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SoCal, Neutral Bay

Since the beginning of this year, Alfie has let us know that for his birthday he would like to go to SoCal, a Mexican restaurant with a name that is short for ‘So Californian’.  He had been there just once before when Arabella took him out for lunch one day and ever since has declared it his most favourite restaurant.

Entrance off Young Street

Entrance off Young Street

It’s been quite a countdown and finally the day arrived and when Alfie woke up in the morning the first thing he said was, ‘How many hours until I go to SoCal?’

‘Just 11 hours to go, Alfie’.  After dropping him off at school I came home and did a few things and then thought perhaps I’d better make a booking.  I phoned SoCal and was advised the restaurant was fully booked but if we arrived as close to 6pm as possible, we could sit at the bar and wait for a table.



Friday night probably wasn’t the best night for two families with young boys to go to SoCal.  The restaurant is situated in the heart of Neutral Bay, also known as Yuppie-Central.  On Friday nights all the pretty and handsome 30-somethings in cocktail dresses and business suits head to a place like SoCal for some socialising and cocktails.

I couldn’t believe that after the lengthy countdown I’d been so silly as to not book a table but that was the situ and it was on with the show.

Indoor dining

Indoor dining

We arrived just after 6pm and SoCal was already bustling with the yuppie-set.  The restaurant is up a flight of stairs and is divided into indoor dining with bar area on a polished concrete floor (think noise), and an outdoor covered courtyard (also noisy).  My good friend Annie arrived a few minutes before us with her husband, daughter and grandson.

Bar action

Bar action

Our friends had been shown to a small outdoor table but when people at the next table left, Annie joined the two tables together and suddenly there was room for eight of us.  Emily was our ever-smiling waitress and she was very welcoming and helpful and quickly took our drink orders.  The two husbands ordered Mexican beers that came very chilled and with a salt edge and a wedge of lime.  It was a very warm night and the beer with the lime and salt was very refreshing.

Mexican Beers

Mexican Beers

Annie and I wanted a margarita (when in Rome), and it works out better value to order a jug so we did.  The margarita jug arrived fairly promptly and the drink was beautifully refreshing after all the heat and such a harried rush to the restaurant.  However, it did seem there was an incredible amount of ice in the jug compared with the amount of actual margarita.

Margarita Jug:  $40.00

Margarita Jug: $40.00

Alfie and his friend ordered a mocktail.  This is Alfie’s motivation for loving SoCal; he loves the choice of mocktails.  Alfie ordered something sour and his friend asked for something sweet.  They were both very happy with what was brought to them.



As were were a party of eight, Emily suggested we order the banquet menu at $42.00/person.  Arabella wasn’t that hungry so we ordered the banquet for five with the boys having quesadillas.  Alfie wanted the Sriracha Chicken Quesadillas with charred corn and jalapenos but by mistake we ordered him and his friend, plain cheese.



The banquet menu is a selection of their most popular items and all are designed to share.  The first dish to arrive was the corn chips with guacamole and salsa.  This is all very nice however the guacamole and salsa containers were disproportionately small to the amount of corn chips and we quickly ran out of both.

Corn chips with guacamole and salsa $12.00

Corn chips with guacamole and salsa $12.00

The next dish to arrive was the chorizo and potato croquettes and these were a firm favourite with me.  A good balance of spicy chorizo mixed with the mildness of potato and a very crunchy crumb coating.

Croquettes:  $15.00

Croquettes: $15.00

But the quesadillas for the boys still hadn’t arrived and they were getting very hungry so I asked Emily if there was a chance they could bring them.  She said they make them from scratch so it would just be a few more minutes.

Miss Arabella at the bar

Miss Arabella at the bar and on the phone (standard)

Then the Baja Fish Tacos arrived with chilli slaw and pineapple salsa.  These were messy but a definite firm favourite.  At this time we noticed the front-of-house manager hovering near our table, clipboard folder in hand and tapping on it with her pen and an irritated look on her face.  And still no plain cheese quesadillas.

Baja Fish Tacos:  $20.00

Baja Fish Tacos: $20.00

As the Texas BBQ Beef Skewers with corn and cactus salsa arrived we again asked a waiter for the quesadillas.  He said they’d be right out.  The beef skewers were excellent with very tender beef but the quesadillas failed to arrive.

Texas BBQ Beef Skewers:  $20.00

Texas BBQ Beef Skewers: $20.00

Next we had pulled pork quesadillas with fennel, onion and pimento puree.  It was difficult to enjoy them with the hostile front-of-house manager hovering over our table and glaring at us and asking the waitress when we were leaving.  The quesadillas for the boys hadn’t even arrived.  Emily then told us that as there’d been an incredible delay in bringing the quesadillas, they would bring some complimentary churros.

Sriracha Chicken Quesadillas $20.00

Pork Quesadillas $20.00

Moments later the boys’ faces lit up because their quesadillas finally arrived.  But Alfie said, ‘Where’s the chicken?’  And yes, I had to confess to him that we’d ordered him plain cheese by mistake.  He said, ‘If I eat all of this can you order me the chicken?’  So as he is so thin I wanted to oblige but as the manager was making us feel unwelcome, I asked if they could be delivered quickly.

Very noisy

Very noisy

Then the manager, who continued to hover over our table, told a waiter to put a reserved sign on our table.  It was slapped down at high speed and then the waiter disappeared like he’d been set on fire.



That was not-so-subtle and with the manager standing next to our table with her hostile look and her clipboard folder, we were unimpressed.

We were still dining

The delays in what we had ordered wasn’t anything to do with us.

The jerk chicken salad with jicama, rice and herbs was the next to arrive and this was a favourite of mine.  I loved the crisp, fresh flavours and how refreshing this was with the citrus dressing.  The chicken was very soft and tender with a wonderful chargrilled flavour however, the portion size was very difficult to share between five people.

Jerk Chicken Salad with jicama, rice and herbs $20.00

Jerk Chicken Salad with jicama, rice and herbs $20.00

Then the sweet potato chips arrived.  I’m not usually a fan because I normally find them dry and tasteless but these were flavoursome and soft.  Then much to Alfie’s joy his chicken quesadillas arrived.

Sweet Potato Chips $12.00

Sweet Potato Chips $12.00

Just then the waitress told us the manager had said the restaurant needed the table and could we leave.  I said, ‘But the complimentary churros you promised haven’t even arrived.  Can we at least stay until you bring them?’  And off she scuttled to the manager.

Outdoor courtyard

Outdoor courtyard

She came back saying they would give us the churros in takeaway containers.  I said, ‘As we now can’t eat the churros here, we don’t want them.  Can you please just take something else off the menu to make up for the delay in bringing the quesadillas’.  She went back to the manager and returned saying, ‘The manager has said you can have the chicken quesadillas for free’. brought over the bill and we paid the $350.00 (approx) for the meal.  We were asked to leave immediately.  I said, ‘But Alfie is still eating his quesadillas’.  She walked away and so I told Alfie to get up with his enamel plate and walk out.  With the plate.

And as we descended the stairs the manager, who had been so unwelcoming, gave us a fake smile and a trite, ‘Hope you had a great night’.  As if.  I’ve never spent so much to be made to feel so unwelcome.  And that’s a crying shame because the restaurant, if you like noise, unisex toilets, cocktails and excellent Mexican cuisine, is fantastic.  They just need to rid themselves of hostile managers with superior attitudes who take an immediate dislike to families trying to celebrate the birthday of a 10-year old boy.

Yes, doing the cross-eyed look - that's his thing at the moment

Walking out with his dinner.  Yes, doing the cross-eyed look – that’s his thing at the moment

Verdict:  Getting a table doesn’t guarantee you a seat.

SoCal:  1 Young Street, Neutral Bay, NSW 2089

Ph:  02 9904 5691


  1. I hope Alfie didn’t get indigestion after that rushed exit and I hope there is an alternative place where he can enjoy his mocktails. There’s no excuse for that rudeness to paying customers!

  2. I’m sorry to hear that poor Alfie had such a miserable visit on his b’day celebration. Good food can’t beat poor management.

  3. That’s quite an unwelcome reception from the manager. It would be a long time before I would return there, even if the food is great.

  4. They wouldn’t get my business again until management changed.

    You should send this review to the local paper.

    In all rights, I don’t know what it is like in Australia, but here in Canada if you are not done your meal you can’t be kicked out unless you are causing a disturbance.

    I wonder if she would have been nicer if she knew you had a food blog.

    Say happy birthday to Alfie.

    Have a Joyful Day :~D

  5. What a crappy experience! Too bad for Alfie’s birthday. That bill sound exorbitant for what you ate. I would definitely gives some feedback to the restaurant. Years ago, my work group (about 15 of us) went out for lunch and our meals took more than 90 minutes to comes out and some people didn’t even get their meals. They comped all the booze and food, I don’t think we paid for anything (other than the tip). But our manager was clearly more professional than that idiot you had.

  6. Ouch! What a hostile environment. It’s a shame that they missed the essence of service and what keeps people coming back to enjoy an environment. I’d find the manager’s email and send them this link. LOL! We in Southern California always refer to SoCal as our half of the state, but it’s true that anywhere in California the Mexican food is unparalleled. I stand by that. 🙂 The menu, except for the Texas beef, looked very familiar to me. And sounded delicious. Happy belated birthday to one very special young man! Hope Arabella is on the mend. oxo

  7. First off, that manager deserves to be fired. If they needed the table turned that badly, he should have had a reserved sign on it before you sat down. Secondly, having allowed you to take the table, sit, order, etc., they should treat you like the paying customers you were and be glad that you were so nice about the food they didn’t deliver! More than rude, that was inexcusably unprofessional and I would send a note referring the owner of that restaurant to your blog post to read first hand what your experience was like! They’ll be out of business with that attitude. I also think the bill was exorbitant. So sorry for Alfie, though he looks like he took it in stride.

  8. What unbelievable experience – Charlie – that manager is definitely in the wrong job!

  9. You needed to give them the “minus tip” on that one !!!

  10. I really hope you email this restaurant and let them know how poor your experience was Charlie, this is the type of thing that they need to know. What a shame it was so disappointing for you all, I hope it didn’t spoil things for Alfie’s birthday.
    How is Arabella going? Is she home from hospital and doing OK? Xo

  11. Poor little Alfie. I guess it does pay to book on busy nights. So expensive for such banal food.

  12. What disgusting behaviour from that establishment!

  13. Awww. Sorry about the manager…But so glad your son finally got his birthday boy chicken quesadillas! BTW I live in Santa Monica, CA which is in Southern California…Delighted to introduce you to myriads of Mexican restaurants with managers happy to celebrate a child’s birthday =)

  14. How rude and what a horrible manager! You were so nice compared to the way I would have acted after being shoved off my seat! Good thing Alfie is such a happy-go-lucky kid!

  15. Love jicama in a salad, but a shame about the not-so-subtle table ejection!

  16. Charlie I’m rather surprised you didn’t give him a serve. I think I would have taken him aside and told him what he could do with his churros (did I go to far?). The sentence you started with ‘the jerk’ I didn’t think was going to continue with chicken.
    Rude service is such a shame when a restaurant has everything else going for it!

  17. That’s really sad. I understand the need for the table because they were fully booked but wouldn’t you think they’d RUSH your order through in its entirety to get you to move? That would seem like a no-brainer to me. Then, if they didn’t they should shut up about the time it’s taking to eat your meal that didn’t arrive. That’s just shocking service.

  18. I hope you put this on Urban Spoon

  19. Oh Charlie, I’m so sorry Alfie didn’t have the best birthday. I won’t eat at a restaurant if there’s bad service, no matter how good the food is! I tend not to eat out too much for that exact reason. I work in the hospitality industry & would never accept that behaviour, especially if I was the restaurant owner, but I suppose all they care about is the $$ and the ‘look’ of people in their place.

  20. What shockingly bad service. I wonder if they will see this review?

  21. I totally agree with Maureen, It was the restaurant’s fault not yours, they should at least let Alfie finish his meal. I would not return to a restaurant with rude service.

  22. What a strange experience! And a rather unpleasant one. I don’t care how good food and drink are, I’d not be going back until they become more customer friendly. Happy Birthday to Alfie!

  23. Oh my gosh, I don’t believe how rude that manager was! I sure hope Alfie can find another place to get moktails from so y’all don’t have to go back!

  24. Agh, I hate it when in a restaurant they know they’re so popular they don’t even need to take good care of their clients…

  25. Oh no! How rude, and on a night when you were celebrating. Nice to see Alfie taking the plate with him! Hope he had a happy birthday.

  26. What an appalling way for the manager to behave!!! I’m so glad the food was good – I adore good Mexican food – and hope that next time you will be treated with the respect and welcome you deserve.

  27. What a shame. The menu does look delicious though! We could really use a little SoCal here in frigid New York!

  28. the chicken wasn’t the only jerk that night – what a rude manager. I’d be hugely unimpressed if I took my child there for a birthday and was treated this way.

  29. Far out, that is bloody terrible. I cannot believe you had this experience. I just dont understand why non service people work in service industries. I hope someone sends this review to the owner. Also…. Good on you told Alfie to take the plate. Ha!

  30. What a shame! That’s one terrible birthday for poor Alfie. One would think they would be thrilled to have a birthday party group. Good for their business or so I thought. Happy Birthday to Alfie and hope Ms Arabella is doing better.

  31. How rude. I hope Alfie wasn’t put off and if you took the plate home, I think they deserve to have lost it!

  32. I wouldn’t be going back there again (at least for a while) until the staff and service changed. Note to self: book early!

  33. Oh Charlie, sorry to hear that Alfie had such a bad experience on his birthday…what a horrible service…well..Happy Birthday to Alfie 🙂

  34. Ohhh no poor Alfie. Happy Birthday!!

  35. What a shame the birthday celebration was hampered by the experience in the restaurant, but it was almost worth it to see that priceless cross-eyed photo of him looking thoroughly displeased!

  36. Some people. Did they get their plate back? I love Mexican so will have to try it. I’ll just make sure I book, I hope I get better treatment.

  37. What horrible customer service! And so sad because Alfie was so looking forward to dining there. I hope you wrote them a very lengthy letter with a link to your blog.

  38. How annoying! That goes to show that even the best of places isn’t enough if the people working there don’t know how to do their job graciously!!!

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