My fiancé and I visited Char last night for an evening meal. I must admit that I was a tad annoyed before arriving, as I'd booked a table for 7pm, but once I had seen a flyer about the 'Early Bund' special (ordering before 6:30pm for a set menu at a discounted rate), I emailed the restaurant back to change my time, but didn't hear back from them at all. Fair enough that the restaurant only opens at 6pm, but noone makes a reservation 2 minutes before that do they, so they really need someone who can check reservations every hour or so throughout the day, like most other good restaurants are able to do.
I eventually phoned and changed the time and hoped that they had seen my email, where I had requested a window seat, due to the fact that we were celebrating a special occasion. When we arrived just after 6pm, the restaurant was completely empty and the waitress seated us as far away from the window as you can possibly get. I asked if we could move to a window seat, but she looked very uncomfortable and said that they were very busy and booked up! I looked around at the empty restaurant and started to laugh and just wished she had answered honestly that 'you are ordering the cheaper menu, therefore no window view for you!'
The 'reserved' signs on pretty much every table was, to be honest, slightly pathetic and made me feel a little embarrassed for them, as they were blatantly NOT booked up at all, but I guess (as is the way in China) its all about face and how you look, and I guess they wanted to LOOK like they were busy and popular, when really, on a Saturday night, they were surprisingly nowhere near.
It does frustrate me that customer service has not made its way round some restaurants in Shanghai and the expression 'the customer is always right' is certainly a long way off. Even by the time we had finished our meal at 8pm, the restaurant was only 50% full and there were plenty of window seats available so if they had had some sense and knew that it was unlikely to fill up completely and let us have a better view, we would have absolutely raved about it to friends and colleagues, whereas now, I don't think we would tell anyone about it unless they asked... maybe this explains why the restaurant was only about 50% full on a Saturday night! Let's hope they get to grips with how to make customers feel special and important soon enough.
The meal was great - no complaints at all there. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth, although the red wine jus was fairly tasteless. My partner said the same about his peppercorn sauce, though maybe they just want you to taste the quality of the meat and therefore give you a bland sauce, which I guess is fair enough.
Another thing which niggled me a bit was the fact that I had my back facing a wall and yet waiters and waitresses kept walking behind me when they were collecting things or walking to different parts of the restaurant, when they could have walked in the open space, rather than constantly squeezing past behind me - it sounds like a little thing, but its these little things that form an impression overall and I personally found it off-putting when I was trying to eat and I couldn't figure out why they thought it was ok to constantly brush past behind me rather than choosing the main route option!
Afterwards, we had a drink at the bar upstairs - both of us thought our drinks were nothing special, just ok and we have sampled many different bars along the Bund. You would only go for the view, which is great as you can see all the way down the Bund as well as across the river into Lujiazui.
I might possibly re-visit because the food was good, but the service was a bit of a let down - oh and I forgot to mention, because the place wasn't busy, you had waiters and waitresses just stood there watching you eat, which was incredibly weird and off-putting! You don't need that many members of staff when you hardly have any customers!
The management definitely needs to understand how to make customers - ALL customers - feel special, regardless if they are ordering from the set menu (which to be fair is still CRAZILY expensive!) or from the standard menu. There is a lot of competition between high-end restaurants in Shanghai and I am intrigued to see where this restaurant goes, if they cannot compete with other places in terms of customer service, as a meal out is about the complete experience, not just the food.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC