Today my friend J , who is vegan, wanted to visit a restaurant called V&M. As always, I found it hard to resist, having heard from J that V&M was "the" place for veggie burgers and fries.
When we arrived though, V&M was nowhere to be found where he remembered it to be. The sign over the door now said 'Express Dining' but the waiter tried to convince us that this mock-meat Thai-vegetarian place was actually V&M. A helpful passer-by (who claimed to be the former owner of V&M) then explained to us that V&M had been sold to the VEG chain of Oriental restaurants. How strange, given that only last week I received a request to review this place!!! I decided I would go home and double check the address, just to make sure.
We'd been walking for ages by this time. So, given that the food at this place was still listed as vegetarian, J and I decided to go with an East Asian meal instead. J was happy. All the offerings on the table appeared to be suitable for vegans. Given that it's two days before payday, I was happy that the meal was about to cost me a reasonable £6.50.
We were presented with a drinks menu, but being on a rather tight budget this week, I decided to forego a drink. J ordered a cup of tea. We then looked down at our plates. I noticed a patch of grease; so I wiped my plate with the table napkin. J suggested we should request that the plates be changed. Our waiter (after a bit of confusion, since he didn't speak very good English), arrived with new plates and we headed to the crammed buffet bar.
I grabbed a fair few spring rolls, some cabbage salad, a samosa, a mock-prawn cracker and some noodles.
The crackers were slightly soggy, weirdly leathery and chewy, the spring rolls were adequate, but not particularly tasty, the samosa was not bad and the noodles were gloopy but quite edible. J seemed to be equally unimpressed with the plate of food he had served himself. He pointed out that the quarter-moon-shaped brown starters on his plate (that I had given a wide berth to), were quartered pieces of stale, cold veggie burger and the pastry-type dish on his plate was actually a chopped-up and cold veggie sausage roll. Urgghhh - I was glad I hadn't bothered trying it !!! He was however quick to admit that he actually enjoyed the cold mock-fish-cake.
I began to get desperate. Surely I could find enough on this fairly large array of food to make it worth the £6.50 I was about to pay. Alas, I had no such luck. In fact, even the fairly routine sugared seaweed tasted of rust. As I trawled the buffet bar, I noticed the waitress spray some disinfectant (inadvertently, of course) onto some prepared fruit salad. I tried to ask for some plain rice, but she couldn't speak English. Her waiter colleague rushed up and translated; after some fairly intense conversation between them, the waiter announced that they had run out of rice. A Chinese / Thai restaurant that had run out of rice !!!! If I wasn't so hungry, this surreal conversation would have been more funny.
Finally I gave up on finding anything reasonable to eat, and convinced J that it was time to head out. We went to the counter to pay. We had decided to go Dutch on this occassion, so we requested separate bills. For the privilege of using the self-service bar and not really being served anything (since I hadn't even ordered a drink), I ended up paying a 10% service charge, which the waiter haltingly explained was compulsorily required by the owners.
Unusually for me, I decided not to put up a fuss, so I just collected the change and headed off. As I got onto the bus after saying my good-byes to J, I pulled the change out of my coat pocket so I could put it into my purse. The waiter had not only charged me a service charge but I had also been short-changed. That just summed it up. I had been short-changed on the basic amenities (including cleanliness), short-changed on quality of food and short-changed on my receipt. Thank goodness J and I had a good chat. At least I wasn't short-changed on the company; but then, I did bring that along myself !!
AVOID this branch of VEG for a little while at least - head to the other branch on Old Compton St (see my review at VEG) instead, if you're desperate for cheap and cheerful veg spring rolls et al.
VEG (with a sign on the menu that says CHA and a board outside that says Express)
Greek St, Soho, London