It’s the little things in life that give me the most pleasure: a smile, a thoughtful touch, a flower in bloom in my garden.

A poppy from my garden

A poppy from my garden

In the restaurant world the equivalent comes under the service banner and in recent weeks there were some touches that really made me stop and think about that. It’s so easy to ruin a great experience and equally easy to make it the best if you have the right attitude to it. As I am working on a new restaurant at the moment it fascinates me to ponder how do you offer the latter each and every time and how do you both recruit and train people to just get it?

A couple of weeks ago I took Dad to a little gastropub I had read about near work: The Plough Inn at Longparish. Chef James Durrant won the prestigious Gastropub Chef of the Year award at this years Top 50 Gastropub Awards and so I fancied trying it, but it was most definitely the service which sealed the deal for me.

We were up against it for time and this did not phase the staff. When my plate of food was going to be ever so slightly late, they deposited a freebie crab salad centre table to make up for it, even though we had barely put our forks in that dish when my ordered plate arrived. But the thing that truly charmed me arrived when the bill came. Yes, there was a lovely plate of home-made fudge, but in addition, to celebrate Father’s Day, they brought a bottle of Tiger beer with a lovely tag just for Dad. How clever. It was so simple and yet so right. It sealed the deal for me and I will most definitely be back.

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Those chefs who have had the experience of time and understand their customers find their own way of exceeding expectations. At Koffmanns the bread comes complete with a little treat to add to the table. Last time I went it was a pissaladiere, but I suspect it is always something that makes the most of what is in the kitchen. And clever Jamie Oliver is never one to miss a customer facing opportunity so he ensures that even whilst queueing for his no-bookings Jamie’s Italian, the line is served with antipasti treats to keep the atmosphere positive. Jamie may be a chef but he is also a great marketer and always one of the people. He gets it so right.

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It is generally the sweets with coffee that are the added extras on a menu. At Restaurant Story they followed the latest trend to serve a mini Tunnock’s teacake, which I am told is also the petit four of choice at Bubbledogs Kitchen Table, Upstairs at the Ten Bells and also the Clove Club. But for the greatest of all, you have to go back to the iconic El Bulli. After our 23 course escapade we could hardly do it justice, but the last menu entry written simply as ‘Chocolate’ was a piece de resistance.

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