I’m no food blogger. If you look through my archives you won’t come across any culinary articles featuring impressive culinary terms like culinary. I only just found out what a ‘red wine jus’ was about 18 months ago and I’m still not game enough to verbalise it in a restaurant for fear of incorrect pronunciation. Generally, I leave the proper critique of Melbourne cuisine & the restaurant scene to one of my favorite bloggers, Decisive Cravings while I just hope my poached eggs are runny-enough for me to photograph for Instagram.
I am, however, someone who goes out to Melbourne restaurants quite a bit and think I can call a good restaurant experience versus a bad one. Today, in a very simple way; I’m doing a quick five-count comparison of my two dining experiences last week (Baby Pizza, Richmond & Saigon Sally, Windsor). I’m leaving the food critique to the professionals – this is all about the restaurant-experiences. One resulting in overwhelming gratitude (meaning I returned just two days later, introducing new friends to the venue), the other resulting in disappointment and regret – it was, unfortunately, kind of like ‘Lemony Snickets – A Series of Unfortunate Events.’
These two restaurants have both featured heavily in press-write ups since their recent launches. In the theme of All or Nothing, and in my humble opinion, one had it all, and the other… I’m afraid, nothing. You’ll find out who’s who by the end.
1) Getting there…
With my ‘Good Restaurant Experience’, they had their location all set up in Google Maps for us to locate and find directions to easily, local marketing 101. My ‘Bad Restaurant Experience’ started off poorly before we even got there, as the restaurant had no presence on Google maps making me annoyed and tense under time-pressure. You know that ‘girl dressed-up and stressed-out’ look, totes unappealing.
2) Walking in the Door…
Its no surprise a more positive result was experienced with a dedicated, courteous person standing at the door to greet us and show us next steps in securing a table.
On the other hand, the alternative venue had no one standing there, so we stood awkwardly on the restaurant floor in no-mans land between the bar and tables waiting to be ‘saved’ by someone… anyone? When we manage to hail the ‘host , he looked puzzled as to why we were bothering him when he was clearly so busy. “Hi, we have a booking…” – the restaurant phone rings in his hand, he answers it and places the other hand up in our face. FML.
3) Sitting down to begin…
It’s was easy to feel comfortable when we had a host who made sure we were completely comfortable; and had everything we needed – and more, then left us to take our time in decision-making.
The first few moments of the less-fortunate restaurant saw the volume raised to a decibel level I haven’t heard since I was up at Harbour Life Music Festival. It was clearly affecting the wait-staff who we had to remind repeatedly for our drinks. It’s like they were trying to blast the coolness of this place into my mind through my eardrums. It wasn’t working though, we couldn’t hear the other couple who we’ve longed to catch up with; so we had to eat quickly – to leave, to go to a bar and catch up there instead.
4) When I had to pee…
Amazingly, the waiter in my ‘good restaurant experience’ kindly offered to place my meal under the heat lamps for the moments I was away from the table. When I returned the chef insisted they take the dish and give it a quick toss in the pan so it was 100% perfect once-again, following my short-absence.
By stark comparison, when I walked up the stairs in the other restaurant I found a handwritten note on the door “Please use toilet downstairs”… I went back downstairs trying to find the mystery, alternative, staff loo… then a waiter looked at me bemused asking what I was doing in the staff area, I told him I was following instruction from their sign upstairs… a female waitress overheard us and yelled out “yeah because the upstairs toilet is blocked, let her use it!” I stood there awkwardly, then another, different waiter walked past moments later and said the same thing to me but with more attitude “this isn’t the bathroom hunny it’s upstairs”… Thanks. I got it. You don’t.
5) When we paid…
My Bad Restaurant experience, $50 a head (plus small change for tip). My Good Restaurant experience, $50 a head (plus 20% tip). The good restaurant experience had someone opening the door for us, thanking us and bidding farewell.
If you’ve been following my blog you’re probably aware that I’m a generally positive and optimistic person. I honestly tried to make the most of my ‘bad restaurant experience’ at Saigon Sally, but my efforts were met with repeated disappointments. I’m sure many people have had a great experience there, it’s a gorgeous & impressive set up that absolutely ‘looks’ the part… but it just wasn’t our night – and at every point it could have been saved, it wasn’t. I have to be honest about the fact that this means I’ll probably never go back.
Thank you, Baby Pizza, for remembering & behaving in accordance the basic hospitality premise that you are offering a service, in return for money. The respect you show your patrons, every-step-of-the-way, will ensure positive word-of-mouth and repeat business – I look forward to watching you establish as an iconic Melbourne dining destination. I’ll be back.