By Chrissy Iley
Just over a year ago I discovered Chotto Matte in Soho. A fusion cuisine of Peru and Japan. It was clean food, delicious, exciting and the Pisco Sours, the frothiest, fluffiest, most authentic in London. When I gave them a rave review they even asked me to let them know the next time I was in, which I have only just now remembered. A friend was visiting from LA and wanted to take me out to dinner and I thought how fabulous, what a treat, we’ll go there. I went to book it and I knew things had changed when they asked for a credit card to secure the table. Already that says to me, we don’t trust you to do what you’re saying you’re going to do – show up and we are extremely greedy. Really high end restaurants never charge credit card because they’re confident that their cooking and ambience is so sought after they don’t need to. So it’s a little desperate. Also it’s not a dentist. If you cancel a dentist last minute you’ve wasted their time, you have to pay. But who wants to go out to dinner on the basis of a dentist policy. The connotations are of something that you must do, not something that you want to do. Who wants to feel locked in to going to dinner. Well not me for a start.
We showed up. I hadn’t realised they would have electric heaters on outside that would also make inside not only boiling but they would give me a migraine. There wasn’t much choice of seat. We could go right in the back where it’s echoey and noisy and where I wouldn’t be able to have a conversation because I’m slightly deaf. So migraine or no conversation and shouting. We went for the shouting option. Because we couldn’t hear ourselves discuss the menu I suggested we went for a set menu. We asked the waitress if one set menu could be shared for two people. ‘Oh no’, she says. ‘The plates are really tiny. You must order one each.’ We were hungry so we said fine. Then I remembered the greed of the credit card booking as plates came not one after another but all together and our tiny table was covered in food. We were very aware of a table turnaround. They want to get us out and the next people in. We asked for the plates to slow down. My friend didn’t even like the Pisco Sours. Fortunately I still like them and I needed them to ease the stress of the frantic food serving. It was OK. The gyoza were boring, the ceviche had a nice citrus sauce. My friend liked the miso chicken very much and because we hadn’t read the menu’s properly we got an octopus thing which we gave to the homeless person. In the past I remember an aubergine miso being amazing. There was also spring rolls which were quite small for which we were grateful and which I ate most of because my friend was already too full. We’re talking about eight courses each and what should have been recommended was four plates to share plus dessert.
In the end we asked for the food to stop because our stomachs were hurting. Both of us are women who like to eat, no size zero cuisine for us. But the food was in fact enough for a rugby team of giant men. We asked if we could take home the last two courses. I in fact gave them to a homeless person. As we were very upset a very charming manager came over and took our point very seriously and took money off the bill. But what if you just go there and you don’t complain? And did our complaints make any difference? I bet that waitress is still selling giant amounts of food to people who could never finish it. It’s interesting/sad to see how a place that was so gorgeous and attentive to detail has slipped into a greedy, grabby, money making factory and I wonder if this time next year it will exist at all. Surely the key to a successful restaurant is people who leave happy and wanting more, wanting to go back, not people who feel they’ve been over stuffed, over sold and taken advantage of.
Chotto Matte is 11-13 Frith Street, London W1D 4RB