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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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 good?"
"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....

15 Comments:

  • Niki,

    just wait for the anonymous defenders to pop up. Two posts I've made when I've been disappointed have attracted nameless people who weren't happy with what I wrote - http://anthonymalloy.com/2004/02/15/when-good-pizza-goes-bad/ and http://anthonymalloy.com/2005/12/03/good-cafe-gone-bad/

    By Anonymous Tony, at 6/21/2006 05:25:00 pm  

  • Yes, I know. I figure I'm going to get nasty comments and emails. But, as I wrote in the post, the issue would have been really easy to laugh off if their attitude had've been different. Sadly, the way they handled it did leave us with an unpleasant taste in our mouths, literally!!

    By Blogger Niki, at 6/21/2006 05:27:00 pm  

  • Hi, I would have asked for some type of apology from them, asked for the manager, definately returned the off fish! Better to be assertive.....as long as you are not getting anymore food from the kitchen!!!!LOL

    Btw, we were upstairs there last Sat. It was a great meal, and devine dessert!

    By Anonymous Sharon, at 6/21/2006 09:25:00 pm  

  • Sharon - Yes, the fish was returned, largely uneaten, and a comment about its taste was made.
    I have had some gorgeous meals in the restaurant upstairs. Perhaps that is where the attention is focused; I can't imagine the cafe pulls in the money in any comparable way.

    By Blogger Niki, at 6/21/2006 09:28:00 pm  

  • You gave them a chance to redeem themselves and they didn't take it. That's their loss.
    Oh, and I read the review about Rusk this week as well. Two of my close girlfriends (who are foodies) have eaten dinner there, on separate occasions with their partners and liked it very much. I do tend to go on reviews but sometimes...

    By Blogger Lazy cow, at 6/21/2006 10:14:00 pm  

  • Niki - I think you should send your psot as a letter or email to the restaurants management.

    SOmetimes they arent aware of how badly their staff are behaving.

    I did this for the first time recently and it made me feel a lot better about the situation we'd encountered.

    By Blogger Sam, at 6/22/2006 01:02:00 am  

  • Oh, my god. Vinegar?

    Now, I'm not much of a wine fan, but I would definitely prefer the real thing over the vinegar!

    You most certainly should contact the management; a mistake like that should, at the very least, warrant an apology. But the sub-par meal, too? You can't let that pass...

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 6/22/2006 06:43:00 pm  

  • Still laughing - can't believe they'd put vinegar near enough to a bottle of wine for a mix up in the first place! (Did they have labels?!)

    By Blogger Belinda, at 6/22/2006 07:51:00 pm  

  • That really is hilarious as well as being pretty bad form from a place with such a name. Havent been myself & wont be rushing to go any time soon either

    By Blogger Ange, at 6/23/2006 09:44:00 am  

  • Wow, that's some mix-up. Poor form on the lack of acknowledgement and apology as well.

    By Blogger Helen (AugustusGloop), at 6/25/2006 10:38:00 pm  

  • I often email a link to reviews, especially bad ones. Sadly though none havegot into verbal fisticuffs with me – yet. Actuall, I',m quite jelous as I've been trying to make some decent vinegar.

    By Blogger Ed Charles, at 6/25/2006 11:53:00 pm  

  • Eek. How horrible. At least you have something to talk about for quite a while! It strikes me that a waiter who hated the owner of the restaurant could ruin its reputation in this way. I mean, the service sounds so bad it's almost purposeful!

    By Anonymous mingerspice, at 6/29/2006 07:27:00 pm  

  • You mentioned that the mistake could have been made if they were putting vinegar into wine bottles, but I'm thinking of a worse evil - transferring their by-the-glass wines to those label-less glass storage bottles. Was the glass poured in front of you? With the bad food et al, it sounds like a place to avoid.

    I will, however, be relaying your glass-of-vinegar story to my favourite sommelier tomorrow night, I'm sure he'll get a kick out of it. :)

    By Anonymous Guylian, at 7/01/2006 01:17:00 am  

  • OMG, that's so bad!! And here I am, complaining when the Sauvignon they bring me tastes suspiciously like a pinot grigio!! :o) (And I agree with a pvs commenter - they really ought to ALWAYS pour the wine in front of you, but this seldom happens when you order by the glass..)

    A sincere apology and a free coffee/drink would have cost them almost nothing but would have made you view the situation in a much more positive light. Shame on them!

    By Blogger Jeanne, at 7/07/2006 11:11:00 pm  

  • By Blogger maswey, at 5/09/2008 01:15:00 am  

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