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Sunday, October 22, 2006









HAKKASAN: FALLING AT THE LAST HURDLE

Ever had victory snatched from your fingers at the last moment? Haven’t we all? Ever had a wonderful experience ruined by one act of stupidity? Of course.

That’s how today’s lunch at Hakkasan felt. A great shame as, to the last minute, we both agreed that this was “right up there” with the best dim sum we had ever tried and they had to go and spoil it all by trying to bend us over the table we had just used and try and take the piss when we came to pay the bill.

And, it all started so well too.

We had not been to Hakkasan for quite a while. But, on previous visits the food had been exemplary. So, after a week of over indulgence we thought some dim sum would be the perfect way to round it off. Recent experiences at both the lower and mid level places had been underwhelming so, we decided to splash out and make a reservation for 12.30 at the best place in town.

The food, well the food was as good as ever. In fact, better than ever. There were many new dim sum dishes that had been added to the menu only days before and we chose three of those along with a more regular selection of fried, baked and steamed.

All excellent, but standouts were an Australian blue swimmer crab dumpling, a deep fried cuttlefish roll with a fabulously sour fish sauce, turnip paste topped with an omelette of chives & garlic and fried Shanghai dumplings. All the other dishes were spot on too with even a standard dish of har gau causing some raised eyebrows.

I don’t have many pictures as they are a bit “iffy” about it and asked me not too. Fair enough. Still, every dish was attractive and each maintained the distinct nature of its key ingredients without swamping them in stroke inducing MSG.

Along with some noodlage, some garlic shoots, some non alcoholic cocktails and a couple of pots of “four seasons” oolong, the bill came to £90 including 13% service.

The service, was, as always, bang on the button and I have no problem at all paying a service charge. What I do have a problem with is then being presented with a credit card slip where the gratuity line is still left open. It seems to be a common practice in all Chinese restaurants in London and that is bad enough, but for a place at this level everyone involved should hang their heads.

It left as bad a taste in our mouth as if we had been offered a palate cleanser of dead dog and has soured what was otherwise a excellent meal to no more than a bitter memory.

I am not often tempted to write to a restaurant owner, but, as I am in full consumer vengeance mode today having taken some foul hot chocolate back to Apostrophe this morning and demanded a refund, I am going to send an e-mail and see what they say.

I suspect I already know and I think the second word will be “off”

Shame on them.
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10 Comments:

Anonymous LSF said...

I don't quite understand why this annoys people. It's open so you can add more service if you wish. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to - not on your card anyway.

Sunday, October 22, 2006 5:56:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

No, it isn't. If that was the case then they would not add a service charge at all and let you add whatever you want when signing your bill.

I don't know how it operates at Hakkasan, but I thnk it many cases this is just to bulk up the tronc and is pre meditated.

S

Sunday, October 22, 2006 6:27:00 pm  
Anonymous LSF said...

"No, it isn't"? Sorry - do you have special insight into a restaurant's motivation? Or is this just your opinion? But the fact remains that if the slip isn't left open, then you can't apply any more service against your card. And if they didn't add service, people would get confused over whether it was there or not and then struggle to work out how much to add. Personally I think service charges should be dispensed with altogether for all the confusion it can cause. I have more of a problem with restaurants that make a cover charge and then add service like Memories of China or Zen.

Monday, October 23, 2006 12:25:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

An opinion? Certainly. But, one based on enough conversations with people in the restaurant business to know that far from being an altruistic act to gain extra money for woefully underpaid staff this is regularly seen as a way of extracting further cash from the unwary. cash whcih seldom goes to the wait staff who deserve it most.

Adn yes, I couldn't agree more. The cover charge is another great bugbear

S

Monday, October 23, 2006 8:04:00 am  
Blogger Denzylle said...

I notice that the service charge on this occasion was 13%. Don't you normally tip more than that % if s.c. isn't included at all? So, couldn't you tip a wee bit more if you thought service had been good enough?

For example, on a recent visit to Strada (I know it's a bit downmarket for you guys), the service charge was less than the 15% I normally pay. I can't recall exactly what it was, but let's say it was 13%. So, I signed the credit card slip for cost + 13%, then tipped the additonal 2% in cash.

Monday, October 23, 2006 1:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not about wanting to add more if you think you received good service. It's the fact that places that do this often do not alert you to the fact in order to try to dupe you into paying service twice. If you ask if service is included when they present you with a credit card slip with the gratuity line open, often you are greeted with extremely guilty or annoyed looks, demonstrating that most servers know exactly what they are doing with this scam!

Monday, October 23, 2006 4:56:00 pm  
Anonymous Stephen said...

Technology is moving on though. When I was at St John a couple of weeks ago, I paid by card and the card processing machine asked me if I wanted to add a tip or not.

However, it was a similar situation as there was already gratuity on the bill. I asked the waiter though and she said that it was already included, so I pressed "no".

My take on the matter is that if they automatically add on tip then that's all that I pay. If they leave it up to me then I leave about 15% or so because I'm a nice guy. Assuming that the service was worth it, that is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 1:22:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

I think your last paragraph sums it up perfectly for me too. Apart from me being a nice guy, that is

S

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 4:21:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently ate at Asia de Cuba in St Martins lane and had a not dissimilar experiance. The bill included a service charge (I think about 15% or so but it may have been 12.5%). There was then on the credit card slip somewhere to add a tip. When I asked to confirm that service had already been included I was told that "yes - but that goes to the resturant, if you want to add a tip for the waiters you have to add this on top".
This was particularly annoying for a number of reasons:-
1. I was on a date and resent being made to look like a cheapskate having already paid 15% and over £100 a head because I dont want to give them more than that for pretty average service.
2. It further degrades the important and pleasurable role of tipping. Isnt it great when you have an attentive, knowledgable and enthusiastic waiter. In these cases it is an enjoyable part of the dining experiance to show ones appreciation by tipping well. Of course one can still do that but the reality is that "standard" service charges of 15% make it more difficult and dont prompt us to make such judgements. We just pay 15% and forget about it. This is a shame - espicially when you get some surly member of the great unwashed who cant tell Chateaubriand from Chateauneuf.
3. It just seems like yet another way to charge customers more. Of course resturants are businesses and they should be run as such, but the experiance is surely cheapened (in a purely metaphorical sense) by the feeling that one is being squeezed for an extra x% on the basis that its for some alledgedly good cause or a social norm.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 12:17:00 pm  
Anonymous Ben said...

And another thing... What's with the creeping percentages? Not so long ago I'm sure 10 percent was the standard, now 12.5 is the norm, but 13 percent... 15 percent... in the States (where they can't do mental arithmetic) they provide you with suggested tipping options up to 20 percent. Food prices steadily go up - we expect that - but that means tips do too. That's the thing about percentages. Does service get incrementally better year on year, so we need to beef up the tip? Do they think we won't notice?

My mental arithmetic usually starts at 10 percent, after which I round up generously based on how I've been treated. But I shouldn't be made to feel like a social pariah if I want to exercise my 'option' not to leave anything at all.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 3:57:00 pm  

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