Yesterday I had a re-arranged dinner with my godson and his mother in Wimbledon. Our first planned dinner fell right in the middle of the blizzards that brought the country to a stand still when you were advised not to make your journey unless strictly necessary. We rescheduled for last night and I thought this is easy: 45 minute train journey from the coast to Clapham Junction and cross the platform to the Southwest line and two stops to Wimbledon. Then a 2 minute walk down Wimbledon Hill to our favourite restaurant San Lorenzo.
Little did I know.
After various calls to the centre I was told that the taxi was cancelled as I was so rude.
So I walked through the rain, caught the bus that plodded its way to the station and I missed the 5-27pm train.
The next one was then 5.58pm. This only had 8 carriages and was hopelessly overcrowded. Most passengers were standing. Just outside East Croydon the driver announced that there would be an unscheduled stop at Purley to pick up yet more passengers there.
I usually book a first class ticket. If made in advance, with a Senior Railcard, it is only about £10 dearer than standard. No benefits are conferred: they are the same seats, same carriage, the only advantage is privacy. I can read, get stuff done.
The first class was soon invaded and seats were all occupied. The know-all in residence – there is always one – advised us all that the train had been declassified as anyone was free to sit in first class. He appeared to have made this decision as there was no announcement. The bore in-residence was droning on about a trip to the Wyndham Theatre whilst some unfortunate friend kept a running commentary behind me. He was such a wit that he had just posted something very funny on her Facebook page. Except she did not find it so. Eventually we crawled into Clapham Junction. At least this final stage to the restaurant was quick and uneventful.
We had a jolly dinner.
I will leave Daffers to review but we always find the food reliable, the prices not too intimidating and – for me so important – the tables are set sufficiently apart to hold a comfortable conversation. Sadly the owner told us business was not brisk. I have noted from the business journals I read that the restaurant sector is suffering. Young people are using Deliveroo.
The owner explained you pay a 20% surcharge to them and it’s unlikely wine and fizzy water where the profit margin is greatest is ordered. It’s such a shame to hear this as it is a fine restaurant with great cooking standards and traditions as mother and father, Lorenzo and Mara, opened up the famous San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge in the 1960s. I made the point that in those days you knew the owner: Alvaro at La Famiglia, Walter Apicella at Meridiana, the Mimmo of Mimmo d’Ischia.
Then it became chef driven: Aldo Zillii for example with cookery books and cooking holidays. Now it seems to be about portion control, profit margins and private equity companies. The days when the owner knows his clientele and greets them seem finished. You are greeted by a cold beautiful girl and iPad. As with the railways the personal touch is gone.