Vinegar at The Point??
OK, how poor is this? Sunday afternoon downstairs in the cafe at The Point restaurant by Albert Park Lake. The place is very quiet; very few customers. Despite the cold, grey day, the open fire isn't lit. Strange. My mum and I go up to the counter to place and pay for our orders; she orders a glass of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. We get back to our tables, and huddle into our overcoats, chatting away. Our wines arrive and my uncle casts a suspicious look at her class:
"What's that?" he enquires
"A Sav Blanc"
"Why is it all cloudy?"
"Hmmm...I think it's the condensation on the glass. It's pretty cold"
"Let me taste" he says, reaching for the glass.
He takes a sniff and then a sip, and his mouth puckers up and his eyes pop out.
"NO!!!! Niki, have a taste!"
Oh great. I get to taste the corked wine, I think. So I take a sniff and whoa, hello vinegar smell! How weird, I think - this wine's really off. So, I take a mouthful as well. And %&@*()#!!!! The liquid IS vinegar!! My mother has been given a glass of refrigerated white wine vinegar.
A bit rashly, she takes the glass for a taste and takes a big mouthful that takes her breath away. We burst out laughing, more in bemusement than anything else.
She takes the glass up to the counter and tells them:
"It seems I've been given a glass of vinegar instead of white wine"
Naturally they look at her as if she has two heads. I might do the same thing in their situation. Maybe they think she's just a difficult customer.
"No, I mean it. It's not wine that's gone vinegary, it actually is a glass of vinegar. Taste it if you don't believe me!"
She was informed that they're not allowed to taste food or wine that is returned with a problem (!) so they declined her offer. But they did pour themselves a glass from the bottle in the fridge and we hear them laughing. Our waiter came to the table with a new glass to confirm that she was not wrong. He set down her new glass of wine and said (direct quote):
"So, ummmmm, yeah. Hope you enjoy that one"
Hmmmm. No apology. No offer of a free glass of wine. Distinct indifference shown by the staff. No supervisor or manager coming up to offer explanations or condolences. In fact, nothing to render this experience anything but extremely poor. It's not like this is some random suburban cafe; this is a highly-regarded establishment. AND they only had 1 other table of customers! Since then, I've been wondering how they managed to actually confuse a bottle of Marlborough Sav Blanc with a bottle of vinegar. If they're storing their vinegar in wine bottles, then why on earth is it not labelled, or at least had the old label scribbled over?? Very, very strange behaviour.
Sadly the experience didn't impove much after that. The food my uncle and I had was quite good, but sadly mum was in for a run of bad luck, with a plate of crumbed fish that was definitely past its prime; a very prominent bitter taste it had. Unpleasant. I mentioned it as our plates were cleared. The perfect apology would have been to offer her the coffee she ordered later free of charge. (incidentally, $3.50 for a coffee??! Sheesh!) Something was definitely amiss that day. Maybe it was a bad day? Maybe someone died? Perhaps. But an experience like the glass of vinegar could be laughed off if a sincere apology was offered, rather than the apathy we experienced. Nowdays you run the risk of some innocent-looking person, just like me, writing of the experience on a personal website, and you just never know how many people will read it and remember it. It's difficult to get away with poor service these days!
Overall, it was an underwhelming experience. In the words of this week's John Lethlean review in The Age Epicure: "Not worth crossing town for". I don't think we'll be returning, which is a real shame, as we've had some very fine meals in the restaurant upstairs over the years. It's not like we're starved for other good restaurant choices in Melbourne....