Last Sunday D and I went to The Zetter for brunch/lunch.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that Sunday brunch/lunch, especially when eaten out, is meant to be a time to relax and indulge in your food. It’s about enjoying the simple pleasures of knowing you’re not at work; that you can take your time; converse with your friends/loved ones, and generally be pampered a bit. And when I go to a venue like The Zetter with the reputation that precedes it, I expect it to be just that little bit more special than the norm.
When we arrived and were shown to our table we were quite excited. We’d had a late night the night before so had arrived with an insatiable hunger. We were looking forward to settling into our seats, being waited on and eating some fine food. About a minute after we settled at the table however we were suddenly distracted by a very loud (and irritating) ringtone. Looking around we noticed the restaurant host saunter over to his desk and pick up the phone to take a reservation. About 2 minutes later the ringtone clumsily booted its way through our conversation again. And then again…..and then again…etc. I had envisaged, in my mind’s eye, that The Zetter would be a sanctum on a Sunday afternoon. But no. The restaurant’s landline saw to it that it felt a bit more like you were sat on a train platform with tanoys and phones blaring out echoing around the place.
Looking around the restaurant we noticed that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of waiting staff who all seemed to be running around looking a little like they were bunnies caught in full-beam headlights. Our waitress arrived, and although very pleasant, gave the impression she had just walked in off the street, picked up a pad and pen and wandered over to ask us what we’d like to eat. I ordered brunch, and D ordered a lunch starter and main. After taking our order our waitress promptly sped off to rejoin the herd of wild-eyed serving staff darting about the room.
D’s starter arrived. It was suckling pig with tuna mayonnaise served with a small diced salad. D was thrilled as he’d not encountered pig served with tuna mayonnaise outside of Turin and it was one of his old favourites. Unfortunately not only did the suckling pig look suspiciously uniform in its slicing, but the tuna mayonnaise looked like decoration applied by a small child working on an art project for nursery. The presentation was distinctly lacking and unfortunately the fact the kitchen had also sprinkled rock salt atop already salty pork, accompanied by some intensely salty olives, meant that for several forkfuls it was almost inedible.
As a new waiter arrived to clear our plates, our empty drinks glasses were whipped away in a drive-by style collection by yet another unfamiliar waiter, who failed to ask if we’d like a refill. It was roughly 10 minutes later, when our mains were delivered, that I managed to catch our high-speed waiter, in order to request another drink.
D had ordered the oxtail stuffed with cabbage served with gravy and bread sauce. I had ordered the eggs benedict brunch. D’s oxtail dish looked good. It looked hearty and rich and delicious. I had food envy.
I’m not sure if our tastebuds however had fully recovered from the annihilation of the salt wash from the pork, because D’s dish, although looking rich, tasted a bit strapped-for-cash. The oxtail itself was was a bit on the tough side and the accompanying limp sliced carrots could have well been replaced by some nice crunchy runner beans or even the cabbage that was lying, almost undetected, within the meat.
My eggs benedict certainly looked the part, however yet again, flavour had just failed to arrive at the table along with the dish. I’ve had many an eggs benedict/florentine where the hollandaise sauce has been so intensely flavoured my face has almost inverted, yet I found myself yearning for that sensation as mouthful after mouthful I failed to detect any of the usual sumptuous flavours you’d expect from creamy hollandaise, good ham and plump poached eggs.
As our empty plates were (eventually) cleared, we noticed that the host was making quite a fuss about the party that had sat down at the table next to us. On sly inspection over my shoulder I realised that it was none other than head chef of The Zetter, Bruno Loubert. Hurrah! – I thought – at least now, if nothing else, our service will become a little more attentive/considered and the staff will stop darting around aimlessly like human pinballs. Sadly however this was not to be the case.
As we ordered our desserts – for me, an orange and cardamon creme brulee with peanut shortbread, and for D, a chocolate Marquise with salted caramel icecream – our waitress (the original one) offered to take our coffee order also. The following conversation ensued:
Me: Do you have any peppermint tea?
Waitress: Errrr…no, sorry
Me: Ah, ok
Waitress: Oh, hang on, we have fresh mint tea. It’s not quite the same thing, but will that do?
Me (confused): Yes. Yes, that would be fine, thank you.
Sadly, 10 minutes later she returned with the correctly requested double espresso for D, and a cappuccino for me. She looked at me quizzically when I said that I had actually ordered a mint tea and then returned the cappuccino to the bar, before promptly forgetting about my mint tea until we’d finished the desserts. During which time D had finished his coffee and the bill had been dropped on our table by the drive-by style waiter from before, without us even requesting it.
The desserts, however, are where I change my tune. This is where The Zetter deserves some praise. Finally. And to think we almost missed out by not being big dessert fans who very nearly didn’t opt for a dessert.
An almost entirely disappointing meal was valiantly rescued by a creme brulee and a chocolate Marquise. Sublime. Utterly sublime. Good work on the desserts Zetter.
When we settled up the bill we considered leaving a tip. As we only had a large note with which to do so, I decided to ask the waitress for some change so that we could leave the (if we’re being honest, undeserved) tip. I sat, perched upright in my chair, desperately trying to attract the attention, once again, of any of the frantic staff, however 5 minutes later we realised our efforts were futile and that the fact we couldn’t even get the attention of the staff we wanted to leave a tip for, spoke volumes. So we left. Leaving behind us an empty table with no tip waiting for collection.
As we headed for the exit, I was tempted to stop at Bruno’s table and ask him if this is what he had in mind when he considered Sunday service. But I just hoped that he could see for himself that there is a marked room for improvement if this is to become a Sunday brunch success worthy of their somewhat over-ambitious prices.