Strangely enough, shortly after I visited ThreeFiveThree closed for business.
The breakfast that never ended
When I saw the words 'breakfast degustation' on the website of three five three, the (relatively) new eatery in Wembley I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Unfortunately, the experience itself was more like purgatory.
However before you automatically assume this means I wouldn't recommend three five three, despite its flaws, there was also a lot going right. The food was generally excellent, the room was stylish and bright, and the prices seemed reasonable. However, the service was a bit like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead: when it was good, it was very very good, but when it was bad, it was horrid. I'll get back to the service later.
The breakfast degustation at $45 (or $70 with the matched alcoholic package) is meant to be pre-booked, although all of the dishes appear on the main breakfast menu. There are five courses plus a choice of tea, coffee or dirty chai. What's a dirty chai, you ask? Good question. They don't actually appear on the main menu, and they're not explained anywhere else, but I Googled it, and it's a shot of espresso mixed into a chai tea. I wish I had known that beforehand, I would have liked to try it.
The large smoothie is for the degustation, the smaller one comes with the set menu. Not quite sure why
First course is a berry bliss smoothie. I don't feel it's too fair to comment much on this because apparently their fresh berries were not delivered the day we visited, and after initially being told they would substitute our smoothies with a freshly squeezed juice instead ($6) and a complimentary champagne, some berries were suddenly sourced and the smoothies were proffered. I suspect the berries were frozen instead of fresh because the resulting smoothies were watery and a bit light on in the fruit department. We would have preferred freshly squeezed juices and the free champagne.
Up next is a fresh fruit salad, with orange labna (a type of cheese) and nut granola. Served in a dinky little jar, these were fresh, full of flavour and the nut granola was a perfect foil to the silky cheese.
This was followed by a bean cassoulet, topped with a small poached egg, grana padano (a hard cheese) and a few slices of chorizo. This was a decently sized dish, given there were still two courses to come, but there was a chilli hit that was unexpected and it would have been good to have another toast finger to sop up some of the tasty tomato sauce.
Fourth course is a classic egg Benedict but served on a wedge of house-made corn bread, a spoonful of avocado and tomato relish and with two surprisingly big bacon rashers, neatly rolled into impressive stacks. So actually, there is nothing 'classic' about this dish, instead it is quite different from normal Benedict: the corn bread was thick and meaty (not literally) and it had a lot of flavour, and the avocado salsa, while perhaps not necessary considering the hollandaise sauce, was fresh and tasty. I would happily eat this on its own for breakfast again, especially the corn bread which was an unexpected and welcome addition.
Finally, after some time, the final course arrived: advertised as a pancake stack I was a bit disappointed with the size of the alleged pancakes. They looked as though they had been cut using a cookie cutter out of a much larger (ie normal sized) pancake. It's true that by this stage I was quite full, but the pancakes felt a bit stingy given the size of the courses that went before it. The accompanying caramelised banana was rich and substantial.
All in all – mix-ups with the smoothies aside (and we won't mention my other friend who got a very underdone poached egg with her breakfast) – the food was good. It was actually better than good, it was great. However it took such a long time to get to us, that most of us had completely lost our breakfast mojo by the time we were done.
I understand that sometimes things happen that are completely beyond the control of restaurant staff. It would be really annoying if half your fresh fruit order didn't arrive. It must be disastrous when your barista doesn't show and the manager needs to make the coffees, and all waiters and waitresses have to be trained at some point in their career. Not everyone can be a seasoned professional, but there were a few oversights that were almost unforgivable no matter how understaffed a place is.
The espresso martini is part of the drinks package along with champagne and orange and a Bloody Mary
We waited an hour for our coffees. Our waitress didn't even know what the degustation was. Dirty glasses and plates were left on our tables for ages, while staff preferred to set empty tables around us instead. Rather than the next course being prepared automatically, we had to ask for them to get started, meaning that our 9am breakfast was still going at 11.30am – closing time – so they actually started vacuuming around us. Apologetically, of course, but still.
I think if I hadn't caught three five three on what was hopefully an uncharacteristically bad day, this would be a very different review. I also wonder whether sometimes larger groups get ignored at restaurants because it is easier for kitchen staff (and waiters) to deal with couples or small families, feed them and send them on their way. It should be a first-in, first-fed system. Ignoring large groups is bad business, you simply piss off more people.
I would also suggest that if you visit three five three for the breakfast degustation (and it was delicious, despite all the other issues) only do it if the entire tables orders it. Two of the group ordered off the a la carte breakfast menu, making it very awkward for everyone. We had five courses, they had one. They spent most of the (very long) morning staring at us eating. Not fun.
The normal sized pancake dish from the a la carte menu
Credit must be given to the manager who did everything within his power to keep it together. There was obviously a lot going on behind the scenes, and let's be frank – it was a mess – but he was apologetic and offered us alternatives when he could, and discounted things when he couldn't. We all have bad mornings, and his must have been pretty bad indeed, but he was very professional and so I would like to think this wouldn't be a typical experience if you decided to give three five three a go.