There’s a visceral thrill in being the recipient of bad service. Not slapdash or sloppy or coarse service, but the subtle pursuit of putting a customer down in such a way that it’s very difficult to complain.
Why? Three reasons. First, I always find it fascinating that it’s happening at all. If someone hates people, why not work somewhere else? Second, there’s the skill involved: they have to make it obvious that they hate a customer, without giving them cause for complaint. Trained actors would struggle to portray the restrained contempt that the best performers can display in restaurants. And third, I enjoy the internal, very English struggle over whether to speak up, keep quiet or, worse, apologise!
NHS receptionists also have a good line in subtly rude service. But if, like me, you quite enjoy the pang of a good put-down and don’t need to visit your GP, you should head to Bon Gusto on Buckingham Gate.
I’ve been there a couple of times now; and the first time I went, I particularly enjoyed hearing my friend being told “I’ve been ready for ages” after he politely told the waiter that “we’re ready to order now.” A surly grunt, a raised eyebrow, and a long sigh perfectly complemented the insult.
This review concerns my second visit to Bon Gusto, which sticklers for Italian grammar will note is actually spelt incorrectly – it should be Buon Gusto. I visited on a busy lunchtime last week and, in short, the food was average, the prices quite high, and – while there’s a good range of food from which to choose – it’s mostly bland.
You still here? Oh, best tell you a little more about the place then. To start I had a glass of vinaigrette – no, sorry, I mean white wine. I also shared a plate of anti-pasti, which wasn’t worth £6.15.
The mains were a little better. I had gnocchi al pesto, which was surprisingly light for potato pasta and complimented by a decent sauce. My pal chose mozzarella and prosciutto salad, which at £9.25 was spectacularly overpriced. Sadly, that was the only spectacular thing about it. It was flavourless, and lacked a dressing. I see that I was also billed for the couple of pieces of dry bread that I was given.
Finally, to the pudding. I didn’t want to fork out almost a fiver for three scoops of gelato, so I asked to downgrade to just two. After a kerfuffle, a surly waitress wandered over to inform me that this wasn’t possible. She then sniffed – magnificently – and strode away. I decided not to go for anything, while my pal picked the panna cotta, which it must be said was superlative. Creamy, light, rich, and topped with strawberries, we were – briefly – satisfied.
Bon Gusto isn’t the greatest place in town, that’s for sure. And it seems appropriate to close with the international language of surly service, so: bon viveurs should wish it bon voyage.