Kentishtowner Awards: Best Customer Service 2012


‘Not much of that in Kentish Town,’ snorted one fiftysomething male in this category. Grumpy! Luckily, hundreds of you begged …



Upstairs at the Grafton

‘Not much of that in Kentish Town,’ snorted one fiftysomething male in this category. Grumpy! Luckily, hundreds of you begged to differ.

Customer service is, of course, hotly fought over in our comments section. One person’s idea of polite is another’s haughtiness; and when does cheery friendliness become, well, irritating?

What’s also interesting about this category is that it’s so broad-ranging that the winner only leads by one or two votes. Pretty much everywhere enjoyed a recommendation: Boma (‘knowledgeable and helpful’), Ruby Violet (‘super friendly’), Kentish Canteen (‘Manager Dave is constantly excellent’), Doppio (‘you always get a mini water with your coffee’), Owl Bookshop (‘they seem happy to chat’), Del Parc (‘the staff are so lovely in there’), the fruit ‘n’ veg stall by the station (‘the nicest people on earth’), Topfields Stationers & Printers on Fortess Road (‘fantastically friendly’) and – phew! – B&S (‘always helpful in ensuring you find what you want’).

Who else did you praise? ‘Love the family in the Portuguese by Tesco,’ enthused more than a few readers (that’s Wine Cellar to you and me). And Chamberlayne Cycles got the thumbs-up too: ‘I went in to chat about possibly getting a bike in the future, and came out several hours later armed with a wealth of new knowledge, and never once any pressure to buy – they just wanted me to make the right choice.’

Our favourite responses? ‘The off license at 45 Fortess road – best customer service anywhere in the UK.’ Anywhere? Wow. And a word of advice to Rustique: ‘I’d like to nominate the customer service that has the greatest impact on the business: despite mediocre food and disappointing coffee, I keep going back to the Literary Cafe because the owner is so welcoming. I hope he ups his game to repulse the new Costa.’ Good point.

And finally, one reader raved about the service at Chicken Shop. Why? ‘They gave me a whole apple pie’.

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1. The Grafton

So The Grafton, open just under three months, wins its second gong – and an enviable one to boot. ‘Very friendly, and they always remember our names,’ said one female thirtysomething, a sentiment echoed by many others. In fact, readers really have taken to youngish owners Joel and Susie and their team in a big way, and despite the pub being busier than they anticipated, with regular queues at the bar, standards remain high. Perhaps their real-life story chimes with people too: upping sticks from Guildford to Kentish Town to take a gamble on a dilapidated old boozer was a brave move that has worked out for the best. There’s no denying that The Grafton is exemplary in service and offering: 2012’s hottest new independent arrival. 20 Prince Of Wales Road.

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2. The Vine

Good to see The Vine at second place in what must have been a challenging year for them with three crazy openings right opposite. Yet whilst both Pizza East and Chicken Shop were both praised for their generally very efficient service, The Vine won out with its ‘impeccable’ standards. And if anything, we think the tarted-up gastropub seems busier than ever these days, especially as staff at Chicken Shop always recommend punters to wait ‘over the road’. Child-friendly, too: ‘Really nice when we’ve been in with multiple kids,’ says one reader. 86 Highgate Road.

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3. Hazraj/Mehmet

Ooh, doesn’t Mehmet have an army of fans? The little Leverton Street store that dishes up Brick Lane beigels is an attractive presence opposite The Pineapple, its owner, says one reader, ‘a real K-Town hero!’ Meanwhile, just down the road the friendly Raj at Mumbai streetfood diner Hazraj picked up more than a few votes. We have to say that on every occasion we’ve eaten there this year he’s been a pleasure to chat with. ‘Always smiling,’ said one reader. ‘Really helpful explaining the menu,’ said another. ‘And he always remembers what I like.’ 1a Fortess Road.

Tomorrow: Best Happening Or Gig

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  • Ben

    The Vine? Seriously?? The last couple of times I’ve been there the staff, although pleasant enough, have barely been able to tell their @rses from their elbows or answer simple a question!

    • Kentishtowner

      Oh dear. Who did you vote for, Ben?

    • liam

      I tend to agree about the Vine, I’ve not had any notable good experiences there, though I usually put it down to the fact that they were understaffed and over-populated.

      The Grafton is a worthy winner though, well done to them.

    • Polly

      Have to agree with Ben. I am a regular to the pub because its big enough to guarantee a table but we always have a laugh at just how confused and vacant the staff are so very surprised to see it at number 2! Personally I think the D.I.Y shop across from the station needs some sort of award. If not for customer service then for just having the most stuff. Can’t get enough of that place.

  • Leslie

    Don’t forget Mario, of his self named cafe, who always remembers your name, and even your children’s names! Always happy to chat, too. Excellent service, coffee and food to boot!

  • PrinceofWalesDaniel

    My experience of customer service at The Vine on my last two visits have been bad enough to put me off going back. Staff behind the bar were absolutely clueless on both occasions. The Grafton is definitely onto a winner though.

    • Matt Evans

      I’m pleased to say that my experience of The Vine on Saturday was entirely different from those comments above. We had booked the room (the restaurant area) at the back for a party – about 70-odd people, including kids. The staff could not have been more helpful or pleasant. They were supremely organised – they even wrote up name cards for us all so that we and they could remember what everyone had pre-ordered. Everything ran like clockwork, kids were catered for with no problems, someone was always on hand to provide more wine, or to take payment – and they set aside an area for some of us to continue the party into the evening. Neither us nor any of our guests had been to this pub before and we were all impressed.

  • Jon Simmons

    The service I’ve had at The Vine has only ever been excellent. They were particularly helpful and accommodating when I took my disable Mum there.