Terrific food… shame about the service…

3 07 2006

We joined a group of about 15 ex-colleagues yesterday for the retirement lunch of one of them. Gorgeous winter’s day that felt like spring (I wore a short-sleeved top and didn’t feel the slightest bit cold), great company, terrific food. But the service! In a word, it was ABYSMAL.

And there was no excuse. The restaurant was not full, the orders were not complex (we all chose from the standard menu – no special diets needed to be catered for), most people had only one course, and we were a very reasonable and mature crowd. It started well enough. The waitress deliberately went around the table in sequence taking our orders; I assumed she was doing this so that when she came back with the dishes she knew where they were to go. And no, we didn’t move around as sometimes happens in a large group.

The 4 or 5 entrees (appetizers for the North Americans out there!) came out and were delivered to the right people. So far, so good.

Then the main courses came out. First, they came in dribs and drabs – one person got her meal after some of the others had finished theirs. Next, the waitress delivering the meals would sort of stand and shout “Who had the fish?”; she didn’t have a voice that projected, so she wasn’t heard. Luckily, many on the table were teachers or ex-teachers, so voice projection was not a problem for us. But what happened to the careful sequence in which she’d taken the orders? Next, she came out with two dishes on large square plates with a decent centre indentation – and as she’s trying to ask “Who had the “Fresh from the Field” vegetarian dish?” she tips one of the plates on an angle so that the sauce ran from the centre indentation off the plate and down one of our party’s back and chair! Was there an apology? Perhaps, but it was done so quietly I didn’t hear it. Was there a replacement chair? Nope. Was the woman offered some water and help to sponge off the sauce? Nope. Was she offered free dry-cleaning for her top and perhaps her trousers? Nope. She had to get her own replacement chair as the girl walked off as though nothing had happened.

Later, when the dessert menu came out, two of the party ordered a liqueur and a port to go with the cheese board they were sharing. Cheese board came… no drinks. Coffee came… no drinks. So one of those who’d ordered a port and was nibbling at the cheese because it really DOES taste much better with port, asked the (different) waitress delivering the coffee about the drinks. She said “I’m only doing the coffee” and walked off!

Many of us hadn’t seen each other in years, so there was a lot of chatter. Which means we sat and enjoyed the afternoon. No more water was delivered to the table despite repeated requests; no-one was asked again for repeat coffee orders (and at $3.50 a cup, they could’ve got another $50 off the table with that simple question); no one asked if we wanted more drinks. And then to top off this appalling service, one of the waitresses came by around 3pm and said that the table was reserved for another party! This when there were at least 50 vacant chairs/tables in the room. Whoever that party was, they sure hadn’t arrived. The waitress suggested we go sit in another location. Well, that was it – we all left! So they really did their dough on that one.

And I just remembered a couple of other botch-ups. Three of us decided to share a bottle of local wine listed on the Wine List. We ordered it, and some time later the waitress (possibly a different one again) came out to tell us that the wine shouldn’t be long – they didn’t have any and someone had gone off to the winery to get some! The other was the desserts – all were served without cutlery and we had to ask. And then all we got was a teaspoon, not a fork and spoon as you’d expect.

As I said, the food was great. But the service was shameful, embarrassing, and an absolute disgrace. And this in one of the BIG tourist areas of our city. God forbid what someone from overseas would’ve thought of it.

Oh, and where did this all happen? Chapel Farm on Toodyay Rd in the Swan Valley.



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