Oh deary deary. What a stunning screw-up of dismally predictable proportions. The door staff understood enough basic English to establish that two people wanted a table for two, and yes, we would like to smoke at our table. So far, communication didn’t seem like it was going to be a problem today. Then the waitress came to take our drinks order. She got Mz Marmz order straight away, but the panicked look suddenly engaged when she looked to me. I said, quite clearly “Diet Coke”. Immediately she turned to Mz and re-enquired as to what the bule could possibly be saying in that strange language of his. Issuing a deep sigh of disappointment in her compatriot, Mz repeated this baffling request. “Oh, Di-ET Coke!”, went our waitress as if she had just worked out a new Middle Eastern peace plan. She’s quite welcome to pay a visit to a war-stricken country, any time soon would be great, hopefully wearing the enemies’ colours. After the obligatory waiting list period, which I will concede isn’t Social House’s fault, but rather a mark of their success, we were shown to our seat and bench. Yes, a bench. With both of the Marmz team being of the bony-arsed persuasion, neither of us were particularly enamoured with parking our unpadded posterior on an unpadded bench, thus rendering us squirmy-bummed for the entire meal. I took one for the team and sat down, plonking my netbook on the table which pitched alarmingly and I don’t know about you, dear reader, but one of the things in life which really get on my nipples (apart from pre-emptively panicking waiting staff) is a wobbly desk or table. Mz Marmz asked the waiter to get a ganjel to wedge the table level. The waiter duly employed a ganjel and voila, the table now sat at an angle akin to the Titantic 10 seconds from full submersion. We asked if we might be able to move, should a table vacate and a pleasant waitress escorted us to a more pleasant seat. The waiter arrived with the food for me, but had left the french bread off the order, after misinterpreting my earlier instructions not to use to garlic butter on the bread. He decided it would be much better just to dispense with that pesky troublesome bread altogether. When I requested the bread, which by virtue of being big I usually park on a side-plate, the waiter decided the best thing to do would be to take away my meal altogether, rather than simply furnishing me with the bread on a sideplate as logic (hehe) might have dictated. It was at this point I saw myself in an alternative dimension bashing my head off the table before stabbing the waiter in the neck with a fork. I chilled myself and set about the task of demolishing the food (eggs underdone). I finished my Diet Coke (sorry, Di-ET Coke) and asked a waiter for English Breakfast Tea. This never arrived, despite asking every man and his wife where it might be hiding. The Marmz-mistress (she was in dominatrix mode) had the Bapshapshadoobeedoo, or something which was curried rice, egg and veggies served in a hotstone bowl. She wasn’t particulary impressed, declaring it salty but I enjoyed what I had of it. Looking for positives is difficult when you have had a poo experience, but what I will take from this experience is that I learned a new dish name – hers was actually called ‘Bibimbap’. Hence Social house has slipped down the top 5 list, and may actually disappear if I get served Indomie with a smile at a warung later. Food – not bad. Service – deplorable. Get training and get listening, Social House!
So, I finally succumbed to the temptation of checking out British flagship store Harvey Nichols and its in-house eaterie, Social House for a restaurant review – something which I would never do back in dear old Blighty for fear of upsetting my man-of-the-people credentials, and more importantly my measly bank balance. I tipped up around 2.30pm on Nyepi, the Hindu day of silence, which Jakartan mosques seem to delight in subverting by blasting an onslaught of religious fervour into our homes. Being a review-ninja, silence comes more readily to me, so I decided to hob-nob it with Jakarta’s young and trendy set in Harvey Nicks (dahling).
I was most disappointed to find that the door staff completely ignored simple requests in English, what with this being a BRITISH flagship store. They instead chose to accept only communications with Ms Marmz in Indonesian. This set me into a mini-sulk. We were told there was a waiting list. I asked how long. She ignored me and waited for my raging partner to repeat my stunningly simple request. Oh, not long was the reply. We were then made entirely unclear as to where we should wait. We found an unoccupied area and plumped ourselves down. I kept repeating the same mantra in my head STYLEOVERSUBSTANCESTYLEOVERSUBSTANCESTYLEOVERSUBSTANCE… I was mentally challenging them to prove me wrong.
When we asked if it was possible to eat where we were sitting, we were told that only beverages and desserts could be consumed there. Since when did desserts not constitute eating? The menu helpfully reminded me that ‘desserts’ is ‘stressed’ backwards, apropos of nothing, but perfectly timed for my mood.
We were then redirected to our table. Unfortunately our drinks weren’t. The Marmalade brow furrowed deeper. For those unfortunate enough to know me IRL, a classic Marmz rage was only a tickle away.
I was calmed a little my an extremely comprehensive breakfast menu on the table. Mmm, nomnomnom, a full menu of breakfast junkie specials. The internal clouds split briefly and a chink of sunlight illuminated the reviewers previously bleak countenance. The ‘old time favourite’ was essentially a Full English Breakfast in disguise (or an Ulster Fry, if you are familiar with the dish with the sectarian nomenclature – ‘Free East Timor’ breakfast anyone?). I ordered this as I am somewhat of an expert in the arena of sloppy fry-ups, from my childhood and student days in England (all class, me). When it arrived, quickly, I was surprised because my worries about the quality were entirely unfounded. Such a mound was the food that I asked for a side plate to relieve the sheer bulk of nosh.
It was the closest I have had to a decent English breakfast in my 4 years in this country (Bali included!). The breakfast consisted of a massive slab of rustic bread, with a smear of garlic butter, mushrooms, beans, two eggs, sunny side up, a big fat pork sausage, a grilled tomato, a slice of crispy pork bacon and a fresh green salad. Ms Marmz had the blah, blah, blah (I think you can guess) and it was deemed succulent, but more like an Indonesian Ayam Bakar than a Barbecue Chicken, western style. I finished my food with a smile all over my greasy chops and washed it all down with some earl grey tea, just to broaden the culture clash – having trashy English food in a pseudo-posh English restaurant washed down with well rounded aromatic tea in Jakarta is a moment to savour.
And then Indonesian service raised its inept head again. The supposedly available WI-FI was conspicuous by its absence, but I was assured they did have it, with a customer-friendly password of ‘beourguest‘. Be our guest in attempting to connect! After 3 separate orders mistakenly arrived at our table, Ms Marmz declared a FULL SERVICE FAIL, something of a surprise as she can put up with more stupidity than I can.
I would recommend Social House during quieter hours when they may/might/could possibly behave like an internationally-renowned enterprise. Breakfast is flipping tasty though, yo.
Returning on a busy Sunday afternoon, we met with a friend and her fiend. We were placed in the waiting area were we left for about 30 minutes before a smoking seat became available. The manager, sitting at the end of the waiting table, enquired as to the duration of our wait and then marched off to see what could be done to get us seated. She waved her magic managerial wand and ALAKAZAM!, we were found a table for four by this attractive proactive executive. Given that my tablemates were considering eating the drinks menu, this piece of managerial hospitality was most welcome. Upon being seated I ordered before my bottom had touched the seat, as did my friends. We were served our food at seemingly random intervals, which the menu explains as serving without prejudice, but works out as rather irritating if you are a fan of all parties at the same table starting to eat together. The food was declared “Alright” (The Old Time favourite) by my duo-syllabic buddy, the fish “just right” and mine was really good, despite the waiters failing to locate black pepper for the entire duration of the meal. At least they didn’t do the classic Indonesian trick of finding the requested condiment 10 minutes after the meal finished. They just forgot instead. I guess my common man credentials have well sold out, but at least I have sold out to the quasi-British.
This blog started off life as a means of sharing my dining experiences with other English speakers in Jakarta. In such a big city it is sometimes useful to get a heads-up on a restaurant or cafe before spending time and money in a taxi to get there and potentially be disappointed. So I decided to take one for the team and share my thoughts in a way that others might enjoy.
I make no claim to being an expert on gastronomy, aesthetics, architecture, social psychology, 911 or moon landings, but I reserve the right to pontificate at length upon whatever I choose. Usually that is food, and/or service, in a city that has found itself coming to terms with being in the 21st century.
I usually review incognito because I find it is the best way to find out how the average punter gets treated instead of announcing my arrival like some kind of jumped-up Michelin inspector. I have neither the knowledge or the ego to flounce my way around a restaurant shrieking in disgust/delight.
I get disturbingly few freebies and run this blog on my own funds. Hence you will not see many reviews with me noshing my way through five courses.
Please let me know if you want me to check out any restaurants you have been to or want to go to and I will do my best to check them out.
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**Steakhouses now popping up all over the place! Hooray for noms!**