The true test of a restaurant’s customer service has to be in its ability to handle a customer complaint. Serve me up an undercooked sausage then tell me it’s meant to be cooked like that, I’ll be livid; but apologise unreservedly and bring me a perfectly cooked banger, all is forgiven. So when faced with a rather unusual complaint from me on a recent visit, I was hugely impressed that the team at 1855 Oxford were unflappable, apologetic and quick to address the issue.
Having visited 1855 for its launch last December, I’d been meaning to return for ages, but what with one thing or another, it had taken me a while to get back there. With the promise of tasty dishes on the menu, Ue coffee at the bar and free wifi, I was pleased to be returning for a spot of blogging and a lunch meeting.
With an hour or so to spare before my meeting, I grabbed a seat in front of the glass-fronted wine bar bistro to crack on with some writing, with a little ‘people watching’ thrown in for good measure. Great coffee, quiet setting, hospitable staff – all going well so far. My companion (Katy) joined me a little later, ordering a house selection of three kinds of cheese (£11.50), possibly easier for mid-meeting eating than my confit duck requested (£8.95), but arguably less enticing.
The cheese selection arrived accompanied by handmade biscuits and quince jelly, Katy happily nibbling away, showing all the signs of being satisfied with an agreeable plate of food. The confit duck arrived soft-skinned, served alongside sourdough, a tomato confit and salad leaves. Whilst some may have expected a crispy skin to their duck, I was less bothered – not a fan of fat on meat it was swiftly removed. Skin aside, the duck was delicious; simple but elegant, rich and silky, I could’ve eaten it several times over. While this may be one of the larger dishes on the menu, with most of the dishes being more like bar snacks, it still remains light – leaving plenty of room to partake in a glass of vino or several. On this occasion I wasn’t drinking, so won’t discuss the wines other than to say each one sampled on launch night impressed (and ask the other half, I’m really quite difficult to please with wine).
Still going well. That is until I found we’d not been dining alone.
With at least two-thirds of the duck eaten, I found a little ‘guest’ which had seemingly been confit’d along with the duck, attached to the bone. On alerting a waitress quietly to the unfortunate woodlouse, she promptly whisked my plate away with a sincere apology, offering to remove both meals from our bill. General Manager, Alistair, then followed afterwards to apologise. As far as complaint handling goes, this has to be pretty textbook – no excuses, no deliberations, no doubt, just sincere apologies and removal of the food from the bill. Downright good customer service.
Now, I must say, this particular complaint was a highly unusual experience for me, and not one I expect 1855 had encountered before either. Had they handled the issue poorly, I would have gone away fuming, not wishing to return. In the end, I went away feeling happy to revisit, maybe even ordering the same dish (minus the added seasoning). Goes to show what good customer service can do; and, to be fair, if you were ever going to eat a woodlouse then confit seems a great way to do it!
1855 Oxford provided the following comment in response
“Following this incident of the ‘guest’ in the duck, we… removed the remaining stock as a precaution. Each of these Confit Ducks has since been checked and nothing untoward was found… …followed back through our hygiene procedures and at no stage could the foreign body have entered the system in either the bar or our kitchen… …contacted our local supplier and provided details for the original supplier, we await their response. We see no reason for the issue arising at our local supplier. It seems from the position of the foreign item that it was within the body of meat prior to cooking. This most probably occurred during the original packaging of the duck. We work to the highest possible standards at all times through our preparation, cooking and customer service. Once again we apologise for this unusual and unfortunate incident.”