I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with TGIs. I love the cocktails and historically they have been pretty good in their choices for kids. Not only that but bar Carluccio's, they have the best offering of activities for them.
At a bit of a loose end we thought we would give it a go to kick off the half term holiday.
First impressions aren't great. We keenly feel the loss of Tampopo - driven out by rising rents that they couldn't hope to meet. As you arrive, you are in a tiny space by the door. Not enough space for people to get in and out and trying to get a buggy in and out is frankly a nightmare.
We were told there was a thirty minute wait time and we could stay at the bar and wait. There is no leaving and coming back for a table at TGI. Knowing that usually they are generous with their timings (we generally find that they seat us ten minutes before the allocated time), we decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, for once the timing was a bit off in the other direction. We managed to keep D entertained with a smoothie but Roo was a little grumpier about having to wait. It was pretty annoying to see some empty tables and not be sure if they were available for people waiting at the bar or being kept empty for some other reason.
I ordered this rather tasty Cherry Stag cocktail to kick off my half term holiday.
Before we were seated one of the bartenders (the manager perhaps?) was berating another member of staff for using the wrong glass for beer. Sure, make sure that you have high standards, but telling off colleagues in the earshot of the diners is pretty poor.
Eventually we were taken to our table. A bit of a mission given the design of the place. We had to go past that crowded entry area again, not easy when you have two small children.
As mentioned before, TGI is pretty well geared up for kids. They provide a pack of activities and this regularly changes, meaning that kids don't get bored. D had quite a lot of fun with the halloween themed pack, including playing with this mask. The waiter also made D a balloon dog which was a nice touch that kept him occupied for some time.
Roo was less impressed - pulling it off my face every time I put it on.
I have to damn it with faint praise. It was okay. It looked beautiful on the plate but it just didn't really taste of all that much. The roasted veg was particularly dull. The red chillis gave it a bit of a kick which was appreciated and it was an interesting idea but it didn't carry through for me.
More successful was Roo's 'tomato tubes'. She attacked this dish with abandon and managed to get through two thirds of it. D's meal was less successful. His first choice of pizza wasn't available and so he opted for fish fingers instead.
The waiting staff seemed to be struggling. Our waiter brought D the wrong meal and it took twenty five minutes for our desserts to arrive. We suspect he hadn't put the order in for it as none of the desserts were that complex and the kitchen wasn't overrun at that time. I could forgive the food mistake, not least because it was replaced extremely quickly and dealt with well but waiting for so long for the dessert was very disappointing. We also overheard another member of staff talking about how she'd made a massive mistake and she was completely at fault. Again, this felt like a conversation that should have happened elsewhere.
On the plus side, the dessert was good. Berries, ice-cream and amaretti biscuits. Light and fresh. Mr K and I shared this quite happily.
TGI Fridays is good for kids. It's busy and noisy and so if you have children that aren't able to sit quietly throughout a meal, it's perfect. I do think they could make more of their adult menu meals in children size - they do feature a few too many of those meals that restaurants fall back on, heavily featuring chips. However, given that both children cleared their plate, it's okay for an occasional visit. I love the cocktails and the desserts and think I should probably return to one of my favourite meals next time we go.
Next time we do go though, I'm fairly sure it won't be to the one at the Oracle. I think the service problems should be ironed out but I just don't like the venue. It just didn't work for me. Too cramped and not very well designed. The bar needs to be further away from the door and that entrance area needs to be bigger. Somehow.