Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gordon Ramsey's Pub & Grill: Bollucks!

My partner, Stephen, is a big fan of Gordon Ramsey. He watches Gordon's many shows, he downloaded Gordon's massive app for recipes and cooking techniques, and, whenever we visit a restaurant, he references "what Gordon might think" about the experience. Of course, when we visited Las Vegas recently, it was only fitting to visit one of Gordon's two new restaurants there. We had a choice between "Steak," which is in the Paris resort, and "Gordon Ramsey Pub and Grill" in Caesar's Palace. Looking for a more laid back experience, we chose the latter option.

In Vegas, it is extremely important to make a reservation in advance for ANY place that qualifies as a sit-down restaurant. Although the Pub and Grill was meant to be casual, we took no risks and called in advance for a 9:00 reservation.

One of the challenges in Vegas is estimating both distance and the time it will take to cover it on foot. Walking is your primary, if not only, method of transportation. The resorts, on the other hand, are so large that you could easily cover nearly a mile and only fully pass two or three of them. Then, there's the pedestrians. Fortunately, Vegas city planners made provisions for walkers, but these narrow corridors are often clogged by slow people strolling in groups, people who stop to take ten pictures of the same thing, and individuals who make sudden, inexplicable decisions to turn around.

We were staying in the MGM Grand, which is somewhat inconveniently located at the head of the Strip, and we knew it would take about half and hour to walk the mile and a half to Caesar's Palace. We arrived about a minute or two after 9:00. The Pub and Grill is located just off of the casino floor, which proved to be frustrating as this invited people who had no idea what they wanted to do to walk up to the hostess podium in the sweat pants they woke up in that morning to have a lengthy conversation about whether or not they would honor the place with their patronage that evening. One such group beat us to the podium by milliseconds, their representatives having a three-way conversation between themselves, the hostesses, and the straggling majority of their group that insisted they "weren't hungry." This took about three minutes while we waited behind them. We finally made it to the podium at 9:05.

I'll pause for a minute--the "ambiance" that whoever the post-modern designers attempted to create bears a comment here. I think "a modern twist on the British Punk Movement" is the best way to describe it. There was lots--way too much--loud British music. The place was somewhat dark, somewhat based on what British pubs look like, and somewhat trying to be upscale. The absolute worst thing about this place (from a visual perspective only) was the "costuming" allotted to the staff. The servers were dressed in what I can only describe as "Steam Punk meets traditional British Pub c. 1900." There was one selection for men in this category, but two for women. The young ladies who had apparently been labeled "attractive" were all wearing short dresses and pumps while those who had sized out of that category were in the same outfit the men were wearing.

Finally, there were the hostesses. They were all in dresses that were inspired by Punk design, using paper clips to hook their straps to the top. The dresses themselves were about butt length (a generous assessment), styled after British newspapers, and made out of some very cheap cotton-spandex blend materials. On top of that, they had absolutely no idea what they were doing with the computer system. There were five of them. Only one of them had any form of a clue. When we spoke to the hostess team, we were given a choice between tables--a good thing. The young lady with a clue showed us a platform table raised about 3 feet off the ground that was immediately available, and a traditional table that had two empty glasses and some linens left on it. She said that if we wanted that table, we would have to wait a minute until it was cleared. We opted to do so. We stood off to the side. We watched approximately 20 additional people get seated. The hostess who spoke to us did not communicate at all with the other hostesses. Every time someone asked for a table, the five of them sat, staring for a good minute or so, at a computer screen that apparently had a seating chart of some kind on it.

A full twenty minutes later, and we were still standing there. Since only one hostess knew who we were and what we were doing there, the chances we were going to be led to our table was slim. At that point, Stephen and I went back to the podium. Stephen is a very reasonable, polite person regardless of the situation. I am not. He tried to explain it to the tiny blonde chick who was then-standing at the podium. When she didn't seem to be interested in helping, I stepped in and insisted that first, we had a reservation, unlike everyone else they were sitting, and second, we had been at the restaurant for a full 25 minutes at that point. She gave a little pout--the one I am sure helps get her way with men and her parents--but, fortunately, the first hostess returned and led us to the table. We were sitting at it at 9:30.

At this point, the hostess uniform became a problem as the hostess attempted to bend over slightly to communicate with us given the loud music. A gentleman who had, I estimate, about 2 or 3 alcoholic beverages too many, started making loud, suggestive commentary behind her (while his ditz of a girlfriend put up with it--seriously?). I saw it, pointed directly at him, and told her what he was saying. She was concerned, a little annoyed, but unable to say anything because of her position. I said, loudly, how ridiculous his behavior was. Stephen, who is a muscular, sizeable guy, stared at him. He turned away. We didn't hear from him again for the rest of the experience.

Our server appeared about 5 minutes after the young lady left. We ordered drinks, and, about another 7 minutes later, they appeared (without the water we asked for--which we had to ask for again). At no point in our experience did he check on us. He only came by when he had something to drop off or pick up. The fastest thing he ever did--no surprise here--was run our credit card at the end of our meal. The support staff was actually the most helpful--these people usually run drinks and appetizers, do clean up, etc. There was a young man who brought us the "bread," about 20 minutes into the experience unfortunately, but who took the time to explain everything to us and offered to get us anything else we wanted. This guy, whoever he was, should have been serving.

The problem was that both entrees and sides were separated on the menu (to make extra money, no doubt) so if you ordered an entree, you only got the entree. Stephen ordered the pork belly, and that was all he got. He thought the portion was a bit small, with or without sides, but he said it was pretty good. I ordered a salad and the sliders (an appetizer) for an entree. The salad, a good sized one, was too tartly dressed. By the time I finished it, I needed Chapstick. The sliders were OK--the fact the beef patties were so thin contributed to their dry texture. The garlic mayo, though, was a good condiment choice on the side, but a lot of it was necessary to make up for the lack of moisture in the meal.

Unfortunately, in a city that is known for customer service and excellent dining, this left MUCH to be desired. And, I was really surprised that this experience came from a guy who travels from restaurant to restaurant and tears people apart for bad food and bad service.

This is the best you can do, Gordon? Really?

1 comment:

courtney said...

I haven't had many experiences to test my favorite celebrity chefs, but when I have, I haven't allowed myself to do so, for reasons I've never truly let surface.

Well... there it is. Fear of disappointment, front and center.