It is arguably the biggest restaurant on the island. Tables and chairs as far as the eye can see and beyond. The setting is impressive and the décor done with a lot of taste. Large tables are put together to accommodate big groups of diners celebrating various events or just out to have a good time. The more you walked around the restaurant, the more you discovered new nooks and crannies with more groups of people dining.
There was a lot of noise. The unflattering acoustics intensified the decibels to an almost unbearable level.
When we walked into the restaurant at 7.30 pm to celebrate a friend’s birthday, it was already teeming with people, particularly young groups. As the evening went along, the place became more alive and all the tables we could see were chock-a-block. The restaurant did not however look overcrowded as the tables were sufficiently spaced out to avoid very close proximity. The noise was, however, gruelling.
The menu was appealing and varied. From sushi to slow-cooked lamb, going through the Italian and Chinese corners. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t exorbitant. It was on the high side but was bearable for what they offered and the segment of customers such a restaurant would target. And all the items we ordered were on the menu. It made a nice change from some restaurants where you order something on the menu and the waiter has to check with the cook first if it’s available.
When I walked through the restaurant and took the measure of the number of people waiting to be fed, my heart immediately went out to the kitchen and waiting staff. As it happens, my apprehensions were right. We got the first hint when a young man sitting at a table next to ours walked to the counter and took a menu card by himself that he brought back to his table for his co-diners to choose from. Then we started getting hungry and impatient but there was no food in sight, in spite of the several nudges and the waiters’ apologies. Being engrossed in our conversation, we let go.
Then the wait became more and more arduous. Finally, some snacks started making their way to our table. While waiting for the meal. Waiting and waiting. And waiting a bit more. Every reminder attracted an apology. Suddenly, items we didn’t order were quickly slapped on our table: A large pizza – average taste – and some fries of various vegetables…We alerted the waiter to the fact that we hadn’t ordered those items. He said they were complimentary as the meal was going to take five more minutes. A nice gesture. But five minutes turned into half an hour, then 45 minutes. Then the waiters, manifestly overworked and completely overwhelmed, started serving our meal. The owner himself joined in to give a hand. He kept a smile on but didn’t look any more relaxed than the waiters.
Some dishes were well cooked. Others, like the grilled fish and chicken were grossly undercooked. We returned a dish to the kitchen to be cooked more. It took an eternity but the waiter came back with a new plate with a properly cooked fish fillet this time. Another good gesture to make up for the wait or the dining experience spoilt by some eating while others were waiting.
The waiters apologetically whispered to us that desert was complimentary. Another gesture of goodwill but which we declined this time. Please just bring the birthday cake and let us go! After our friend cut the cake, the waiter wanted to take it back to the kitchen to cut it and bring it back served in style. “No!!!!” we all screamed. We will cut it here and now. Who wanted to take a chance with another 20-minute wait? Who even cared about style at 11 pm?
The silver lining of this dining experience is that we spent a lot of time talking and bonding. The kitchen staff forced us in a way to savour our friend’s birthday.
An ambition restaurant, with a friendly staff and the right customer care attitude but which perhaps bit off more than it can chew. It needs to consider its staff/customer ratio and boot up. Something is not being done right. But there is time to right it.