There's a swathe of new eateries opening up on my local high-street. It's a pretty busy place, and it's great to see the old closed-down shops given a new lease of life and opening up as potentially exciting places to eat.
The Deli House actually opened a couple of weeks ago, but was so popular they ran out of food, then closed for a few days whilst they re-evaluated. It was encouraging that there was a heavy demand, but slightly worrying that they couldn't cope with actually having customers. Still, teething problems are part of the learning process and once they had announced they'd sorted them out I was rather excited about a salt beef sandwich.
I arrived and the sun was shining, the place was packed, always a good sign. The decor is very light and fresh, lots of room to sit inside and a couple of tables on the outside. The whole front was opened up to the outside. The menu boards clear and not too overloaded with information. I liked it.
So I stood there for around 10 mins, keeping an eye out for a table. I wasn't sure whether I was meant to order then sit down, or sit down and wait. I kind of hung around a bit then went to place my order. I was told to sit down and the staff would serve me.
The menu is good. New York style, kosher deli style. Decent choice of hot and cold sandwiches, schnitzel and loads of delicious things. The classic Salt Beef, Reuben and all the trimmings, and sides of felafel and chopped herring. There's enough choice to keep you coming back for several visits. Excitedly I sat down, and spotted they'd put the Wifi code on the menu holder on the table. A nice touch, but I didn't see the network so I assume they've not set it up yet.
The condiments on the table were fairly standard. Some random ketchup (not Heinz) but Heinz mayo. Some tables had salad oil too. Cutlery was sparse but in a tin on the table. Each set wrapped in a paper napkin.
I'd come for one meat, and one meat only, and this was Salt beef. I ordered my Salt Beef on rye, mustard on the side (£5.95) and a potato latke (£2.25) with a can on mango juice (£1.20).
I didn't have to wait too long, but the sandwich looked a little disappointing. A little limp and forlorn. On the plate were a couple of tomato and cucumber slices and a little pile of iceberg lettuce. Mustard in a pot on the side. I'd not say the salt beef was piled high, but it wasn't one slice. Somewhere in between, so not great but not terrible. possibly about 3cm thick in the centre. No pickles or other garnish though.
My latke was on the way (I was told) When it did arrive I was disappointed. They had run out of the large ones so suppled 4 small balls. They were not even luke-warm. I'd say room temperature at best.
The sandwich was dry. The meat was most definitely not hot. The 'hot sandwich' was tepid. Both in looks and temperature. The meat was 'ok', slightly dry but not the absolute worst I've had. Not a patch on the bagel places in Brick Lane though, where they hand carve thick slices and pile it high. Salt beed should be buttery smooth, break into juicy little glistening pieces and taste fresh and mellow. This wasn't. It felt like it had been delivered in shrink wrap, pre-cooked and sliced. I don't think it's hand carved on the premises. I thought that over 50p for each little latke ball thing was overpriced too.
All the time, playing on my mind is the fact that for another pound or so you can get a Salt Beef sandwich from the famous Brass Rail Salt Beef bar in Selfridges, The Deli House prices don't seem to compare for value, especially being in Borehamwood rather than Oxford St, and not, err, Selfridges.
I would have addressed the issues with the staff, but they were totally inattentive. No one came to check up. I was waiting to see if they did. They were all huddled around the till (the same way they were when I arrived) trying to figure out how it worked. I'd have forgiven them for the learning curve, but they'd already opened and closed so I was rather hoping they'd be slick and ready to welcome customers.
So that was that. I wasn't sure again if I needed to stand up, and go and pay, ask for the bill then take it to the till or sit and pay at the table. No one seemed to know. I went to the counter and waited another 5 or so minutes watching the staff figure out the till.
Another problem is that the till is sandwiched (pun intended) between the high glass chiller cabinets with the cakes etc in, so you can't actually make any eye contact with the staff behind the counter. There were people paying for take-aways, people waiting to pay who had been sitting down to eat and just no form or organisation at all. I had to wave at the staff through the glass to get their attention and then mime to them what I wanted.
The bill was just shy of £10 which for a lunch and a can of drink isn't a bad price, but I had a feeling of disappointment.
The photo on their Facebook page really is not representative of the food they serve. If they'd served me this, it would be a different story.
The place is nice, but the food is disappointing. Perhaps my expectations were too high- but there's little excuse for not heating the food properly. A couple wanted to order a pudding. They'd sold out. It was still lunch time.
I really hope they iron out their issues. People won't give them a third or fourth chance. They opened, failed, closed and re-opened. People will not bother if they can't offer a decent level of good food and good service. On chatting to a couple of friends who've been, they also remarked their soup was cold, the food not hot.
As I was walking to the car, I actually felt peckish. I don't usually eat massive lunches, but I was feeling totally unsatiated. I went home still hungry.
There's another Deli type place opening very soon just a little further up the road. The Deli House should really use this time to capture a loyal audience or they could suffer. The other place is a chain too. I want to support my local business but I can't if they don't improve. I really hope they can pull it out of the bag and make this place something great.
I don't know if I should give them '3 strikes and out' or abandon the place already.