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Odd and Disconcerting Experience at Brussels Bistro

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  • vlad Jul 28, 2008 08:50 AM
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We were at Brussels Bistro last night in Laguna Beach and had a terrible experience. Hitherto, we have had nothing but great experiences. We like the food, the ambiance and service but yesterday things turned a bit sour.

We usually swing by for a pot of mussels, a cornet of fries and the high-alcohol Belgian beers. As we had a friend in town who is a fan of Belgian food, we thought we'd bring him by. To make a long story short: we ordered the steak tartar and the mussels along with beers. Upon request of a third basket of their delicious bread, the waitress, Vladimira, expressed some odd irritation both in tone and body language but asked us to wait a bit for it.

Her irritation we found a bit odd since we have never had problems ordering extra bread any of the many times we have dined there before ---- but alright she was busy running around serving other patrons.

15 mins later our table still sans bread -- we ask again. Now even more irritated and exasperated, she snappily informs us that as we had split two dishes amongst three people, we really didn't deserve extra bread.

Really?

So, do we get bread or not? If the rule is one order of bread per entree, new to us BTW, can we pay for more?

Ultimately, her implying that we were somehow free-loaders was the straw that broke the camel's back for us. (We have eaten there many a time and my wife celebrated her birthday there with 10 of our friends. Suffice to say, we are not freeloaders and always tip generously.)

To my shame, I have to admit I dropped a general f-bomb (not at her, mind you) that we would happily pay for the bread and it was unacceptable that she leave us in limbo as to the status of the stupid (yet delicious) bread.

She freaked out, ran inside and brought the bill. We had planned to order dessert, but I guess that was out of the question now. Oh yeah, still no bread.

Upon examining the bill, we noticed she had put on an 18% service charge which is generally applied to groups of 6 or more.

Unbelievable.

Our guest, a native French speaker, couldn't believe this was happening here in the States, home of great customer service.

He went inside and in French, spoke to the other waiter, Thierry, and explained the situation. Much to his credit, Thierry brought us bread (finally!), took the service charge off the bill as well as the pot of mussels and profusely apologized.

In sum, a lose-lose situation for everyone involved. Bad experience for us. No tip for Vladimira. Restaurant loses money by comping us the mussels.

All this because of a stupid basket of bread. As I warned the other table upon our exit, we love this place but whatever you do...don't order that third basket of bread.

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