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Disappointed with the service at a famous Irish restaurant, JILLIAN BOLGER says proprietors need to realise that investing in front-of-house training is investing in a satisfied customer.
Finally November rolled around, and my booking for a hot Irish restaurant I’d never eaten in. Having won a significant international accolade, along with countless Irish awards, I came hungry and with high expectations.
As expected, the cooking was superb. Each dish was beautifully assembled with pitch-perfect flavours and technical brilliance. Everything looked so pretty and tasted wonderful. Yet, despite the fact that four of us at the table were equally impressed with our food, we left the restaurant feeling overwhelmingly disappointed.
The staff were nothing short of charming, but this did little to disguise the fact that no time or effort had gone into their training. The service was so poor it was farcical.
After ordering a bottle of Picpoul to accompany our starters, we asked to keep the wine list so we could choose a red. As no one came near us after this we only succeeded in ordering the wine to drink with our main courses after our mains had been brought to the table.
The red was promptly delivered and poured and while one staff member did come to enquire how our food was, we saw no one else until we had finished eating. No one poured any drinks nor noticed when we had run out and wanted to order more.
When we did manage to attract attention to order a second bottle of red, I sampled and approved it in my empty glass. Once I’d given the nod I was amazed to see it being poured into glasses with wine already in them. A top-up, if you will, of a €50 wine.
During dessert our table had run out of water, but we couldn’t find a single staff member to order more. After ten minutes of empty glasses – and looking around fruitlessly to get anyone’s attention – I left our table and walked to the bar to request another bottle of mineral water. This was to be the first of two trips to the bar to get service during our meal.
The sparkling water was promptly delivered and poured then the waitress walked away. Not only had she ignored our empty wine glasses, which could have been topped up, but also the four dirty dessert plates sitting in front of us. These remained on our table for ten minutes.
After dessert we were offered coffees. “I’d like an espresso, please,” one friend asked. “Sorry, we only serve filter coffee,” came the reply. Quite a surprise for a fine dining establishment, but one that left a friend unimpressed.
Deciding to skip coffees we agreed to ask for the bill. Except there was no one to ask. Cue trip number two to the bar to request it.
When you’re paying around €100 a head for dinner I wonder if it’s wrong to expect your wine to be poured for you, your plates to be cleared and your water to be topped up when you run out? Is it wrong to expect staff to understand wine etiquette?
Despite the delicious food I can’t help feeling it was more than us who were let down by front-of-house. What about the brigade of talented chefs cooking their hearts out in the kitchen?
Why make such an effort only to have that culinary brilliance undermined by untrained staff?
Brilliant food needs brilliant service, irrespective of whether that’s in a fine dining establishment or casual neighbourhood bistro, and proprietors need to realise that investing in front-of-house training is investing in a satisfied customer.
Jillian Bolger is an award-winning editor and journalist specialising in food and travel writing. A member of the Irish Food Writers’ Guild and former editor of Food & Wine magazine (1999-2003) she writes for The Irish Independent, Image, Food & Wine Magazine, Image Interiors and The Herald and is editor of Irish Brides magazine. She has worked with Georgina Campbell’s ireland-guide.com since 2008 and is the Dublin Editor. Jillian has won several awards for her travel writing and holds an honours degree in the Arts. Her love of travel has seen her live in Australia, Sri Lanka, the USA and Germany. She lives in Dublin with her husband and three young children. Follow her on Twitter at @JillianBolger