As well as the food, it's the little touches that make the experience of a good restaurant flow smoothly, that make it worth paying 1000RMB a head for. Not only does this place have absolutely no idea what a difference such touches can make, for instance, not sitting customers next to a pile of dirty plates or providing clean, tidy menus or bothering to turn off Katy Perry when the pianist starts to play, but the big deals - the food and the service - were also appalling.
Service was absent when it mattered (repeatedly forgetting our drinks order despite us being one of max four tables in the place, serving the sauces and sides a full ten minutes after the steaks arrived) and in your face when it didn't (expecting us to order ten seconds after receiving the menu and standing there until we told them to leave, actually throwing our mains down on the table while the last bite of the starter was still on the fork, trying to take the barely-touched bread).
The food was deeply, painfully average considering the 2000RMB gouge taken out of the wallet. Fillet Mignon was fairly nice, as was the potato gratin - when it eventually turned up. Chips reheated, asparagus chewy, rib eye (nearly 500RMB) half fat, also chewy and resistant to blunt steak knife, bread okay, strange watery salsa dip unexplained and crap, first bottle of wine had gone off, sauces average. Fell for sneaky water sell - 118RMB for a bottle of Evian.
Atmosphere was dead. Pianist finally got them to turn the jarring pop music off as he played, then proceeded to take huge breaks between tunes leaving the room in silence. Lights went 'down' halfway through meal, presumably to encourage a romantic feel, actually just leaving diners in shadow. Pianist finished, after more silence, we were treated to rock-pop.
Service in China is an oft-mocked joke, and I've experienced both good and bad while here. Sadly, this was one of the worst, and not because I expect all restaurants to be a high-end Western experience, but because that's the experience this place is selling to justify the matching high-end Western pricing. The actual experience is nowhere near worth it. I'm so, so angry with myself for not asking to see the manager. Forget it, seriously.
My husband and I had a pre flight meal at the new restaurant at the Kerry centre. Unfortunately, the experience was not very good. The service from the staff was clumsy and they seemed very inexperienced. We both got food poisoning from eating food from that kitchen.
We had chosen the three course meal with wine to match each course, which was farcical. Red wine was served with our crab and white wine served with the lamb. There was no desert wine to serve with our desert. No one could explain to us what wine we were being served. The deserts were brought out as a starter, which should have been a signal to us that the staff haven't a clue how to serve properly. It's not their fault either, that they are poorly managed.
My husband and myself had the same starter and main and given that we had not eaten anywhere else that day and how quickly we got sick after eating that food, we are 100% certain that what we ate at that restaurant made us both very sick.
There are other branches of Element Fresh in Lido, Solana and Sanlitun, which are much better run. There are still silly things that happen in those places too, but I never got sick from eating the food from those other branches. Not a great way to start a 10 hour flight :(