L’Abroisie, an embarrassing disappointment
My mood was great as we arrived at the restaurant for our 6:30 reservations. Last week, I had booked for our group of 26 and was impressed with their prompt response to my email and phone message. The person with whom I spoke came across as helpful, polite, and quite friendly.
The evening started out fine with our waiter introducing himself. We would be served by two people since our group was so large. As I sat on the terrace chatting with colleagues, I lost track of time. Turning to one of my dining companions, I asked for the time, since it seems we had been waiting a while to order. Turns out we had been waiting for an hour... no drinks, no water, no wait staff by our side. The waiters finally came back to take our orders at 7:30.
Service was frustrating throughout the evening, even though the place area was less than a quarter full on the terrace, with nobody eating inside. The waitress serving us was unsmiling and downright rude at times. When one of the diners tried to help by passing the napkins & cutlery to her neighbor, she curtly said “Don’t! That’s my job”. When she finally delivered one of the meals to another diner, the diner tried to help by reaching over her shoulder for the plate. The waitress grabbed the plate out of her way and said “Just move your knife!”
Water and bread was finally brought to our table around 8:10... dinner started arriving at 8:45, over 2 hours since we had arrived. When one of our diners received her meal (steak frites ordered done medium) the meat was solid and stiff. When she advised the waiter, he hemmed and hawed for a moment, checking out the other plates on the table, obviously hoping to trade it off with someone else.
Three people ordered the salmon, which was served burnt. No, not Cajun seared, but so burnt you lost half the flesh. All bavettes served were not even slightly warm, but instead cool to the touch and extremely well-done. One diner not being a meat eater ordered the Fettuccine Alfredo without chicken. What she was served was fettuccine that had obviously originally prepared with the chicken breast on top, as chicken shrapnel was strewn throughout her pasta. The fries, served with all the meat dishes were hard and mostly dark brown to black.
The waiters were MIA for a good portion of our meal. Dirty plates sat on our tables, long after we had finished eating, and were still there as they took our dessert order (we actually had to go into the restaurant and ask them to take our desert orders!). By this time, I was more than ready to up and leave, but many had ordered from the table d’hôte which came with dessert. A disappointed diner was told they had run out of one of the dessert she wanted, but could substitute any item off the menu. She had seen a beautiful purple sorbet- served in a tall sundae glass - being served to other tables and opted for that. What she was served, was a small ball of said sorbet sitting on a similar sundae glass, but the glass was half empty.
Four hours after arriving at this place, we finally prepared to pay the bill and leave... once again; we had to go get the waiter from inside.
Our experience at l’Ambroisie was terrible. I, as the organizer was not only extremely disappointed and angry, but also embarrassed by the whole evening.
Very unfortunate, I can definitely sympathize with you. What bothers me about these situations is that the restaurants' management agrees to reservations of large groups as if it is no problem, then fails miserably in every regard. It's one thing for the person answering the phone to think its not a problem, its another thing to make sure your entire staff can cope and deliver acceptable service. OK, its understandable to have a few blips with a group of 26 but what you described is totally unacceptable. And this is with the restaurant presumably taking in over 1K on your group and acting as if theyre doing you a huge favour.
When I inquire about reserving for a large group, I'm actually pleased with the honesty when someone says, "we're just not comfortable it will be up to par for so many people". Done and dusted, and you can move on.
When dealing with large groups, a reputable resto should suggest a medley of foods for the entire group. An Italian restaurant on Sherbrooke West, whose name I forget and which is now no doubt defunct did just that for a large group of us. The food was good, the service was impeccable, the staff was unfrazzled and everyone was happy.
More restaurants should go this route.
I would have been perfectly happy if they had limited us to a simple three choice table d'hôte. Since management new ahead of time that we would be a large group, they should have planned accordingly, or simply told us that they could not accommodate our group. As berbatov said, I would have simply moved on and perhaps tried l'Ambroisie another time. As it stands, I will never return... unfortunately for them, 25 other people will also never return, and I'm sure they will also advise their friends to stay away.
It is too bad they lost their chef because the new guy did a terrible job on the food. Lets not forget, however, that the staff failed miserably as well. Not being able to keep staff does not sound too promising for the success of their restaurant either. As stated earlier, simply letting me know it would be difficult for them to accommodate us would have been the way to go.
They have been there and open for 5 or 6 years. They got a new owner a couple of years ago. He brought the guy who is the Head Waiter at night. They both are product of Bifteque. The Head waitress/manager has been there for a few years. They both (Head waiter and Waitress/manager) seem to be developing an attitude lately. I ate there for lunch earlier in the week and put down the attitude to a bad day. I guess that they are in a nose dive quality wise.