Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Greyhound Cafe

Usually I like to give restaurants the benefit of the doubt, especially when they have only been open for a few weeks, but there is just no excuse for how bad the food was and how disorganized the service.

I was quite excited about the opening of Greyhound Cafe - probably a result of all the ads and publicity they did throughout IFC during the run-up to their opening (I'm a sucker for marketing). I was also curious about whether it had any affiliation to Greyhound Buses, made famous in 2008 by a passenger's decapitation of another whilst riding the line (ironically, Greyhound's slogan was, "there's a reason you've never heard of bus rage"). After a quick search on the matter, I discovered that Greyhound is in fact a chic clothing and boutique store in Bangkok which later spurned a number of cafes that are apparently very popular for rich tai-tai's and celebrities. Their opening in Hong Kong is the brand's first venture outside of Thailand and was brought here in collaboration with the Gaia group (known for Isola, Joia, and of course Gaia itself).

I wondered whether there were any trademark infringements here, but I did notice the greyhound logos of Greyhound Buses and Greyhound Cafe are facing in opposite directions, which reminded me of Lacoste vs. Hong Kong's Crocodile brand :P Then again, I doubt a fashion cafe that prides itself on its stylish and contemporary interior could get much (positive) free publicity associating itself with an aging budget bus company notorious for its lack of security and crazy people.

I had made reservations for 8:30pm yesterday evening and when I arrived was told that the tables weren't ready yet. There was a big group of people also waiting and when asked, apparently all of them had reservations too...We ended up being seated close to 9pm which already put me in a bad mood. What's the point of reserving when you don't get seated at the time of your reservation!?

I did cheer up when I saw the menu with it's cute binders:

Quite whimsical, it almost reminded me of Madam Sixty Ate's menu (without the cute piggies). The interior was also charming, though acoustics were absolutely terrible and impossible to hold conversations in.

my sad attempt at obscuring the identity of the diners :P

I had heard rave reviews about the famous "Greyhound Cafe Iced Lemon Tea" so decided to order a glass to see what all the fuss was about.

iced lemon tea ($38)

Er...absolutely nothing special about this iced tea besides the fact that the ice cubes were frozen lemon tea cubes (which I must concede is quite ingenious) and there is a LOT of sugar at the bottom of the cup. Perhaps Hong Kong cha chaan teng's are just that much better at doing ice teas than what you typically get in Thailand...

We ordered a selection of dishes to share and were quite annoyed that they all came out at once (within 5 mins of our ordering, thus questioning the freshness of the dishes). Given that our table was pretty tiny, there was hardly any space to eat. You would think that they would give us the appetizers and then the mains...but nope. They didn't even bother to clean our appetizers once we were done even though we were obviously struggling with the overload of plates.

pomelo salad ($88)

This came in a tiny portion and wasn't all that exciting. The pomelo was shredded to tiny pieces which some people may like but I'd rather eat larger chunks. There was hardly anything by way of adornment to the dish, with a very stingy sprinkling of peanuts and dried shrimp (which also tasted stale). Could easily make something yummier at home at a fraction of the price.

greyhound cafe's famous chicken wings ($68)

This is one of Greyhound's signature items which has had rave reviews in the Bangkok branches. They do give quite a fair amount, though the wings are mini. Basically just deep-fried and apparently marinated in fish sauce, you can't really go wrong. But seriously, it tasted so ordinary I don't know where they came up with the idea that this was an age-old family recipe and I did not taste anything remotely close to fish sauce. Perhaps we were meant to dip the wings ourselves...

grilled angus sirloin (HK$248)

I believe this is the most expensive menu item and it was also the most awful of the dishes we tried. When it came out, I wanted to disown the dish and say we never ordered it. The colour of the meat was completely off and looked utterly unappealing. It came with a very pathetic side salad and sticky rice (in the covered box at the back) which had zero taste and had a funny consistency - it didn't taste like they used the proper glutinous rice grains for sticky rice but instead steamed up mushy clumpy ordinary rice. The beef itself tasted as unappealing as it looked. It had to be doused in the spicy sauce to give it any sort of flavour. Highly disappointed for the price paid...really, angus beef?!

"miss saigon" rice vermicelli (HK$98)

This tasted like a dish I used to always eat at a random food court in North Point when I had an internship in the area. Over in North Point the dish probably cost me $35 with a drink. It also tasted better. The fishballs were pretty sad here and had absolutely no taste whatsoever. The shrimp balls fared a little better (though I remembered to cover it in the accompanying fish sauce), but the shrimp were the biggest letdown. Tiny, rubbery, very subpar. It was also a tiny bowl of noodles, though you might not be able to tell in the picture above. All in all, another fail. Seems to be the recurring theme that you have to eat everything with copious amounts of sauce in order for it to taste passable.

We were hesitant about ordering dessert given our impression of the food thus far, but figured if we were having such an awful experience, might as well finish it with a bang. Funniest thing was, even though we had been finished for a while and numerous waiters walked past (including one who took our order for dessert), no one bothered to come clean up our table. We were wondering whether it would be cleared before our dessert came, and were amused when our suspicions were confirmed:

No clearing of plates... Considering this is not a dai pai dong or cha taan teng (which actually are quite good at clearing plates), I was not impressed.

mango sticky rice (HK$68)

Thankfully, this dish wasn't too bad. The mango was quite sweet (though I swear they left part of the skin on it) and the glutinous rice pretty decent, though I thought the coconut milk on top tasted a little different. While this may have been the highlight of our meal, I would still have much preferred getting the same at Honeymoon Desserts for half the price.

We had to wait 10 minutes for the bill to come, despite numerous waitstaff who were apparently standing around doing nothing, and were getting so fed up by it all that we got up and were going to leave the restaurant. Unfortunately, they rushed out with the bill just as we were walking to the door (should have made a quicker escape!) The meal came up to a total of HK$711 for 2, and was easily the most not-worth-it meal I've had in the past few months if not year. Bad food, bad service, expensive prices for "Thai" food = a very grumpy me.

I'm curious to know what other people think of the place. I wonder if I'm just being seriously over-critical. Do let me know if any of you decide to pop by despite my very big warning not to!

Greyhound Cafe
Shop 1082, 1/F
IFC, Central