It is very rare for me to go somewhere I haven’t fully researched. I have this thing about checking out the menu weeks before my reservation. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this…Anyway, apparently Bea’s of Bloomsbury is very well-known with three branches in London (this review of of the St Paul’s branch) alone and a book out. I did have a look at the book and it’s really nice.
Okay, so let’s start with the good. The sandwiches were scrumptious – fresh French-style baguette with a variety of fillings including salami, pesto, rocket, parma ham, brie and everything good in the savoury world of sandwiches. They were so fresh, flavoursome and just what I wanted. I’m a big fan of traditional finger sandwiches, however, it was nice to try something different.
The cupcakes were mediocre and quite dry. I mean, they were fine but when food looks prettier than it tastes, disappointment is inevitable. I don’t like brownies so I can’t comment on those. I have to be honest and say that their passion fruit marshmallows were the single best thing about the afternoon tea, and possibly the nicest thing I’ve eaten in the last year. I won’t lie, I was expecting them to be awful with a tofu-like texture and artificial taste. If Bea’s of Bloomsbury haven’t won some sort of award for those marshmallows, something is wrong with this world. Passion fruit is such a unique flavour and they have it to perfection.
All this said, nothing could detract from the appalling service. Zero out of ten, people. Zero! Let’s just back up a moment, pre-sandwich. Now, we arrived seven minutes early. We announced ourselves to a staff member and he informed someone, whom I presume was the manager. Her response to this was, and I quote:
“They’re seven minutes early. They can wait.”
Now, I don’t do bad service. Had I been alone, I would have done what I usually do when this type of unacceptable situation occurs: walk the beep out. However, I was with my lovely friend Paul who was visiting from Paris (and had made the booking) so I said nothing and pretended like I didn’t hear (so refrained of me!) but from that moment, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. Precisely seven minutes spent standing staring at cakes and we were taken to our table. Expecting to have to fight our way through the crowds to get there, imagine the surprise at going upstairs to find that we were the only patrons in the restaurant. So we spent seven minutes waiting for… To this day, I have no idea. It was like an episode from a New York sitcom about the all-powerful hostess who picks and chooses who has the right to eat and when. I found it shocking actually. This is how they run their business?! Okay. Noted. Moving on…
Too many delicious sandwiches, pretty dessert and good conversation later, we asked for some hot water to top up our tea. Paul and I were enjoying two different types of tea. The waiter took our tea pots away only to return with overflowing ones. He put them down and we commented that they were spilling everywhere. He started to walk away. Er, okay. Wet table for us then. As he was walking away, I asked him which pot had which tea in. Can you believe that he shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know” before disappearing off downstairs. I mean, this actually happened. He wasn’t rude. He was simply nonchalant about our experience at the restaurant and that coupled with the “they can wait” remark made me wonder if I was on “You’ve been framed” (British-style candid camera). This is a business for Pete’s sake! How? What? Huh?
Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed by Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Maybe it was a one off. Maybe the entire staff was having an ‘off-day’. Quite frankly, I don’t care. I will not return. There are a multitude of great places to enjoy afternoon tea for all budgets in London, with good service as a standard part of the package. I suggest you try those places.
Have you been to Beas? I’m curious, what was your experience like?