So last year for my birthday, me and one of my best friend’s decided to spend a lovely chilled day in London, and we fancied afternoon tea. Such a middle class pursuit I hear you say, but we are grown ups now. Long gone are the days of falling out of clubs half cut on my birthday and vomming in a cobbled street – and I’m quite glad about that.
I have actually been meaning to write about this for a while, and despite laziness prevailing, the urge to document this outing has not been quelled by the passing of time.
My friend did the necessary research, and we decided upon the Bluebird in Chelsea. Apparently this fancy spot is featured in the Channel 4 debacle,’ Made In Chelsea’ – a show about wanky rich kids who have nothing to do but sleep with all their friends, and then start all over again. Whilst conversing as if they are in school. ‘Yar, I like her.. ya.. I do, but I don’t know.. does she like me too?’
Why I ever thought that would be an good indicator of its value is beyond me, but anyway. I guess I made the assumption that if these rich toffs frequented such a place that it would have to be of certain standard.
The weather was utterly gorgeous and hot enough to wear a little summery dress – I wore my floaty, flowery, Abercrombie number. We had taken a long walk up the embankment, marvelling at the silvery Thames (ignoring the fact that it’s probably filled with London’s finest waste) and then we had taken a nose at the vintage shops.
Our booking at the Bluebird was at 3pm and we arrived promptly just before.
In classic 2013 style I said ‘take a picture of me outside!’ As our generation are want to do, to document ‘the moment!’
ooh, because the Bluebird is *the* Stonehenge of Chelsea, right? .. Gotta capture that.
We arrived inside and were ushered upstairs. We climbed the heavily padded maroon stairs and at the top were two glass doors.
Upon opening it we came face to face with four girls all squeezed into a burgundy booth. They were all yakking and when we arrived we waited for them to notice us.
They were wearing what looked like school uniforms for Japanese girls: short short skirts, white shirts and weird maroon ties. They all had their hair scraped back in dark brunette buns.
‘Excuse me, hiya, we have a booking for 3.’
One girl shot us a look of incredulity, that we had just interrupted her chat. Another girl got a huge book out and started leafing the mammoth pages. She soon lost interest.
‘Yeh just go through and sit to the right.’ she ventured, waving an arrogant hand in the air, as if she were wafting a bad smell away from her. ( Us I guess)
We sat down on the heavily padded, burgundy cushions. They were leathery and sweaty. Every time you moved you squeaked and got a bit of your thigh stuck to it. They were comfy, but the layout reminded me of an old hotel – the furniture was oppressive and there wasn’t nearly enough natural light in there.
Our ‘server’ arrived – this is what his name tag indicated anyway- he stood and advised us that he would be bringing afternoon tea and asked which tea we wanted. We advised English breakfast and Darjeeling respectively.
I told him it was my birthday. I was quite perky and said I was excited about celebrating.
He looked at me as if I had taken a dump in his tea towel.
‘Ok then.’ he answered, literally confused as to why I had shared this information, and with that he walked off. I was extremely surprised by the lack of pleasantries, and for want of a better word, manners.
He came back with two champagnes. Teeny tiny. £9 a glass I believe.
We clinked glasses, dunked our tipple, and the sweet acidity slapped my empty stomach.
We were properly starving by this point.
He returned with the teas. Popped them down and then walked off. He did return, quite promptly, and brought the three tiered cake vessel for the food stuff.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the presentation was beautiful. The top was even elegantly designed like a bird cage with a ‘bluebird’ at the top. It was intricate and unique. The sandwiches were nice but absolutely tiny, and amongst the sweet things, only ONE scone each and then a whole host of other overly rich, sickly puddings which, quite frankly, were unnecessary. I would have happily had more scones and none of that synthetic stuff. I imagine it was to bulk out the rest of the foods.
Check out my fake smile below:
Well anyway, after the very beautiful small sandwiches, we were still hungry. We had worked up an appetite walking around prior to this and I had skipped breakfast for this.
We decided we would like to order more. And this is where is gets UTTERLY ridiculous.
We gestured to our waiter and he walked over to us.
‘We would like to order more sandwiches please.’
He threw his head back aghast, and looked at us confused.
‘No. You can’t order any more. We don’t do that. We only make one round of afternoon tea for each booking.’
Er ya WHAT.
‘Sorry, are you saying we can’t order more (child sized) sandwiches.. we would obviously pay.’
‘Yes no, you can’t do that. As I said, we only make round of afternoon tea per booking, they are made at the beginning of the day. We don’t make any more.’
His eyebrows were dancing wildly on his forehead. It was as if I had asked him to explain Hawking’s brief history of time.
To be honest, I can’t comprehend this. This is LUDICROUS. We are talking sandwiches, not a gourmet Coq Au Vin. They are seriously missing a trick by not offering seconds – and how lazy is the chef?
It was the epitome of pretension.
‘OK well if you can show us the menu we will purchase something else.’ I was doing my best not to lose my cool, and what really got my goat was the fact that this guy just could not give a shit. He was not interested in us as customers, he didn’t care what we did or if he lost our business.
Perhaps we should have stuck some veneers in and talked about ’daddy’s boat’ – would we get better service?
‘We are not offering food now. The kitchen reopens at 6pm. There is a restaurant downstairs but we are fully booked.’ The corners of his mouth turned updward whilst he was stood next to us. Smirking?
‘Can I speak to the manager please?’ I ventured, as softly as I could,
He shrugged his shoulders. ‘Yeh.’
He ambled off. I was in disbelief.
The manager arrived, a slick Turkish business man with thick black hair gelled to his head.
‘Hello Madam’ MADAM, oh dear lord it gets worse.
‘What seems to be the issue?’
I advised that we simply wanted to purchase some other food from the menu.
‘Well, the kitchen here is not operating at this time (?!) If you are desperate, the best I can do is ask the kitchen to make you chips.’
Is his Kitchen an Ocean’s Eleven type vault that can only be accessed at certain times of the day?
After much arguing, I had to concede to his shit offer. So we were presented with seriously overpriced chips.
At one point I requested more hot water for my tea and he refused. They request I buy another tea.
And believe it or not, this whole experience equated to £90!
I was utterly horrified. They had added a £10 tip that was ‘discretionary.’ My friend very kindly treated us as it was my birthday but I was equally mortified and embarrassed. She asked me if she should pay the tip. I said hell no.
When we advised that we weren’t paying the tip, he asked us why not.
I explained very carefully, that he hadn’t provided any sort of ‘service.’ He was disinterested, didn’t try to solve any of our queries, did not check on us to see if the food was satisfactory (as you are supposed to) and basically reluctant to serve us at all.
I may have been a waitress in a ‘lowly’ bar In Cardiff, but I worked my ass off and provided the best service I could – routinely I took the most money for beverages sold, and made the most tips. The proof is in the pudding.
I would advise anyone to avoid this pretentious sink hole like the plague. And if I ever become stinking rich, I might pay to have it raised to the ground. Ha, not really, but I would certainly make sure me and my friends go elsewhere. The Bluebird may be over priced fluff, but manners are free.