Sharp Practice at Livebait

Oh dear, I am going to sound like AA Gill, (although nowhere near as pretentious obviously, or well educated for that matter).

If there is one thing that makes my blood boil in a restaurant it is when they try to get two tips out of me.  We’ve all seen the drill, you get a long bill with a very discreet line at the bottom adding 10% or 12.5% service.  Then you get presented with the Chip and PIN terminal where the waiter invites you to “add a service charge”.

This is what happened to me when I visited Livebait in Manchester.

I asked why he was asking me for a service charge when one had already been added and he apologised.  I asked what happened to the service charge already added to the bill and he revealed that it was not distributed to staff.

So I did the AA Gill thing and made them take the bill back and remove the service charge…and then left a cash tip (much to the applause of my guests).  I am so incensed that I can barely bring myself to write about the dining experience.

The bill also revealed that Livebait is part of the unremarkable Chez Gérard chain.

In fairness to Livebait and Chez Gérard, nearly all chains have imagination expressed only in formulae.  That is, only one talented chef in the whole organisation (probably part time or contracted in) who sets the menu.  The cooks in the local restaurants (who may well have masses of ability) are merely charged with delivering McDonalds style standardisation.  Dishes well conceived but with no local motivation, or enthusiastic food sourcing.  No licence for the “chefs” to express any ingenuity or react to local events.

So we get smoked salmon with the corners folded over neatly – but no flair.  Standard menus that don’t react to the local seasons and relative quality of the ingredients.

The Monkfish was OK actually, albeit formulaic.  So was the cheese albeit that the biscuits were boring.

So did the wine save the night?  The house champagne aperitif was nice, biscuity and not over bubbly.  Bouché Père et Fils at £32.50 not too expensive either.  Good start.

With the seafood we had Sancerre Les Collinettes, Joseph Mellot 2005 at £27.50.  Average to bland and missing zing.  Just type the name of that wine into Google and see how many restaurants serve the exact wine – including Chez Gérard who have it on at £24.50 HA HA I had to laugh.  Then again the Grosvenor House (London) has it on the list at £37.50 it just gets funnier until you discover that Sodhexo running the catering at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War rooms have it at an astonishing £45 – I guess they only get tourists there.

The only place I could find to buy online was where it was £15.67.  On this basis the Chez Gérard/Livebait markup is not too bad but I just wonder how much Joseph Mellot is eeking out of each grape to get so much wine into so many restaurants.

Ultimately, I probably would have said that Livebait was quite good for a chain and not too bad value.  However, having incensed me by trying to stiff me for two service charges, I am more likeley to send Diego Maradona a get well soon card than go back to Livebait.

22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5WA
T: 0161 817 4110  F: 0161 817 4111
E: lbmanchester2@groupechezgerard

3 Responses to “Sharp Practice at Livebait”

  1. Confessions of a Wino » Blog Archive » Ian Simpson’s Pitch and Putt Pad Says:

    […] Cloud 23 was OK but the wine prices were astronomical.  I have encountered Sancerre Les Collinettes before but never ‘oop North at […]

  2. Confessions of a Wino » Blog Archive » Charlotte, Bertie and Gérard too Says:

    […] I’ve always considered Chez Gérard high on price and low on quality and you may remember my Livebait experience…  I find most chains, in any case, are a triumph of formula over inspiration, of […]

  3. Confessions of a Wino » Blog Archive » Mediterranean Café, Soho Says:

    […] I have to find one bad thing about a place and in this case it’s the wine list.  In an otherwise thoughful selection I found bloody Sancerre les Colinettes.  I shiver every time I see this on a wine list. […]

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