Buffalo Mountain Lodge...disappointing. Long.
I should preface by saying that I had very high expecations of this place. Hubby and I spent last night in Banff for our first anniversary and this was our dinner spot of choice.
First, the surroundings - in a word, gorgeous! I liked both the inside of the restaurant, not large but very lodge-y, and the view. We had a table for two by the window, at the complete opposite end from where one enters the restaurant. I actually thought hubby must have asked for a 'nice' table for our anniversary, but he tells me he didn't.
Second, the service - probably the low point of the night was our service. We're in our mid to late-20s, but we both appreciate fine dining and good service while dining, especially when we're spending that much money. We were seated promptly and the host told us the day's special and asked us what type of water we wanted. So far so good. Unfortunately, I think it must have been 15 minutes before any water arrived. Our waitress came over after a few minutes and asked us if we were ready to order. That's all. No, hello, my name is, I'll be your server this evening. Quick and to the point. We weren't ready, still trying to decide as everything on the menu sounded good. Anyway, she didn't offer help with the menu, didn't make any wine suggestions nor did she ask if we had any questions about the wine list (it's a fair-sized list). I was quite surprised that no assistance was offered. No bother, we both know what we like so were able to find a 2004 Malbec.
She came back once or twice more before we were ready to order. Again, quick and to the point. Not rude per se, but definitely not 'friendly.'
Now for the food. We started with the rocky mountain game platter as an appetizer ($24, for two). We asked to skip the pate as neither of us are fans. There were four different meats on the platter. Elk salami, venison ham, a duck and a buffalo meat. Sorry I can't recall the specifics. All were nice, but I didn't think they were anything special. There were two accompaniments to the meats - mustard mangos and a cranberry relish. Hubby seemed to think both were okay. I was a little surprised that there were no crudites or crackers with which the eat the meat or the fruits.
For mains, hubby ordered the buffalo striploin which had a veal shank ravioli and a blueberry glaze ($37) and I had the Alberta beef tenderloin with morel mushroom brandy glaze and Yukon gold mash ($38). Hubby ordered his medium-rare and I ordered mine medium. While waiting for our mains, our server brought bread. Two small rolls and two slices of a homemade (presumably) multi-grain bread. Both were good, warm and fresh, but the butter seemed to have just come out of the fridge and was far from spreadable. The mains arrived and looked great on the plate. No problems until we actually cut into our meats. Hubby's buffalo didn't have a spot of pink let alone some blood, as medium-rare should have. My medium Alberta beef tenderloin was borderline being medium-well. No pink from what I could see. Anyway, after a couple minutes our waitress came back to check on us. She could see hubby's was not done correctly and I think she second-guessed me, but we asked that both be sent back to the kitchen. For $40, I want perfectly cooked meat.
Now we're back to waiting for our food. The table closest to our own had bread continually brought, whereas we had not been offered any further and our bread plates had been removed from the table. Nonetheless, after watching me watch a basket of bread go to another table, our waitress came by and asked if we wanted more. Yes please!
In the meantime while awaiting our re-done mains, the waitress came over to tell us that the kitchen disagreed with us. They thought the meat was done perfectly, but nonetheless, would re-do our food. Great, now I feel like we're bothering the kitchen. My husband is trained as a chef and knows when meat is done right. Ours was not and I actually thought it quite rude of the waitress to tell us that the kitchen disagrees.
So, when our mains do come out for the second time, the meats are done perfectly. I loved my steak - the sauce/glaze was great, and I could practically cut it with a fork. The Yukon gold mash were fine, but nothing special. Not very creamy and in fact, probably too dry. Hubby liked his buffalo and loved the single fried ravioli that came with it. We both had more luck with dessert. We split the buttermilk lemon panna cotta ($9) and a plate of three cheeses ($10). The cuts of cheese were generous and came with crackers. I found the lemon panna cotta too much, but hubby loved it. I loved all the cheeses.
So overall, once our meats were cooked correctly, the food itself was good. We felt ignored most of the night by our server, especially in the beginning part of our meal. While tables around us were tended to continually, we felt neglected. It was difficult getting our water glasses filled or getting a second helping of bread.
Total including tax and tip was $186. That was one (cheap) bottle of wine, one appetizer (that served two), two mains and two desserts. We tipped more than 15%. We probably shouldn't have, but we didn't want to be thought of as cheap by our server. We were the youngest people in the restaurant by probably 20 years and I honestly think that had something to do with our service.
As I was reading through your post I was going to ask the question that you answered when you concluded by saying:
"We were the youngest people in the restaurant by probably 20 years and I honestly think that had something to do with our service."
That however does not excuse the deficiencies in service vis-a-vis attentativeness, etc. I am not sure why a server would pass along the apparent views of the kitchen on the degree of cooking of the meat courses unless to contest your contention...what is the point? All it does is inflame the situation.
Too bad, it has been some time since the last time I visited the Buffalo Mountain Lodge and it was quite good, albeit expensive...mind you it is Banff.
I should add after first posting this reply without the following. The fact that you were younger than the others is no excuse for any different level of service...I trust that this goes without saying...but maybe an indication that the server saw what she thought to be "bigger fish to fry".
Years and years ago when my sister got married in Banff and then honeymooned in a tent camping in the back country my wife and I headed to the Beaujolais. As per normal we were casually dressed and the maitre d' sat us "barely in the restaurant" near the kitchen doors.
We had a young waiter who must have been relatively junior while a number of others scurried about a large table of Japanese businessmen.
Later in the evening I overheard one of the more senior waiters complaining to ours that he [out waiter] got a table ordering champagne for an aperatif and he was running out more decaffeinated coffee...don't judge a book by its .... likely plaid shirt...cover....
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