You'll notice the positive reviews for the Lonsdale are all largely from 2010 and earlier. There's a reason for that.
The Lonsdale was, for many years, rightfully known as a hidden gem off the beaten track in Notting Hill. A stellar cocktail bar, staffed with brilliant bartenders, and a kitchen creative enough to be amongst the best in London.
I say all this because I've been a regular at both the bar and restaurant sections for a couple of years now, and have long enjoyed and admired the establishment.
But unfortunately in the last eight or so months, the Lonsdale has gone from a 'hidden-gem'...
...to being a place where one would, sadly, be embarrassed to take a friend or a date.
This evening I did the latter, and took a date to the Lonsdale for dinner. I was hoping to make a good impression, and the Lonsdale had always delivered in the past.
The present, however, is a much different story.
Ultimately, I was so mortified at the service and food that we returned our main courses untouched, cleared our check, and walked out:
Something I've never done in more than 20 years of dining.
I assume, behind the scenes, that management has undergone dramatic change recently; or else the place is flirting with insolvency, or perhaps both.
It's otherwise hard to explain the very visible degradation of the class of clientele; it's hard to explain the new, bland, room-temperature horsdervs.
It's equally hard to explain the "50% Off" offers on what should be a prime dining night,
And the absolutely shocking degeneration of customer service seems inexplicable entirely. Here is a summary of our recent evening:
We were seated for our meal by 7:50pm. Our orders were placed by 8PM.
The starters arrived at 830PM. They were cold.
Fifteen minutes later, at 8:45PM, the Maitre'd interrupted our conversation and made it plain in no uncertain terms that he expected us to vacate the table for an incoming reservation. By 9:15PM.
With the tact of a bouncer yelling last call at a pub, w, bear in mind, whilst our main courses were not even on the table as of yet.
We politely but firmly stated that we found it inappropriate to strong-arm customers who'd barely just sat down out of their table in such a brusque fashion, as if we'd been laying about ordering icewater for hours on end.
His proposed remedy was to offer us a table at the crowded bar where we could continue (or rather start) our meal. Hardly the stuff of romance or dinner.
We said we found the proposed solution to be in no way acceptable, and stated that it was a truly inexcusable way to treat longterm repeat customers of many years standing. We were then criticized for "not working with him" towards a resolution.
My position was that the entire episode was inexcusable; that they had clearly overbooked the evening, and that had they been aware of such a shortage of seating, they should never had sat us at the table in the first place.
This point fell on deaf, uncaring ears; something that was made quite plain in both content and tone
After forty or fifty dinners at the Lonsdale over the past two years, I'm very sorry to say I will not be returning.
Even among all the exceptional restaurants and lounges in Notting Hill, the Lonsdale was for many years a standout establishment.
I find it personally painful to say it of a favorite restaurant, but the truth is that the heyday of the Lonsdale has passed into history.
If you've fond memories of the old Lonsdale, do yourself a favour and keep the warm memories intact by staying away from it's current incarnation.
And if you've never been to the Lonsdale before now...you should make an effort to keep it that way.
The long and short of it: stay far, far away. Though I suspect you won't have to stay away for long. Restaurants exhibiting these sorts of signs are usually very close to ceasing operations for one reason or another.
Still, for those of us who remember another Lonsdale, in a bygone era:
What a terrible, terrible disappointment.