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!)