by Ed Gerstner - Monday 8th 2004f March 2004
We booked a table for a number of friends for my girlfriend's birthday. Many of our friends warned us off La Tasca, having had more than a few bad experiences between them. But my girlfriend and I love good tapas, and so are prepared to put up with a lot to get it. And so we chose to throw caution to the wind and ignore our friends' advice. We wish we hadn't.
The table was booked for a Sunday night, which was moderately busy but not overly so. Indeed, in my experience of tapas restaurants, it was relatively quiet. About half of us ordered three tapas each to share and the other half ordered two paella (plus a few tapas) to share. We were informed early on that the paella would take 45 minutes. Although we felt it to be a little on the long side for something that should be a stock dish, we were prepared to wait.
Indeed, it is said that good things come to those who wait. But after La Tasca, I'm not so sure.
About a third of the tapas arrived in one burst, which was expected and indeed appreciated. However, it was served by a waitress (different to the one who had taken our order) who seemed irritated to have her time imposed upon. And matters just got worse when she tried to find a home for a number of dishes that we are certain we didn't order (who orders smoked salmon on French bread in a Spanish restaurant?) But we were yet to be punished for our subordination.
Over the next hour, the second third of our tapas slowly arrived in dribs and drabs. Throughout this time we repeated inquired where the remaining third had got to, and if indeed if it or the paella was actually likely to arrive. Oddly, every time we did so, the staff seemed utterly perplexed and confused. It was difficult to tell what caused this, but eventually we decided that it was either (a) a rudimentary misunderstanding of the mechanistic details of how food makes it from the kitchen to a diner's table, or (b) disbelief that diners should care to be served what they ordered.
More distressing, it took us almost an hour just to get a simple glass of juice. We had ordered said juice soon after arriving. Around 30 minutes later, and after the first lot of food had arrived, we asked if it was coming. We were then told they had none. We asked what types of juice they did have. With some effort, we were able to establish that they might have pineapple juice, so we asked for a glass of that. However, another 20 minutes later, and still there was no juice was forthcoming. Thankfully we eventually discovered that juice could be obtained by cutting out the middle-person and going directly to the bar. Unfortunately, we were not so lucky with the tap water we had asked to be brought for the whole table - they must have run out of that too.
But the piece de resistance was yet to come. Almost an hour and a half after we'd first ordered them - and almost twice as long as we were told they would take - ONE of our TWO paellas arrived. And the punchline… if we wanted the other one we would have to wait yet another 45 minutes. As there was still neither hide nor hair of the remaining third of the tapas we had ordered, we decided it was time to cut our loses and call it a night. Thankfully, and after complaining to the manager, the food was removed from our bill. But, the two and a half hours of frustration and distress will never be refunded.
Be warned! We were - and finally we have learnt our lesson. Lest we forget.