Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Disappointment when dining

One of the many good things about being a food blogger and being on twitter means that you are pretty likely to be able to find somewhere good to eat. The bad news is, even with all the recommendations, reading and research, it doesn't always work out as planned. 

Lately I've been having a bit of a bad run with restaurants. In fact, in the last month alone, I have been to at least four places that I consider not worthy of blogging. This was all for different reasons, of course,  as there are the distinctly different types of bad. I've listed a couple of them below.

1) Just Plain Bad: I'm not sure how long places like this can exist in a country that is becoming quite food obsessed, but the amount of people dining at these establishments never fails to amaze me. Once word gets around about just how bad they really are, I have faith they will meet their demise. And rightly so. I know I sound cruel, and I know it is somebody's livelihood, but I also know that unacceptable hygiene and dodgy practises should not be allowed. Period. Below is an example of a meal that I partially ate but then stopped myself because it was just too wrong. They are supposed to be tempura vegetables, but instead, were basically the equivalent of a deep fried potato scallop. There was no distinguising flavours. At this place, the service was bad and the atmosphere lacklustre. Those two crimes alone are not enough to make me write off a place completely, but when the food is also bad and I see the staff using dirty equipment and sub standard produce, I will never step foot back into the premises and I will make sure my friends know about it too.

2) Way Overrated: When I travel to a city that is not my own, I usually ask some of my trusted friends for advice. Sometimes they fail me. Damn the hipster friends that go off popular culture recommendations, rather than eating and judging themselves. These type of establishments are usually quite busy and somehow manage to get good reviews but fall desperately short of the mark. A food snob I may be, but I am just not happy eating the below dish, which on the menu was marketed as authentic veal with a light napoli sauce with capers and olives. Aside from the fact that the capers and olives were very notably absent, this was one big cheesy, overcooked mess of a meal. And, might I ask, what is the deal with the bucketload of chips and weird country pub salad on the side? My dining companions basically experienced their own disasters in various forms - fettucine, pizza and salads, so I know it wasn't just my meal that was a total miss. Trendy location, loyal clientele and a good name, but I'm just not sure how. These places often do have good service (as this one did) so can often masquerade themselves as a better restaurant than they actually are, but with food like this on offer, I see no potential and no reason to return. 

3) Having a bad day: Everyone has bad days, and I'm convinced that the meal below is an example of this. From looking at the menu, you can see the restaurant are serious about their food (they don't have to be fine dining, but in this case, it was), have generally good service, a pleasant atmosphere but something is just a little bit off. Perhaps the waiter has just broken up with his girlfriend and is feeling a little surley or the chef might have had a blinder the night before and left what you hoped would be a rare steak on the grill until it was well past medium. Maybe they have run out of almost everything due to an unplanned busy service or something may have gone wrong in the cooking process. Too dry, under seasoned, manky tasting stock, beef cheeks not cooked long enough etc. In these instances when you can tell the place has potential, I'm always sure to go back another time and give them another chance. Fair is fair. Everyone has bad days and I am no exception. I would hate to be judged solely on one meeting especially if I was a little under the weather. If, however, there are problems three times in a row, no matter how good the service, how great the outlook is or how highly my friends rate it on their fave restaurant list, it will take a lot to get me to come back. As they say, three strikes and you are out. 

How do you deal with dining disappointment? I generally don't complain unless something is seriously wrong, but if someone (such as the waitstaff) ask for my feedback, I'm quite honest- unless I know there is no point in being honest. Do restaurants really want to know that you hated every single aspect of your experience? In these instances, I usually vote with my feet and never return. I have never refused to pay- in fact, I have sent a meal back, not eaten more than two bites and then still paid. Perhaps a little bit silly, but for me, I want them to get the message that I am not eating the food because it's really bad.  I don't want them to be able to chalk it down to tight arse diners trying to get a free meal, which believe me, does happen and I have seen some doozy customers in action trying to score a freebie. When dining disappointment strikes, I feel like I want my life back- the hours and the money I spent eating!

So tell me readers, have you had any bad dining experiences lately? What category did they fit into? (I know there are many more catergories of bad, but these are three that I have experienced lately)!!

10 fabulous comments:

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

1) Plain Bad - Well sometimes, i blog about the place, just so that other people dont fall for the reputation of the place but i usually forget about it and move on.

2) I learnt never to trust some friends especially when it comes to food, there was once when a friend (who claims to be a foodie) suggested a place and it was bad..

3) sometimes i love the place too much that i m in a state of denial and hoping the next time would be a better time but usually I dont go back after the 2nd bad service.

Barbara said...

I am often disappointed with a restaurant meal. I'm inclined to experiment less and stick with my tried and trusted restaurants. You sure captured the awfulness of those three meals.

Brisbane Devoured said...

Will mostly blog about every meal, regardless of it being bad or not, because I think people should know about it. Luckily, havent had many occasions so far that have been THAT bad!

Anonymous said...

I think constructive criticism is good, and would love it if restaurants could accept/be inviting of the criticism and work with it. Sadly the ones who welcome criticism are usually the ones that are already doing a great job.

Had a conversation a little while ago about how, particularly with "fine dining" or more expensive restaurants, some people dining in the restaurant may have saved up over a long time for this night, and this could be a very special occasion they have worked towards and have been looking forward to. So if they have a bad experience it's especially sad for them. :(

Brooke said...

I rarely get to eat out these days so sometimes my expectations are a little too high. Although, lately I've had great success and some yummy fresh meals.

Steph@LittlePotBelly said...

Having been in the industry it's particularly hard not to judge, although I do try to look at the big picture. It is very frustrating to have bad food when you paid good money for it and you reckon you can do it better yourself. Like you, I also vote with my feet rather than giving them feedback and I certainly do not see the point in blogging about a place when I have nothing good to say.

The InTolerant Chef said...

Interesting subject for a post GG. I'll usually give a place 2 chances, I work to hard for my money to be throwing it away otherwise! I agree that everyone can have a bad day, and the amount of people in the chain from produce to plate is so many that any hiccup can have a ripple effect.
My last bad experience was at a usually nice place at Manly, practically on the beach. I ordered a medium steak, but as soon as I touched it my knife bounced off, it was sooo overcooked and sawdusty. The waiter noticed straight away and organised me another.This came out promptly, but although well and truly seared on the outside, it was completely raw on the inside.
The manager now came out and explained they were training a new guy on the grill. This was no comfort to me though as we had to catch the next ferry back to town and had to leave hungry. I think the entire meal for my hubby and I should have been comped, not just the steak taken off the bill, as we only had mains, not 2 or 3 courses. In this case I felt let down by the management not the actual chef.
I think people really need to know about unsafe food practices you find at a restaurant, and if a business has a reputation for good service that should be maintained as well. Money and customers are fickle things and may dry up at any moment, look after them and they'll look after your business.

Jenn Brigole said...

When things like this happen, I usually just chalk it up to experience AND vow to be cautious next time about recommendations from friends (even close ones) who just say "you should try there.. it's good." with a toothy smile. Maybe they too had a not so good experience and was just getting even at my expense. :|

But, thanks for sharing though. Cheers!

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I tend not to blog about places I don't like, or were just that bit lacklustre. It's usually a combination of bad food, bad service/attitude that pushes me over the edge of never going back.

Rory Doyle said...

As a chef it is always good to get well articulated criticism or praise. Well, criticism is never nice but if it is deserved then I'd always prefer to know what I've done wrong. There is nothing worse in my opinion than sending out sub-par food knowingly. There are so many average restaurants in Brisbane that deserve to be slammed for their food and/or service. I think it's time places were held up to a higher standard.

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