Monday, 9 March 2015

A restaurant to lead by example

I'm not sure when a service charge became 12.5%. Or when it started being automatically added for tables of less than six. But it seems to me that restaurants are becoming more and more likely not to trust their customers to reward service based on their experience. 

A tip is a sign of gratitude for someone who has provided a good service, and I have definitely experienced some shocking service even in the most unlikely, highly regarded Michelin star restaurants. So it always seems to me a little wrong to automatically add service charge, because restaurants like that become arrogant and assuming, when really someone needs to put them in their place.

So when a restaurant appears to only have a 5% service charge, I question their reasoning.

The restaurant I am referring to is Rex & Mariano, a new Soho seafood restaurant which occupies the once Vodka Revs between Dean and Wardour street. At first it seems obvious as to why service charge would be so much lower, with their ever so convenient iPad ordering system whereby the ordering is entirely down to you, and you do so at your own pace and as many times as you like.

But the service was like no other. They were efficient, friendly and informative. The waiters and waitresses appeared to work in sync with each other, obeying the sound of the bell signalling that a dish is ready for a customer.

Rex & Mariano was newly opened in 2014 serving an array of quality seafood dishes, cooked and uncooked. It got off to a fairly slow start but following recent reviews has suddenly become the must go place of Soho. A recent Friday night was no exception, with the large white-tiled restaurant complete with open plan kitchen, filled with tables brimming with hungry seafood lovers. 

Menu / iPad in hand, we opted for a respectable 6 dishes at first, including bread and olives, and were quickly alerted by our digital companion not to over order as dishes come quick and soon fill up your table.

No sooner had we set our iPad aside did the dishes start arriving. A particular highlight for me was the raw red prawns (you can opt for them cooked too). They were slippery and slimey in texture, offering something I had not experienced before, with a firmness when you took a bite.

A close joint second was the tuna tartare, with the punchy chilli and chive complementing the creamy avocado, and the seabass ceviche with coriander and tigers milk (a Peruvian term for a citrus-based marinade) which gave the dish a refreshing bite.

The beauty of the iPad ordering system is that if you feel you haven't quite reached that optimum amount of dishes, you just order more.

And so we did. And an afterthought it was. The salmon carpaccio was as expected but still, at £7 a pop you can't really complain.

My one piece of advice would be to ensure that you accompany your seafood dishes with a side order of bread. Big, chunky slices of homemade bread ready for you to mop up the remains of your dishes.

Our meal for two including drinks came to a respectable £58 (including that 5% service charge!) well worth it, not only for the experience and the atmosphere that the restaurant offers, but for the great selection of seafood dishes.

Yelly-fi-felly-food-belly x

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