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8 1-2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA – good Italian food which deserves better service (1*)

Sometimes in Hong Kong you go “wow, you just couldn’t get that in London/ New York/ Paris“. Unfortunately, it is not just the food, often it is the shitty service.

Until now I haven’t really gone off on a rant against bad service in Hong Kong. This is kind of surprising as it is, to make a very broad generalisation, terrible. Typically your experience of service is to be hustled in and out of your table with a perfunctory taking of orders. There is also a lack of knowledge or desire to engage about the food or alochol and instead a simple deisre to churn tables.

This may be combined large periods of being ignored when you actually want service or have been waiting for a dish for 40 minutes and is normally capped off by the bill being presented with a waiter omnipresent behind you seemingly saying “please leave, next person, I can’t be bothered to let you read the bill in peace“.  There are, obviously, exceptions to this but as a general rule it stands true.

This is acceptable, and in some senses laudable at your local dai pai dong or wonton place. It keeps prices cheap and means you get in and out quickly. But when you experience such service at restaurants where you can spend $1,000s and they have Michelin stars and/or the pretence of being good restaurants in an international context… it just doesn’t suffice.

And so it was at 8 1/2 (2 Michelin stars) which is a shame as the food was rather good. Unfortunately, it was plated on a backdrop of ignorance about the menu and the ingredients, an atmosphere of panic which meant waiters ran everywhere and achieved nothing and long interminable waits for dishes.

The most annoying this is I will, probably, be back. Through gritted teeth I will sit there and order their pasta as it is hard thing to find a proper bowl of pasta anywhere in the world outside of Italy and especially so in Hong Kong. I’ll probably bring my Kindle to occupy me for the gaps and perhaps an iPod to try and cut out the background clamour of inept service. And I won’t order the cheese as that was pre-cut, un ripe and over refridgerated.

  • Price – HK$500 to 1,000 or more
  • Shop 202, 2/F, Alexandra House, 5-17 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong (2537 8859)

PS as a bit of context, I obviously went on a particularly bad off day but for this level restaurant there should be any. But for a review of a good day try Gastronomous Anonymous here.


  1. Agree that service levels are definitely dropping off in HK. I used to complain about the same things in Singapore. There are certainly exceptions but they are a rarity these days. Maybe Andy Lau needs to revive his HK campaign against bad service. HongKongers might just need that reminder about how there is a link between good service and monetary gain.

    • Singapore was wonderful service wise for me, even the hawker centres.

      I can’t imagine how much worse it was if this is good (in HK) – horrifying!

      I think the tourism industry should make an effort as it must spoil it for many visitors who aren’t quite attuned to it!

  2. its a shame you had such a bad experience there! the beef short rib and tenderloin was pretty good…. hopefuly your next visit wont be so bad…

    • Food was good which is kind of better than food being bad but service good I suppose but that is why I linked to you as you obviously had a different experience!

  3. For London’s service to compare favourable, it must be dire! The pasta looks magnificent, however. I would return through gritted teeth for that too!

  4. London service is so bad sometimes as well so I think HK must be really bad! Oh for an American or even Australian service culture.

    • Gourmet Chick/ Greedy Diva – I swear London service is a near miracle compared to the base level here. It really really sucks. Most people just say “oh well it is HK” but when you live here it starts to burn…

  5. Oh hilarious! I’m from HK and I happen to think service in London is much worse than in HK. but its typical, and at least its very fast service…here they just leave you and never come back until you go in search of them yourself…

    have you tried the press room in central yet? the food is great but the service (yet again) !

    happy new year!

    • One of the first things my room mate who I work with told me was that service in HK is very “HK” but which she meant fast…

      I haven’t been to Pressroom yet as Jen went without me!

      Happy CNY

  6. Kay

    It used to be worse, the service in HK! By no means has it turn 180 degrees but hopefully it is moving towards there. Very surprising that this kind of service exists for Michelin restaurants though…Hope you find one that gives you great service and leaves a smile on your face soon in HK!

    • Worse… I don’t think I could take it. The annoying thing is that HK has the food, it just fails so often at the soft end, which should be the easiest bit of it.

      Wierdly the best service we have here is at a 24 hour szchewan place in North Point which is very ghetto. But the service is fantastic!

  7. No matter how good the food is, service can really kill a meal. I’m not sure I would ever return to a place where it’s that bad – London or HK. Funnily enough I think the best service in London often comes at the more middle range casual places – particularly the pubs that are serving top food now. Fine dining service in London veers from the obsequious to the aloof, often without anything inbetween, and both equally bad.

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