La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie
After a long and lazy noon at home and a good half an hour spent at the gym this morning (all beginnings are to be taken slow), we decided that we deserved a treat and headed towards down town. The desired destination? La Serre (glasshouse) Bistro & Boulangerie, on Emmar Square. It was a beautiful day in Dubai, one of these days where the sun is shining just as much to keep your skin warm while the wind cools it down again. Winter in Dubai. La Serre’s guest garden seemed to be the perfect spot for a late lunch this weekend. The parking space, just a couple of meters away, makes it easy to reach the bistro and is for free, if you do not forget to get the ticket stamped on the way out again.
The place looked quite busy from far, and it was only at the hostess’s desk when we heard that everything was occupied outside, and we either had the choice to wait at the bar or sit inside for lunch. As three other couples waited as well, we allowed our hungry stomachs to make the decision and headed inside.
Most of the tables were free inside, therefore no one had to seat us and we ended choosing our own table at the window. Yasin, the waiter for this section, greeted us after a while and asked if we wanted water to start with. We ordered sparking water and asked for the menu. When the water was served, and we placed our order, Yasin got shy, nearly turned a bit red and said: “Sorry, I forgot to tell you this is all not available…” He then informed us that the dish and the quiche of the day, were sol with fries and salmon quiche and that those items were available and made fresh today. Curious to find out what his recommendation might taste like we agreed to order both dishes of the day.
We placed the order, he reconfirmed the same and left.
While waiting for our food (and we had a lot of time to pass) we observed the rest of the staff at La Serre. A restaurant of that size would normally not have more of ten staff around per shift, but today at La Serre, we counted 14 (front of the house), which contained hostesses, waiters, casual support staff and a lot of managers.
Do you know the saying: ‘Too many cooks spoil the porridge?’ That was the case today. It seemed like everyone was all over the place and did not really know what to do at the same time. Yasin, as it turned out later on, was one of the casual support staffs, and asked to look after an entire section on his own, while outside, 4 waitresses, 2 hostesses and a manager walked around, looking more busy than they actually were.
We have been there and done that, and this is why our observations in general are based on facts. Having spent a decade working in five star hotels and restaurants around the World, we have seen places which were much more busy and coped with less staff. More examples? We waited for about 16 minutes after our beverages were served and the orders taken for anyone to pay attention and serve us bread and butter. As we had lunch in a French boulangerie, we assumed it was pretty standard to being offered the same. Only after we asked one of Yasin’s colleagues, we were served a couple of slices of bread.
Another 12 minutes passed for our food to arrive. Salmon quiche and breaded sol with French fries sticks and dip.
The sol was alright, and tasted like a French version of fish and chips. The quiche on the other hand, served on a starter plate (even though listed under ‘mains’ on the menu) was cold. Yasin was asked to take it back to the kitchen and replace it with a fresh, warm one. Another 10 minutes passed and he returned with a new quiche. It was as expected, a standard pre – cooked salmon quiche, not bad but also nothing extra ordinary, what deserves more than 35 minutes of preparation. We are not chefs and can only talk about the service side of things, but then again, when it comes to value for money (150 AED for 2 guests), and the service is unprofessional, then the quality of food is crucial for a guest’s decision to return one day or stay away for good.
While finishing up our mains, we kept on observing a waiter and (we believe) female manager having a chat outside, of how to clean up the guest garden and how to shift previously rearranged tables back to where they were. While talking to each other, the waiter dropped a fork on the floor, lifted his shoulders as if he was saying: ‘Ops’, picked up the same and placed it on the freshly laid table again. The manager, standing right next to that, did not even say a single word about that unprofessional and unhygienic behavior of her staff. We, were just speechless and felt irritated about both behaviors, while taking a bite from our food.
We asked for the bill and left. When leaving the restaurant, none of the service staff noticed us, greeted or thanked us for the visit. One felt that as soon as the bill is paid, you just occupy space for other guests waiting.
A rather unfortunate experience and discovery. We truly expected more, based on La Serre’s reputation and previously released reviews.
However, we wish La Serre all the best for the future and good luck.