"It's not much but it's ours"

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I can’t actually remember the last time I wrote a letter of complaint to a restaurant. I am sure I have, fuelled by the flames of righteous (or should that be self righteous?) indignation at a lousy meal, lousy service or both. But, I know that I have never fired off a missive to somewhere as highly regarded as Jean Georges, arguably New York’s most famous restaurant.

So what gives? What caused yours truly, known throughout the dining world for his tolerant, understanding and giving nature, to write a note expressing concern at an odd lunchtime experience for him and his girlfriend that they had to cut short because she was so distressed?

Well, let’s start at the beginning. My friend Cathy, who is well known in the NYC restaurant biz had pulled a few strings to snaffle a table at Jean George. It was, I imagined, the perfect prelude to a rather large question I was planning to pop that night over supper at Corton and, the set lunch at the restaurant with two courses for $28 and each further course for $14, meant it would not break the budget for either of us.

Things started badly when they tried to give us one of those strange little tables where couples sit side by side both facing the room. I am told that some people actually like being seated in restaurants like they were on a bus, but it’s not for me and there was no issue when I asked to be moved to a better table.

The menu comprises around twenty dishes with the lightest at the top as starters and heavier dishes as you drop down the list so you can create your own tasting menu. Sybil and I each chose our two dishes and another to share.

Cold bread and rock hard butter are rarely a good sign in a high-end restaurant, but we each chewed away anyway at a piece of unimpressive sourdough until the amuse arrived. When they did, they were a delay rather than a pleasant distraction with herb soup tasting more of salt that anything leafy and a square of “re-hydrated” pineapple perched on top of some dense Mozzarella proving that it is a fruit only suitable to be paired with Carnation Milk.

Sybil was already suffering some discomfort at this point although, ever attentive, I did not notice and concentrated on our starters as they were presented with some formality. My “Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sauteed Frog Legs” was tepid and the salt they had planned to use in it had obviously run out after being used so liberally in the amuse. It was entirely missing in this dish. Worse still, any taste of the young garlic had been swamped by a heavy hand with the thyme.

Sybil’s “Foie Gras Brulee with Pineapple-Meyer Lemon Jam” was slightly disastrous with the effort of cracking the brulee only delaying her from finding out that the foie had probably been in the fridge as long as the butter and the jam confirming again that pineapple does not belong on any menu anywhere unless the other course is fish finger & chips.

Main courses were a slight improvement, with my “Halibut with Snow Peas, Ramps and Almond Milk with Chilli Oil” highlighting a perfectly cooked piece of fish and crisp, fresh vegetable accompaniments. Better still was Sybil’s dish of “Sea Scallops with Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion” which incurred a supplement of $8. However, it was at this point that Sybil told me what was distressing her so much, the fact that she was being studiously ignored by every server who came to our table while they gave all their attention and explanations to me.

I thought, at first, she was being over sensitive, but as our last shared dish of “Parmesan Coated Confit Leg of Chicken with Potato Puree and Lemon Butter” was delivered I saw that she was right as the explanation of our final plate was directed to me alone. Quite odd and frankly slightly creepy.

That was the final straw and, after we ate what was a badly executed last dish where all tastes of the ingredients had been overpowered by the citrus in the lemon butter sauce, we declined pudding and got the bill of a little over $100, which arrived with some excellent marshmallows and petit fours that we took perfunctory bites from before leaving.

Sybil is not given to imagining such slights and was genuinely angry as we headed out to walk off our lunch in Central Park. I was angry too and sent off a letter to the restaurant shortly afterwards to point out the oddities of the service and the effect it may have on other diner's enjoyment. I could have also mentioned the food too, which, for a restaurant of this reputation, should have been so much better, but that, for once, seemed like a secondary concern.

As we sat in the sunshine in the park, I decided to bring forward my big question and asked Sybil to marry me. I am delighted to say she said “yes” so, even if the people at Jean Georges don’t think she is worth talking to, I do and for the rest of my life.

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Blogger N1David said...

Congratulations... reminds me of a friend who had an absolutely disastrous trip to Paris on the weekend he intended to pop the question, no time was ever right, and ended up proposing in Stansted baggage reclaim... she said yes too...

Thursday, May 21, 2009 9:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Anthony Silverbrow said...

Simon congratulations to both of you, great news. Shame about the shit meal though!

Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Sarah said...

Just lovely! (shame about the restaurant...!)

Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Friday, May 22, 2009 2:25:00 am  
Anonymous Jess said...

Delurking to say congratulations! Had a startlingly similar experience in Paris, and I said 'yes' too...

Friday, May 22, 2009 6:27:00 am  
Anonymous Krista said...

Exciting news...although I did have the sneak peek on Twitter the other day! Congratulations to you both! And, well, I suppose you'll always remember the finer details of the day...

Friday, May 22, 2009 8:09:00 am  
Anonymous Anthony Cohn said...

Congratulations! I wish you and your wife (to be) a successful, healthy and happy life together surrounded by friends, fine food and fine wine.

I have been following your blog for many a month now and have your blog to thank for some fantastic restaurant and foodie tips. Thank you!

Friday, May 22, 2009 9:15:00 am  
Anonymous Oliver said...

Many, many congratulations! I wish you lots of happy meals together.

Friday, May 22, 2009 9:23:00 am  
Anonymous Bill K. said...

Congrats to you both!
Does this mean you will be moving to the USA?
And what about H1?
Is this the end of the DOS in Dos Hermanos?
Tune in next week........Bill K.

Friday, May 22, 2009 9:28:00 am  
Blogger michael_k said...

Your own sunny spot in Central Park - no better choice.
The meal - at the very least it gave you the opportunity to pen that final line.

Friday, May 22, 2009 10:10:00 am  
Blogger Zoe said...

Mazel tov! I was proposed to 6 months ago, in our kitchen - at least there I can only blame myself for the quality of the food and the dirtiness of the floor. I look forward to amusing reviews of dire wedding caterers.

Friday, May 22, 2009 10:22:00 am  
Anonymous Harters said...

Congratulations to you both.....

....on your future together, not lunch.


Friday, May 22, 2009 11:06:00 am  
Blogger Kavey said...

Shame about the meal but congrats again on the engagement!

Friday, May 22, 2009 11:14:00 am  
Blogger Patrick said...


Do you have an idea as to why Sybil was being ignored?

Friday, May 22, 2009 11:56:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Thanks all.

@Patrick - no, I had not encountered it before and found it very peculiar. Still no response from the restauarant

Friday, May 22, 2009 12:02:00 pm  
Blogger phild said...

Congratulations: I hope to see "tres hermanos" in the future. Sybil's feisty response to a comment earlier in the year bodes well.

My partner was always ignored in restaurants when we lived in HK. She was especially irritated that wine waiters filled my glass but only gave hers a token splash. I never saw what the issue was..! She exacted her revenge in Paris where waiters fawned over her and ignored me.

I too planed to pose the big question in a top restaurant but was let down by the experience and deferred the moment. I wonder how common it is?


Friday, May 22, 2009 1:39:00 pm  
Anonymous tonimoroni said...

Congratulations to you both! Love conquers all, even an unremittingly crappy meal.

Friday, May 22, 2009 1:49:00 pm  
Blogger Lizzie said...


Do you think it was because she's a woman? I've encountered this, but that was in the middle east. If so, shame on them. I'd be interested to hear what they have to say for themselves.

Friday, May 22, 2009 5:09:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

so pleased for you - whenever you have reported on meals with Sybil, you have always sounded so very happy.

Even when the food was not as good as gazing into her eyes...:)

Friday, May 22, 2009 6:38:00 pm  
OpenID gastrogeek said...

Huge congratulations! I was proposed to a couple of months ago - being engaged is the best thing ever. Sybil has my sympathies - I had a similar experience at Delfina in London Bridge. The waitress completely ignored me throughout the meal and only addressed my male companion. When I made a point of talking to her directly she just smiled in a really creepy way and replied to him! The food was great but this treatment just made it one of the worst eating experiences I've ever had.

Friday, May 22, 2009 9:00:00 pm  
Blogger Gill the Painter said...

Well my husband proposed to me in 1994 at the Brahms and Liszt, Covent Garden
It was pulled down when we went back to make way for an Opera - you may be lucky.

I've only once had a similar experience to you, once is enough - my sister is black and all conversations were directed at me.
I hate that sort of thing with a passion, me.

But it's isolated thank goodness.

Friday, May 22, 2009 11:10:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least there's only way your joint eating out experience can go after such a disastrous start.
I hope we won't be losing your restaurant reviewing to the other side of the pond.


Saturday, May 23, 2009 8:52:00 am  
Anonymous Zack J. said...

You have to ask your friend Cathy what she said to them to pull the strings that got you a table.If she told them that you were a famous food writer from London,with yr own blog etc.,who had written a best selling book about eating around the world etc etc., then the restaurant staff may have been instructed accordingly,and thus they directed all their comments/attention etc to the "famous" food writer as that was the person they wanted to impress.Such is the price of fame!Sybil may have to get used to it,just like all the other halves of famous people do.

Monday, May 25, 2009 9:39:00 am  
Blogger Lex said...

yay!!! me so happy for u :)
uncle s getting married!! oh am i allowed to babysit? :D

Monday, May 25, 2009 11:02:00 am  
Blogger sybil said...

hey zack j: i guess with your logic, staff should ignore michelle obama when the president and his wife dine there, melinda gates when bill and his wife dine there, or george clooney's date when they dine there. and i guess it is comforting to know that there is "equal treatment" in that staff would also ignore the husband of the most powerful woman in the united states house of representatives when they dine there. that's good to know. thanks.

Monday, May 25, 2009 2:55:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...


Sybil makes a good point. For my part, I just think you are speaking complete bollocks


Monday, May 25, 2009 2:59:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

Re Zack J - B**ger Sybil getting used to it. That kind of restaurant will have to get used to famous people going somewhere else then... not like there is insufficient competition, is there?

Monday, May 25, 2009 3:30:00 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

Congratulations to you both. Excellent and happy news. Shame about the restaurant though, I have experienced similar treatment myself. Apparently, the man is sometimes the only one capable of making any decisions about food/wine, listening to any information or indeed, paying at the end. What a load of bollocks.

Monday, May 25, 2009 3:57:00 pm  
Blogger Gavin said...

Many congratulations to you both.

Any of you who have been lucky enough to meet my wife will know that if your recent treatment had been her experience then the poor waitstaff member would have been leaving the premises feet first.

Monday, May 25, 2009 10:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Christine Johnson said...

While Sybil may be delightful,she is not Michelle Obama,whom the press have made famous.Even though M has done nothing but marry Obama,she is now well known.Sybil will no doubt become well known one day,but at the moment it is H who is the personnage probably hyped by Cathy.And Mrs.Gates(whether microsoft or CIA) is entirely anonymous unless HER PR makes a point of prepping the reataurant.
So I think Z has a point,even if it is an unpleasant truth.I note he did not say the restaurant was "right" to do so,he merely provided a theory about their behaviour.Sybil seems to have over-reacted to his comment too.But it is H who will travel down the path of discovery of Sybil over time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 10:09:00 am  
Anonymous Cindy Hartmann said...

What an aggressive response from Sybil!Why take it out on poor Zack,you should have said something in restaurant!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:07:00 pm  
Anonymous Zack said...

Actually H2,I did not "speak",but only offered a theory as to why the restaurant may have focussed so intently on yr sibling.I did not opine it was "right" to do so,only that before condemning the restaurant post facto,it might be worth getting more info from Cathy as what she told them ,as this might have caused them to behave in a particular way,again without saying it was "right".
So you and Sybil don't need to be so aggressive,nor use bad language and personal invective.
It is indeed unfortunate that you both exhibited such needless aggression.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 1:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Rachel said...

What's all this Sybil stuff...we were all hoping you were going to marry Marina O'L !

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 4:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulations to both of you!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 7:47:00 pm  
Blogger sybil said...

Hey Zack, I didn't realize that testing out your theory was me being aggressive or that I used bad language and personal invective. Next time, if someone posits a theory that I think is flawed (irrespective of whether the theory is right or wrong), I will not question it because I might be viewed as needlessly aggressive and using bad language &/or personal invective. Again, many thanks for pointing that out.

To everyone else, thank you for the congratulatory remarks. I am a happy camper.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 7:50:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Sybil,

I think you're going to get on *very* well with your prospective sister-in-law.


PS What was the service at Corton like ?

PPS Congrats

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:51:00 pm  
Blogger Sass said...

funnily enough, I just got back from my own wedding and as a long time reader checked in only to see this post! Many congratulations to you both and may your future be filled with fabulous food and much happiness ...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:33:00 am  
Blogger sybil said...

Thanks HP!

I thought Corton's service was much better even though, as I understand it, Cathy also kindly made the dinner arrangements for us. The staff actually made eye contact with me when they explained the menu and/or dishes.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:52:00 am  
Anonymous Maria B. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 8:31:00 am  
Blogger Josordoni said...

How nice of everyone to be so welcoming to Sybil.


Welcome Sybil... hope some of the comments coming through won't put you off....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:07:00 pm  
Blogger Cathy said...

Sheesh, I didn't "hype" anyone. I asked my pal at JG to make a res for a dear friend and his lady. I'm as mystified and annoyed by the server's behavior as Sybil rightly is.

And I'm thrilled she said YES! despite such an infuriating experience. Felicitations and much love to you both.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 3:52:00 pm  
Blogger Gourmet Chick said...

Congratulations! I did hear about it on twitter but all sounds very romantic. I wonder if it was because Sybil is female or because they knew who H2 was? I generally find that the wine list gets handed to my boyfriend (which he then hands to me) and even after I have paid for a meal my credit card will get handed back to him as well!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 4:31:00 pm  
Anonymous F.Grant said...

The DH blog used to be an occasionally amusing piece about 2 blokes from Rotherham eating in various places.It seems to have been hijacked into a "women's issues with perceived slights from men" blog.
Stop it,it's ridiculous .It's even more ridiculous to get into such a lather about some minimum wage waiter.And even worse to seek to turn it into some vague discrimination issue.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 1:43:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

you're right. One post in the nearly 800 we've done. It has obviously become an obsession

Thursday, May 28, 2009 1:56:00 pm  
Blogger Josordoni said...

nooo H2, don't add any more obsessions to the ones you already have!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009 2:02:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...


You've changed. And not for the better. I want a divorce.


Thursday, May 28, 2009 10:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Marc T. said...

A lot of these posts seem to have been written by women who have problems with the interaction with waiters.As a waiter,I offer the following points to these women.
1.Waiters generally work very hard,and for long hours on minimum wage at best.
2.We get blamed usually for everything that the customer doesn't like,even if it has nothing to do with us(we don't cook the food for example).
3.We try hard to make your experience pleasant,but sometimes it is YOU who are the problem,but we can't say this .
4.Many of YOU don't say hello,respond to our greeting,make any kind of acknowledgement of our presence.
5.Many of YOU dither around endlessly before you make up your minds on your order,going back and forth,asking ridiculous questions(menu says roast chicken-question "how is that cooked" ,well it's roasted!).
6.Many of you change your order several times,even after the waiter has written it down,and sometimes after it has gone to the kitchen.
7.Many of you then pretend the dish received was not what you ordered,because you prefer the looks of what your date has been given,and so on.
The waiter also gets it from the kitchen staff-not fast enough,order not clear;bloody customer has changed the order etc etc.
When we deliver the order,many of YOU pay no attention,talk on your mobiles etc,then after many minutes,start eating and complain the food is cold!!
A group of women figuring out a bill is something that should be filmed and shown to the world as an interesting insight into women's behaviour.
Then there is the rummaging around in the purse for the cash/credit card/or whatever,while we stand patiently, waiting endlessly.
So sometimes,the waiter deals with the guy-because the guy decides quickly,doesn't waste time endlessly,doesn't ask ridiculous questions,pays promptly,never flip-flops or pretends he didn't get what he ordered.
So I am sorry for all the women who posted with negative comments on their dining experiences,but perhaps you should see yourselves occasionally as others(the waitstaff) see you .We know we are not perfect,but neither are YOU.

Friday, May 29, 2009 4:08:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Thanks for that Marc T, quite apart from anything else, it made me laugh out loud and it's always welcome to hear the other side of the coin



Friday, May 29, 2009 9:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

er, can you "hear" the other side of the coin?? Well you know what I mean.


Friday, May 29, 2009 9:04:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Marc T,

I know, working at Mickey D's is a bitch ain't it ?


Friday, May 29, 2009 10:54:00 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

Just a wild stab in the dark, but:

Christine Johnson said...
Cindy Hartmann said...
Zack said...
F.Grant said...
Marc T. said...

... are all the same person, aren't they?

Sunday, May 31, 2009 9:30:00 am  
Anonymous D.R said...

Chris,invite them all to your house for drinks and that way you can find out?
Don't you think tonimoroni and josordoni are also the same?
and Krista,Christine and Chris?oops that's you..or is it?
I always thought H1 was the same as H2 only with a wig and fake moustache.

Monday, June 01, 2009 10:42:00 am  
Blogger Josordoni said...

No, I'm only me... this might be a great relief for the world, actually LOL

Monday, June 01, 2009 12:06:00 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

D.R/Zack J/Anonymous/Etc. etc. - You've invented another new identity? It's the bizarre punctuation that gives you away - never any spaces after commas but very often some before. Well, that and the bonkers comments of course.

Monday, June 01, 2009 12:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Bill said...

Chris-you have waaayyy too much time on your hands if you are counting spaces after comma's(oops does this count as a comma?) and are trawling through messages on blogs to find similarities(imagined or real) in posts.In the immortal words of one of the Hermanos-I bet you don't get out much.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 1:42:00 pm  
Blogger Chris said...

...says the man who took the time to write a 7-paragraph misogynist rant? It didn't take more than a few seconds to notice the similarities in your comments however.

I know first rule of internet commentary is "don't feed the trolls", but it's always SO tempting.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 3:40:00 pm  
Anonymous Ben said...

Managed to miss this both here and on Twitter. Congratulations to both of you!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009 5:44:00 pm  
Anonymous Ben said...

Yo Chris you gotta get back on to the meds man!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009 1:25:00 pm  
Anonymous PhilD said...

Chris - they may be the same person or they could be different. However, one feature they could all share is not to purchase "Eat My Globe".

I can see an interesting dilemma for Simon and the DH site, irreverent, feisty blogging gets a good audience; it is good to read strong opinions and the pithy put downs. But does it sell books?

Other bloggers that have recently published (David Lebovitch, Petite Anglais, and Chocolate & Zucchini) tend to write nice polite blogs and are very sweet to their commentators (Catherine Sanderson is sickly saccharine).

I am really looking forward to seeing this in Simon's work.... wait for those slippery publishing PR's get to work on him....!


Thursday, June 04, 2009 7:23:00 am  
Anonymous Su-Lin said...

Missed this one - congratulations!

Funny thing is I ate at the Jean-Georges restaurant in Vancouver which was just ok, nothing special.

Thursday, June 11, 2009 3:20:00 pm  

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