apologetically, I pulled the wrinkled piece of paper out of my bag and showed it to the maître d’, asking whether I might possibly redeem it to pay for our lunch, fully expecting a refusal. To my immense surprise, he accepted it without batting an eyelid and with a charming ‘but of course, madam’. Not only did it pay for our lunch, but in lieu of the minimal change left over, the waiter insisted on treating me to a wonderful piece of cake from their bakery to take home! Now, that’s what I call customer service! I eventually left the restaurant with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. The day had been saved! As my very switched on businessman son put it so laconically: ‘Right there’s your reason why one business is in a little suburban side street and the other is on Piccadilly, supremely successful and on everyone’s lips.’ Too right!
So, my little rant over with, let me tell you about our lunch. Built in 1919 as the showroom and offices for Wolseley Motors, from which it obviously takes its name, it was turned into a former sister restaurant to celebrity haunt The Ivy in 2003 by restaurateurs extraordinaires, Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. They retained all the beautiful architectural features, the lacquered columns and striking art decoish black and white tiled floor. The restaurant certainly has a cosy mid European traditional brasserie/cafe feel to it. In the same vein, the menu is also interesting and varied with some excellent Austro/Franco/ German dishes on offer too.
Truth be told, on the many occasions I have eaten at The Wolseley, whether breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or supper, I have never yet come away with the impression of an absolutely outstanding culinary experience bar none but the food has always been solidly good, enjoyable and definitely a meal worth repeating. More to the point, the love of detail, the out and out professionalism and the warmly welcoming service account for its immense popularity and are the reasons why bookings need to be made well in advance. And then there’s the celeb spotting too. If, unlike me, you recognise familiar faces from TV, film and the music scene, you will have a field day!
Our girly lunch of lobster bisque and French fries, scrambled egg with smoked salmon, a glass of Cabernet, two Americanos with two not so little Florentines, plenty of water and the generous bonus piece of cheesecake was great, light, tasty and prepared just so. In the past, I have also very much enjoyed their quite exquisite cheese soufflé and the traditional English afternoon tea, with little cakes, sandwiches, scones and the whole shebang is definitely something to write home about too. Our meal came to £66, all in, and while this is clearly no bargain basement price, as a special treat and in view of the simply superb overall experience, it is, I feel, worth every penny.
Located just a few doors down from the Ritz Hotel in the busy touristy West End of London, The Wolseley is a most welcome haven of civility, a place where each guest is treasured and looked after to uncompromised old fashioned service standards and much attention is paid to detail. Go on, spoil yourself! You know you want to!