Galeria Kaufhof, Food Hall, Mitte

I remember walking into Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Royal Hospital Road, it was one of those days when the blustery wind was making the rain come at me in horizontal sheets, from unpredictable angles.  I was dripping self-consciously on the entrance carpet, my previously styled hair beginning to dry and stick out in a wiry sunburst.  Somehow, as I tried to wrestle my battered umbrella into submission, it rebelled and burst open, drenching the Maitre ‘D and making him look like he too has suffered the same wet ordeal from Sloane square tube station to the 3 Michelin starred restaurant.

“Oh! I am so sorry!” I exclaimed, ready to turn on my heel and go out into the rain rather than face any more embarrassment.

“Ah – so fresh!” he smiled “I was in need of a bit of refreshment.” He eased me out of my coat and escorted me to my table.

He and his brigade continued to serve me as if I were a guest of utmost importance or at least one with impressive spending power (In reality, I am the worst kind of guest in Michelin starred restaurants because I only order 1 bottle of water and 1 glass of wine, I’m not really worth the space I take).It was one of my best multi Michelin starred experiences in London, followed closely by The Square, and Tom Aikens. (A notable albeit surprising service dud was The Fat Duck in Bray).  That was 2005, 7 years ago and I still remember it, although I no longer remember what I ate.  (That’s why, I always keep the menu)

I bring all this up as a way of underlining how memorable human interaction is, can be.  After countless shopping experiences at Galeria where service so bad it borders on comic and should be accompanied by canned laughter I have placed them at the farthest end of the scale from that wet afternoon on Hospital Road. Take the fish counter.  I have had 3 experiences.  First time, they tried to sell me the shriveled up old piece when there was a fresh, plump one right next to it.  Another time, the tail end.  Still another, I asked for two pieces and got one nice portion and another that was almost double in size.  That’s like being given a right shoe in a size 37 and a left shoe in a 38 and when you complain being told to get a grip and just shove some toilet paper in at the toe.  More or less the reaction of the fishwife.  I insisted nonetheless, she grumbled something, probably a hex of some sort as I have been struck down by the most monstrous of colds.Thinking I would be safe if I stayed within the self-service boundary of Galeria, I went to pick up some ground coffee.  My path was impeded by a large woman with a trolley re-stocking the shelves.  “Excuse me.” I smiled “Would it be alright if I grabbed that coffee?”  “When I’ve finished.” she replied gruffly.  I stood there, 86, 85, 84…2, 1 until the last tin was on the shelf.  Ok, she moved her trolley out of her way without so much as a nod of acknowledgment in my direction.  Goings on so preposterous, I am physically rooted to the spot with incredulity.

The number of times I’ve asked if they stock something to which the answer is inevitably no, only to find it myself?  Too many to count.What I don’t get is this, there has been money spent on the food hall at Galeria; floor to ceiling shelves, good stock, glossy pamphlets filled with hampers and such, consistent branding.  Why has corporate not had a look at service?  Or thought about installing an information desk with a data base so that goods can be located when someone esquires about them?

I will shop at Galeria, if I am in vicinity but I literally cringe at the thought of interacting with the staff.  As for fish, I will trek out to one of the Frischeparadies which Hilker’s website tells me, only displays fish for 48 hours.  Dry stores or canned goods I prefer Karstadt or even Ullrich (the latter, which sells my beloved Mutti tomatoes for under 1 euro!)

Galeria
Alexanderplatz 9
Berlin
030 247430

16 Responses to Galeria Kaufhof, Food Hall, Mitte

  1. Luisa says:

    Sadly, just another instance to explain why Germans themselves say that their country is a “Servicewüste” – a customer service desert. Things are better than they once were, but there is so far still to go, especially when compared to the US or the UK. However, they could be worse: I’m pretty sure France has worse customer service than Germany does… ;)

  2. Luisa says:

    Oh, and I really do have to put in a plug for Frischeparadies’ fish counter. It’s the only place I buy fish now – not only is everything SO fresh (and such a good selection), but the fishmongers, besides being friendly, polite, even fun, actually know what they are talking about! It’s such a pleasure.

    • Yes – that’s the other thing. I feel that at Galeria, the people that man (woman) the fish counter might just as easily do the cash registers or re-stock. The way they hack at the fish – it’s not a pretty picture.
      I didn’t know Germans say that. But as you say, it is changing. I find KaDeWe to be an exception and more expensive of course. Frischeparadies – ditto.
      I guess French people might (generally) be meaner but they tend to have a clue about the goods they are selling (Reading Raymond Blanc’s ‘A Taste Of My Life’ at the moment, his remembrances of growing up in Comte, foraging for wild asparagus and such…ready to move to Comte now).
      Meanwhile did you read about this other place, in Pankow called (www.berliner-fischmarkt.de) – Hilker’s site says that they supply KaDeWe and their outside Fisch-Imbiss looks cute. I want to try it out when it’s warmer.

  3. One of the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever had was at Gordon Ramsey on Royal Hospital Road… too long to go into detail here, but remind me to tell you about it next time I see you.

    • Ha! I don’t believe it. Tell me, tell me! Oh and what’s a good German dessert for the Supper Club?

      • German desserts off the top of my head: Kaisersschmarrn, Apfelstrudel (is that more Austrian?), Schwarzwälderkirschtorte, Windbeutel, Rotegrütze. And a practically unlimited range of Kuchen, of course.

        Or for something kitschy, you could even have a go at Spaghettieis – not really traditional German, but it must have been around since the 70’s at least – T remembers it from his childhood.

        Will reveal all about Gordon Ramsey at the cooking club.

      • Oooo – black forest gâteau – now that could be it…

        Looking forward to the Gordon Ramsay story.

  4. Giulia says:

    That totally reminds me of Globus in Zurich…tons of money spent there, great selection – grumpy Swiss service…the answer is always ‘Nein!’ with a ‘how dare you ask me a question look on their face’…

  5. fiona says:

    I have to agree that I have found German customer service on occasion so bad that it’s comical. My favourite experience here has been the teller in Commerzbank pointing at my (I’m not bragging, but really) silver Tiffany necklace and saying that my “cheap jewellery was most likely the cause of [my] card not working”. When I said I was sure it wasn’t, she turned on my bag and suggested I might buy a better one. Ah, why can’t you get service like that in the UK? ;-)

    • That’s funny you say that. My Sparkasse card de-magnetised no fewer than 3 times! It turned out it was the magnet clasp in my purse but my UK cards are all perfectly fine. I even have an American card that has no chip, only a magnetic strip and it also was fine.
      What can I say, they even have different magnets here! : )

  6. I’m afraid you are right. Customer service in Germany isn’t the friendliest and best trained around. Especially places with a long east-german tradition (Galeria Kaufhof used to be one of the main shopping malls in East Berlin) kept there smug attitude towards customers. In those days customers where hunters and gatherers and at the shorter end of the lever… I’m glad, those days are over. At least now good food is available for everyone (who happens to can afford it).

    • I am familiar with East style customer service (or lack there of) used to spend time in Bucharest as a child, when shops had nothing on their shelves and people would still wait in line.

  7. jean says:

    I think the terrible service thing is much worse in Berlin than anywhere else in Germany though. When I in Berlin I had numerous experiences of appallingly rude customer service. Further south people are often even friendly . . .

    • I hear that a lot. I’ve been to Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne and never noticed people being rude so maybe it is a Berlin thing or maybe I didn’t spend enough time in those other cities.
      On the plus side when you meet friendly, helpful people it’s incredible. I had the nicest teller at Sparkasse the other day. So helpful, couldn’t believe it.

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