Read the first part here.
Sometime a go I went to a Michelin star restaurant, The Kitchin, in Edinburgh. The restaurant was awarded one Michelin star for excellence in 2007, and the chef, Tom Kitchin, is the youngest ever Scottish Chef proprietor to receive one. The list of awards the restaurant has been collecting is pretty long, almost as long as Rockpool. What I like from the restaurant, is that while we were waiting for our table at the bar, the waiter came up with hors d’œuvre, 2 shot glasses contained – if I’m not mistaken – frog legs with carrot puree.
Then while we were waiting for our appetizers, another tiny food came out. And another one before main course, which, according to the waiter, was to clean our palate so we could enjoy our main course entirely. It was tiny surprises that kept coming in beautiful presentation, and attentive waiters, that kept us excited all the time, and even though our table was booked at 9.15 PM, we hardly felt hungry. I also could recall The Du Vin restaurant in Glasgow (Gordon Ramsay worked there once) did the same thing. Despite having posh decoration in a very quiet hotel, all the staffs were so nice and let us keep the table for a long time. In between three-course menu of of appetizer, main, and dessert, the waiter kept coming from the kitchen bringing something in between, to our delight.
With Rockpool, honestly, I wouldn’t mind waiting for a long time as long as the waiters keeps me updated about what’s going on in the kitchen. Or offers another piece of bread to curb my hunger while waiting for my grilled lamb. I felt we were being ignored the entire time – we seriously had to wave (gasp!) a lot to get their attention. So I poured my disappointment wholeheartedly on twitter. It’s a shame, really, because looking back, I could almost remember how good the lamb was.
A few days later, @rockpoolgroup sent me a direct message via twitter, apologising that I had a bad experience, and wanted to get me back to the restaurant. Here’s the number I should contact.
Now, I assumed, a big restaurant like Rockpool, has PR company which manages the publicity and all the social media related to the restaurant. So again, I assumed it was one of the PR guy who contacted me. I replied to his text a few days later saying that if he wanted to know about my experience in detail, he could contact me on my mobile. I hope my experience can help the place to improve its service quality.
The guy replied back saying he will be in Perth the week after and wondered if I would come to Rockpool for a cup of coffee. I said I was in Sydney at the moment but would be back in Perth in a few days, and yes, coffee sounds good. And uhm.. how should I call him, since I only know him as @rockpoolgroup.
So I added “Are you Neil Perry yourself?”.
When I sent the SMS, I thought it was a dumb question. Certainly it will be one of his staffs, one of his PR, who manages things like this. Who is responsible to handle such customer. Certainly Neil Perry is too busy and too famous to handle every single customer.
Imagine my surprise when the guy humbly replied back saying, “Yes, it is me.”
Neil Perry, for those of you who don’t know, is one of Australia’s leading and most influential chefs. He opened Rockpool Sydney in February 1989, Rockpool Bar and Grill in Melbourne in October 2006, Spice Temple in Sydney in early 2009, followed shortly after by Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney. He opened Rockpool Bar and Grill Perth, as you might have read from my previous post, end of last year. In total, he owns 7 restaurants in 3 states, and has been collecting a very long list of awards he doesn’t have to bother to put it on his bio because everyone knows.
He also is the co-ordinator for Qantas Flight Catering under his company Rockpool Consulting and has a food brand sold under his name, available at Woolworth Supermarkets.
Neil is also the host of five series of The LifeStyle Channel’s multi-award-winning food program, Food Source – Neil Perry (which the BBC acquired for broadcast on BBC2); the 14-part series Neil Perry Fresh & Fast where he makes sensational meals in minutes; and Neil Perry Rockpool Sessions, a seven-part series that goes behind the scenes to discover what it takes to run one of the world’s best restaurants. He has also appeared on the MasterChef Australia (season 2).
Certainly he could ask one of his chefs or his staffs to handle a disappointed customer like me. Certainly he doesn’t have to apologise in person. Certainly he doesn’t have to buy me drinks. His head chef, his PR, his maître d’, could do it.
But no, Neil decided he wanted to meet me in person.
So we met at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Sydney. He took me to the bar, bought me drinks, and explained about the situation they are facing generally in Western Australia, and what he is having in his Perth restaurant. I won’t bore you with the details, but at the end Neil wants us to get back to his restaurant and hopefully we will have much better experience. What I need to do is to text him whenever I feel like to go back, and he will arrange it for us. He had to leave after an hours chit-chat, and I stayed for another drink while waiting for my friend to pick me up.
It was really wonderful customer service treatment. His effort alone to meet me in person and apologised has won my heart. I don’t need him to get us back into his restaurant, but it’s a very nice gesture.
We are not in a hurry to go back to Rockpool, though, as there are so many good restaurants in Perth we haven’t tried, but we’ll definitely go back!