Sunday, March 07, 2010

Strange stares at Zouk Cafe Bar

Here is a short review of the Zouk Cafe Bar that recently opened in Kuala Lumpur's Gardens Mall:

Excellent food – lousy service.

Okay, maybe I should explain the 'lousy service' bit.

My wife and I went there for dinner last night. She had eaten lunch there a couple of times since it opened in December, and said the food was good. We seated ourselves when we arrived because the staff seemed too busy to notice us standing at the entrance (even though the place was only a third full). We then asked one of the passing waiters to bring us some menus, which he did promptly. It was a while before he came back, and when he did he said: “Are you ready for me to take your order?”. “Yes” we replied. He then picked up the menus and took them away – and that was the last we saw of him! We sat there somewhat bewildered, and after it was apparent that he wasn't coming back, we called one of the waitresses over to take our order.

I ordered a Caesar salad with chicken and a glass of Chardonnay. “Sorry we've run out of white wine”, she said. “Okay, well just give me an iced lemon tea instead”, I replied. And then she walked off without taking my wife's order! My wife called her back and said: “Aren't you going to take my order as well?” to which the waitress just stared at her as if she was making a very strange request.

Our food came about 10 minutes later, and I had no complaints about the Caesar salad – the lettuce was very fresh (a rarity amongst many other KL restaurants where the lettuce always has brown edges from being cut up hours before) and I liked the fact that Zouk provided the dressing on the side – but it was a very small portion. I finished my salad when my wife was only about a third of the way through her meal, and one of the waiters took my plate away – and then tried to take my wife's plate away as well, even though it was clear she had not finished eating. Then twice before she had finished eating, other waiters came by and tried to take her plate away! It reminded me of one of those episodes of Fawlty Towers where Manuel the waiter had decided that it was time for the guests to finish their meal (or was it Basil Fawlty?).

As I was still hungry, I asked for the menu again and ordered a bowl of wild mushroom soup. As I was waiting for the soup, the waitress that had originally taken our order walked by with a glass of white wine for one of the other tables. I called out to her and said: “Hey I thought you said you had run out of white wine?” to which I just got another strange stare as if she didn't understand a word I was saying.

My soup came about 25 minutes later after several reminders to other waiters (I think they had forgotten about it). Again it was excellent – freshly made and very tasty (and a better sized portion than the salad).

So no complaints about the food at Zouk – but OMG the service is woeful.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The strange logic of Jetstar's change fees

I recently booked a flight with Jetstar from Kuala Lumpur down to Singapore for travel in July. The fare including taxes was a very reasonable MYR95 (about US$27) – can't complain about that.

Today I decided to go down a day earlier and went to check the fares on their website – still the same MYR95 – that's lucky I thought.

I retrieved my booking and changed the flight, but then up popped a change fee – of MYR110.

So if I want to change my flight to the previous day it will cost me MYR110. But if I just forget about the flight I had already booked and do a new booking for the previous day, it will only cost me MYR95.

What is the logic of that?

It's actually encouraging people to abandon existing bookings and buy a new ticket, which would mean I wouldn't turn up the following day and Jetstar would have an empty seat that they could have sold if they had made the change fee a more reasonable price – at least less than the cost of doing a new booking.

I thought budget airlines were supposed to be efficient inventory managers.