Hits & Misses in London

One of the reasons why I love to travel is to experience new cultures. On my first trip to London and based on my experiences over a week-long stay, I would say it is quite different from America. I loved the history and the food was good, but the people and what I encountered are not what I expected, especially when it came to hospitality and customer service. Londoners do not say ‘excuse me’ to get by. They will just push thru when trying to exit an underground train or passing on the sidewalk. I nearly fell over when someone cut me off on the sidewalk while I was carrying my heavy Kelty backpack. The only person I asked for directions was the wrong person to ask. He was not in the mood to be helpful. I did have a few decent interactions but I had high hopes for a land that teaches etiquette and self presentation.

Solely focusing on experiences in the food and beverage industry, it seems like no one in restaurants smile. The blonde lady that took my order at Prince Albert in Notting Hill didn’t smile. I made eye contact with a bartender standing right in front of me twice. He walked away. I left and took my pounds elsewhere.

Looking for a place to eat before touring Buckingham Palace, I scoped out the many menus at a spot about a block away. The spot with the great deal of two sides and a glass of wine didn’t open for half an hour. I went to Rail House Cafe to have a cocktail. It was located at the corner and plenty of outdoor seating. The bar was a square with comfortable bar stools. The restaurant had tables made out of carts and couches in the lounge area. It had a comfortable feel to it.

The comfort is then ruined by two different managers screaming at their staff members by their name (sorry, Selena😬) for all of the patrons to hear.

Ohmigod” is accompanied with shaking spoons in their faces. As a previous restaurant co-owner and manager, please say things to your staff in the back of house (BOH) and lower your voice. My disbelief continues when another manager is scolding another employee in a loud voice at the host desk. Next, two managers are yelling across big areas of space to each other! What is happening?!? Am I missing something? Is this the hospitality culture here in London? Embarrassed for the staff, I added an additional pound to the tip for my bartender and was glad I made the decision to eat elsewhere for lunch. Cute place but I was not liking the management style there. Please enlighten me if I’m wrong here.

The 10 pound cocktail, Honey Coco, is made of coconut-washed Tequila Espolon, lime and salted honey. It was tasty. The bartendress made it perfectly and was pleasant.

On the flip side, Vagabond was pleasant. The gent that took my order at the counter was friendly and the 12 pound lunch was perfect. It even fit within my budget for my #50GBPaDayChallenge. I sat outside and did a Facebook Live with their free wifi. I had two tapas, a mushroom risotto arancini and a cheesey truffle bites, and a glass of rose.

Buffalo Trace Distillery zipper up I bought at the distiller the week before.

Another spot, Flat Iron, in the King’s Cross neighborhood was fantastic. They were busy but cleaned off a table for one. They smiled and were attentive. The perfectly seasoned flat iron steak was served with a house leaf salad in a cup and complimentary popcorn. They were out of the Wignac Cidre Naturale so I ordered the Strawberry & Basil Collins for 7 GBP made with vodka, basil, lemon, strawberry and soda. Perhaps I was parched from my walking that evening but the refreshing cocktail was gone in no time. The steak was cooked perfectly and the salad was light and made it a perfect combination. Again, I was within budget for the day with such a good deal. It was another #50GBPaDayChallenge success. Another good feeling was that I was able to support cancer research. An optional 10p per steak is donated.

Not every dining experience was terrible, just different. Sadly, not in a good way. I can’t even say you get what you pay for as a 10 pound burger with fries and a drink at Band of Burgers and high end afternoon tea experience at Harrod’s were both very pleasant. Unfortunately, I do not foresee any plans to return to London anytime soon. Fortunately, I have had some good experiences. Thank you for that!

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