A good friend and occasional blog commenter invited me to join his dinner party at Brick at the weekend. Saturdays are pretty special for me after eating mostly home cooking during the week, so I was excited about trying a new place, Brick on Sinan Lu. I’d passed the place hundreds of times as it is right next to two places – Cha’s and Hof – that are warm to my heart (and more importantly, close to my home!)
First the positive (that’s “positive” singular, not plural). The setting is lovely, warm and relaxing. It’s described as a restaurant and wine lounge which is pretty accurate and I have to say, it does have the potential to be a great place to gather with friends. The have a live jazz performance daily, which I would enjoy if I was just drinking but I personally prefer slightly less noise while I’m eating.
I guess it’s positioning itself as a western style destination, but aiming at “westernised locals” rather than westerners which is not a bad strategy to adopt, and in that respect it probably succeeds. But from a westerner’s perspective, it didn’t quite make the grade. Most of the issues were fairly minor, but when you add them all up, there are many other places that will score better on the WoAi rating index.
- Firstly, when I arrived, I stood at the entrance and there was a girl in a booth who looked like the cashier. She had her head down and despite me talking to my friend (so she clearly knew some customers had entered) she was determined not to acknowledge us. I understand she may have been a cashier rather than a receptionist, but in the absence of any other staff at that time, she could at least have smiled and said “someone will be along to seat you shortly”.
- When we asked for water, we were told that they only have mineral water. As a former restaurant manager, I’m not too fond of customers who don’t order anything to drink as it does eat in to our margins, but we’d still offer plain water to anyone who asked.
- I ordered a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine for the group. The idea here is some will want red, some white and the law of averages dictates that they’ll be enough for everyone. But the waiter opened the red first and poured some in everyone’s glass. This meant that everyone only got a tiny bit, including those who probably would have preferred white. The more logical way to approach this issue is to open both then go round the table offering red OR white. This is a common mistake in a country that doesn’t yet have a very developed wine culture. But for me, a place that bills itself as a wine lounge should know better, it’s as simple as that.
- My host’s dish was the first to arrive. We’re a casual group so rather than wait for all of our food to arrive, he started eating his (and it’s a good thing he did if you see the next point). His food was cold. It had clearly been sitting around for a while before being served.
- 3 of us ordered chicken. We got one chicken plus everyone else’s main courses and waited and waited and waited, frequently looking towards the direction of the kitchen, hoping for the remaining two chicken dishes to appear. Eventually I got up and went to ask the manager where our chicken was. He was very apologetic and explained that the chef had misread the order and only made one chicken but that the mistake had been noticed and he was now working on the remaining chickens. It’s a forgivable mistake, but it would have been nice if someone had communicated this to us and we would have been far less irritated.
- Moving on to dessert. I’m always drawn to anything that resembles apple pie or apple crumble, so when I saw apple crumble on the menu, it was an easy decision. I’m not sure if they’d run out of the crumble part but even by the most objective measure, the dessert was mostly apple and very little crumble.
- And finally on to the bathroom which was spotlessly clean and tidy. But unfortunately, the toilet paper holder was located by the wash basin, about 3 metres away from the toilet itself, which means unless you had the foresight to grab some paper before you sat down, you’d be stuck in a slightly awkward position when you had concluded your business, a bit like the Korean guy in the Wondergirls video.
So not a glowing review, but as I said, this place does have potential if the management just polished up some of the minor issues. The wine list wasn’t too bad and the Bordeaux I selected was, in this wine novice’s opinion, rather good and not too pricey. It’s just a pity I only got one seventh of a bottle (I’m kidding, we ordered more later)!
Brick Restaurant and Wine Lounge
Address : 30 Sinan Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu
Reservations : 6093 2005