I have decidedly mixed feelings about the Exhibition Rooms on Westow Hill in 'Crystal Palace'. On the one hand, their food is almost invariably of a high quality. On the other hand, there are aspects of the restaurant that make me reluctant to recommend it, and reluctant to go there more often than I do. I have written before about unpleasant encounters, and, in fairness, these can happen anywhere and can be resolved.
But there are little things you notice. On one occasion I went to the downstairs loos and found that not one of the three cubicles contained any loo paper. So I went to the downstairs 'disabled' loo instead. This didn't affect me, but I noticed that it was also used as a storage for high chairs, a ladder and all sorts, and I doubt whether anyone in a wheelchair could have actually got in.
We had surly service on Christmas Eve. It was clear that the wait staff wanted to be anywhere else but at work. On one level I can sympathise, on another level, I wanted to remind her that we were paying a great deal of money and she was being paid to work, partly out of our money. Just little things, like rushing to take a wine order before we'd even seen the menu (not a drinks order, understandable, which we'd already declined by saying we'll just have wine with the meal).
Even stupid things like, they have a coat rack, but they sit people directly underneath it, which feels odd when you're retrieving your coat and twatting someone in the face as they're trying to eat. I don't especially want my winter coat trailing on the floor, but, more to the point, I knew where I was sitting was a route for the staff to and from the bar and my coat was a trip hazard.
Ah, but the food! A really nice menu, generally, and I have liked every single dish I have ever been served there. By 'like' I mean, 'like a lot'. Good quality fresh ingredients, served in imaginative ways without being outrageous or too novel. sometimes the presentation is less than perfect, as if someone knows what they want but haven't quite got the eye. But I don't mind, because it's never messy and always tasty.
Foodwise, it's verging into 'fine dining territory'. But the lack of attention to detail at the 'customer interface' disappoints me. The lighting is about right for atmospheric dining but not great for food photography!