The great restaurateur Maurad Mazouz recently explained to me how as he criss-crosses the channel between restaurants, half way under the water he alters his hospitality cultural mind-set.
‘In Paris no one cares how the waiter talks to you. Here in London it’s more formal,’ he told me. ‘ Here, if the service isn’t good, you get a letter. In France we’re happy with bad service.’
So when you open a Parisian style restaurant in London, by all means bring the style and the food, the uniforms and the accents. But leave the service philosophy at the bottom of the sea. Better still, park it at Calais. I make these suggestions bearing in mind the breakfast I had at Colbert this week.
Now I have outlined previously, here, in detailed scoffing style, the importance of delivering breakfast correctly. Time is of the essence; a power breakfast needs accompanying speed. Get the coffees quick, take the order, deliver the food promptly. Give the customer the idea that you totally get his or her mission. Hustle, bustle, bish, bosh, bash should be your watchwords.
Above all, be attentive to your diners. Do not think you are in Paris. Do not ignore the punters.
Colbert is a fine place; looks and feels great. Great banquettes, good authentic brasserie décor and atmosphere. So it was a pity that they totally screwed up my breakfast by employing a seemingly deliberate tactic of ignoring my attempts to order.
It never seems to me to be an unreasonable desire to want to order food in a restaurant. Coffee came, but could I find someone to write down what we wanted to eat? Minutes ticked by. The flow of vital conversation with my fellow breakfaster constantly interrupted by my vain attempts to get someone to take an order.
Three or four staff members whose attentions I got made delegating noises but to no effect. Eventually we succeeded. But the poached eggs took a stupidly long time to arrive – we were making lame ‘are they waiting for the hen to lay’ type jokes to keep up moral. And when they did come, the second egg on my toast was hard (or as they say on twitter: #firstworldproblem).
Thank God the large pile of bacon was utterly delicious: smokey, crisp, salty; very good indeed.
We asked for more coffee. A waiter hailed a cab to Heathrow flew to Brazil then fetched back some freshly roasted beans, which he used to make my OK tasting black Americano. So, no – not quite worth the wait.
Maybe in Paris the punters love this type of gruelling, battling, frustrating start to the day. Perhaps it fires them up. But it doesn’t work in London.
There had been better, prompter service the night before at Eight Over Eight where I indulged my absolute foodie love. A plate of duck, cashew nuts and watermelon has to be up there with parmesan custard with anchovy toast as a favourite dish of all time. I’ll never tire of it. And they can feed me shrimp tempura till the cows come home. The thought of it is almost enough to forgive the errant breakfast service calamity at Colbert, but not quite.