Such is the bustling, crowded nature of the Strand, that blink and you’ll miss Smollensky’s Bar and Grill, which is wedged in a small space just next to Boots. It’s quite unfortunate for them, yet fortunate, in some ways, because, on the day of paying this place a visit with the girls from work, their grill was broken, meaning I couldn’t choose a steak or a burger that I had my eye on. This is at the same time fortunate, because I LOVE fish, and tend to mark seafood and fish dishes more leniently. So, that little setback was good and bad.
I ended up having fish in both my starter and my main – I had Eggs Benedict with Salmon for my starter. It was exquisite. The bouillabaisse sauce was unabashedly rich and accompanied the eggs perfectly; I wolfed the dish down in seconds. For my main, I had the fishcake, which despite tasting delicious, disappointed me; it was advertised with the salads, yet, aside from a grand total of about five green beans accompanying the meal, there really wasn’t much in the way of “salad” on my plate at all, purely the fishcake. It did taste wonderful, I’ll concede, but if you consider that that entire meal came to £12.95, one could not help feeling a little short-changed, swanky central London location or not.
I went with five other women and some of the other dishes ordered were mussels (which I hear were excellent), and the sea bass (just as good). We had several plates of chips amongst us all, which went down a treat, as, there was certainly something to the salt applied to the chips that set it apart from the usual chips you get as a side in restaurants. I would welcome those chips to McDonald’s, and gladly pay a 50p or so premium for my fries when I go to Maccy’s, because the difference was palpable. We all shared a couple of desserts; I tried a cake of some kind, which was sweetly chewy, but certainly far from being the finest in the genre.
Finally, a note on the customer service. It was not good. I have been to restaurants where the location has been one notch above a hole in the wall, yet the waiters have been totally friendly and attained to my every need. And rightly so, if they expect a tip, they’d best work for it. The waiters at Smollensky’s were, at best, negligent, and, at worst, sullen and unhelpful. It’s generally restaurant etiquette to check that the customers have knives and forks when handing them their dishes (what are we supposed to eat with, our fingers? Just wondering), but the waiters here did nothing of the kind. They did not check that our table was constantly topped up with jugs of water, and weren’t within sight when we needed other things. When we had the audacity to ask our waiters for things, the expression on their face told us all we needed to know – they weren’t happy. So much for service with a smile. So naturally, it made perfect sense that they would help themselves to a 12.5% service charge at the end of the meal, then.
Overall, I’m glad I went to Smollenky’s as it is a big name that I’ve heard lots of good things about, and the food indeed did sparkle, and the selection of food could have been even more impressive had the grill not been working. But even more pressing than a malfunctioning grill was the issue of the waiters, who thought far too highly of themselves to render our Smollensky’s experience totally recommendable.
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