Last night, thanks to my friend and neighbour (or, more accurately, his splendid nephew) I had my first ever cheeky Nando’s at the branch on Stanford Street (London SE1). It was great. The place was clean and comfortable. The staff were cheerful and efficient. The food was exactly what it said it would be: it was fresh and well cooked, the portion was generous without being off-puttingly large, it arrived quickly, and the nephew was right that when they say the spicing is “hot” they actually mean it. It was also very inexpensive. Including my glass of wine (a glass that was indeed “large”) it cost £42.80 for 3 of us.
The night before was a less happy experience. With a different friend I went for my first time to Sabor, the much-lauded Catalonian tapas place on Heddon Street (London WC1). The place was clean and reasonably comfortable (though a bit hot by the bar/kitchen, and my stool leg was right on the edge of a ledge, which admittedly they helpfully warned me about). The staff veered between over-friendly and attentive, and absent. The food was disappointing: it was freshly prepared but very oily, and the portions were meagre. An artichoke dish consisted of 3 thin lengthwise slices from one miniature head. The prawn dish was as singular as that missing “s” suggests: one prawn on a large white plate with a few micro-greens. It was also very expensive. That lone prawn? £16.80. My share of the bill (exactly half of the total for 2 of us) was an eye-watering £86.17. Admittedly we had more than one glass of wine, and the total factors in a service charge (not automatically added at Nando’s), but even allowing for that my own individual share of the food charge was more than the entire bill for 3 at Nando’s.
I know none of this is news. I realise there is a certain amount of self-centred and ashamed buyer’s remorse tangled in this tale. I recognise that seekers of gastronomic experience get what they deserve and should expect to pay for it. I know I didn’t have to order that expensive prawn. I wouldn’t normally mention this at all, or feel so cross about it, and certainly I expect no sympathy. But the friend and I woke up feeling so dyspeptic and ripped off by our Sabor experience that I decided to write my first ever Trip Advisor review. It wasn’t favourable. However it was non-commercial, relevant, unbiased, first-hand, and (I think) easy to read. Why, then, did I receive an email today from Trip Advisor telling me that “Your review was flagged by another user for violating our review guidelines”? Which guidelines did I violate? Who might this mysterious other user be? Surely no-one linked directly with the restaurant?
I await the verdict of the moderators with bated breath, and meanwhile am taking a long, hard look at myself and my dining out habits. I think my future might contain a lot more Nando’s.