Trying to book gave us our first taste of how popular it must be, we called and asked for a table at 8pm but were told they had no space until 9pm. No worries we thought, we'd still have time to eat and get down the pub for last orders to meet up with some chums.
Arian is located just south of the 'Four Banks' in Chorlton and as it's a BYOB affair (plus cool points) it was an easy option to stroll down to Carringtons to pick up a bottle. As we cruised on past Arian at 8pm we noticed that half the tables were empty. Bit weird. Carringtons supplied an excellent bottle as always, we even had a good chat with the fella in there who said he'd eaten everything on the Arian menu. Expectations were rising! Bottle secured we trotted across the road to Morley Cheek's to grab a pint and bide our time before our table was ready.
We arrived at bang on 9pm to find that two of the tables which were free at 8pm were still sat unmade, hmmmmmmmmm not sure why we couldn't have had those earlier but maybe there had been a few cancellations, either way we ended up being seated at the moment that a table of 16 were having their order taken. The table we were given was right by the front door which was a bit of a bummer as there was a continuous stream of smokers from the party table going in and out of the front door.
I wasn't really a massive fan of the interior of the restaurant I have to say. The panelled ceiling reminded me of a poorly maintained office, a lot of the decor looked pretty cheap and there was a mystery substance liberally splashed across the wall we were seated against. The whole restaurant needed a little bit of a spring clean and a lick of paint. Oh yeah they should probably take their Christmas decorations down now as well.
Arian deal in Persian cuisine and the menu looks top notch, plenty of varied choice especially for the veggies amongst us. It felt a little bit pricey at first glance but we had been reliably informed that the portions were designed for The Incredible Hulk and the flavours exquisite so we didn't mind one bit. It took about 20 minutes for our order to be taken while the party were attended to but when the lovely waitress arrived pen in hand I went for Falafel for starters while Jules plumped for the Mirza (a dish of aubergine, egg and tomato). We popped the cork on our wine and Jules ordered a Persian tea to accompany her starters.
Because of this general mayhem it was nearly 40 minutes before our starters appeared and the tea was still nowhere to be seen. I asked if we could have our tea to which the flustered waitress snapped "No!" before quickly regaining her composure and asking if we would like it with our main course. I asked if we could have it with our starters and it did indeed arrive shortly after.
The best part of any Middle Eastern meal for me is the super hot and tasty fresh bread, something that Olive & Thyme just down the road from Arian completely understands. As soon as I clapped eyes on Arians effort at bread I was incredibly disappointed, it was flat and pale with just a few little chars. I'm not sure how it had been prepared or how long it had been sat waiting to be brought out to our table but it was cold and didn't taste of anything, that isn't an exaggeration, when I put it in my mouth and chewed my way through it my brain was confused as if all the taste buds had been extracted from my tongue, it was a flavour black hole. After it had been sat on our table for a few minutes I went back to try another bite but it had become so stale that it had taken on the shape of the basket, it now had the appearance of a giant chewy pringle. The falafel wasn't much better, it was cold and tasteless accompanied by sauce which both looked and tasted like it had come out of one of those giant kebab shop sauce bottles, super sweet and nothing else it had that gloopy emulsified texture to it. The fresh salsa that sat unassumingly on the side was fresh at least. Jules' Mirza was just as flawed, although it was tasty with a good hit of smoky flavour it was also very oily and only just luke warm. I have no problem waiting for good food in a busy restaurant but I do have a problem waiting for bad food in a chaotic restaurant.
Again there was hardly anybody out front (maybe two appearances) for over thirty minutes so we certainly didn't get a check back or even any eye contact to tell the lovely waitress that we were unhappy. The table of incredibly patient elderly couples carried on attempting to pay and when they did pin the waitress down they tried to tell her how it was nice to come back to their local restaurant, she walked off mid conversation, they looked perplexed and left.
As a side note something else happened at this point which was obviously not the fault of the restaurant but didn't help the situation. A gang of youths had congregated at the restaurant window (which I was sat right in front of) and had proceeded to practice their roundhouse kicks, striking the glass a couple of times. I suppose kids should have interests and hobbies even if they are improvising martial arts moves in front of Persian restaurants. Intimidating and hilarious at the same time.
|Have you seen the film Precinct 13?|
She came back a few minutes later and simply said "Your main course is going to be ready in 5 minutes" with her customary smile, this was a polite way of saying 'nope you're going to stay and pay for your main course, I don't care that your food was shit'. I was a little bit miffed by this but still politely asked "I understand that but do you mind if we just pay for what we've had and go because it really hasn't been very good and we don't have time now to finish our meal?" The waitress had obviously been sent back by the boss to insist we pay and wasn't very comfortable at all, she had my sympathies but also she wasn't dealing with this very well. She disappeared without answering my question and returned 5 minutes later with our main courses in hand and started to place them on the table. I was now very miffed and said "I'm sorry but we don't want these, as I asked before we just want to pay and leave is that okay?" She carried on smiling, putting the plates down and saying "if you don't like them then don't pay for them" sensing that wouldn't be an option later on and increasingly getting more miffed I asked her to take the plates back. She relented and took them away leaving us waiting for another five minutes with no idea what was going on.
Then the boss came out. He didn't look happy. He didn't look happy at all. As soon as he appeared at the bar I could tell he was pissed off, he put his head down and came straight over, he did not have a happy face, his face was distinctly unhappy. When he arrived at the table he stood there angrily with his arms closed but didn't start the conversation, I began to explain the situation "I'm really sorry but we'd like to pay up and leave, the starters took 30 minutes to come out and..." he cut me off and angrily pointed at the table of 16 before saying "You booked in at 9pm!". The man was correct, I had booked in at 9pm because that's the time he had insisted we book in... I felt like I had to defend myself a bit now so I said "yeah but surely you'd send a two top before a big party, anyway that's not the biggest problem, I understand things can be late, we tried to book earlier but you said 9pm was your only slot" he jumped on to the food without any suggestion from me "I've sent out seven other falafels tonight!" was his defence. I'm not sure if the other seven poor souls who had consumed that falafel had accepted their fate or perhaps they had fallen in to a coma due to the bland flavours and were incapable of complaining. "I'm sorry but it was't nice, it was cold and it didn't taste of anything" (for some reason I attempted to mime the cold reshaped bread with an exaggerated cupping gesture). I could see he was getting angrier and I wasn't a big fan of being spoken to like this in front of a busy restaurant so I tried to bring it to a close by saying I was happy to pay for what we'd eaten despite it not being very good "No you don't pay for anything" he shouted and he pointed at the door and stormed off muttering something under his breath. How embarassing. We nervously laughed, grabbed our jackets and walked out down the street to Jasmine where, even though it was very late, they sorted us out very quickly with a lovely mezze with beautiful fresh bread in a serene atmosphere with lovely service.
|NOT the food of Arian, this was the lovely mezze down the road at Jasmine|
A lot of people argue that it's not OK to complain about a restaurant afterwards, that they deserve to be given feedback on the day if there is an issue, people don't have a right to complain after the event without giving the restaurant an opportunity to fix what went wrong, I've always argued that this is not the RIGHT of the restaurant and the customer takes a risk when complaining in a restaurant that things will not be put right and their complaint may not be listened to and their experience on the night which they are paying for might be ruined further. This is a perfect example of that, I complained politely and was treated like absolute shit which ruined my evening. Thirty minutes afterwards we were really laughing about it (the laughing in the restaurant was nervous laughter) but at the time it was incredibly intimidating and a very unpleasant experience. I can't recommend that anybody ever goes to Arian because of this chance that the food and service might not be up to scratch and should that happen you might end up having to deal with the angriest man in Chorlton.