It’s Valentine’s night, not just a regular Tuesday night. Any decent establishment should know to properly staff their employees to handle a high volume night. Well. I went to Bossa Nova for a friend’s birthday and endured one of the worst customer service experiences. We had a large party of about a dozen people. The booth had enough seats to accommodate all of us and when I arrived, the place settings were already set. The waitress took our drink order and leisurely came by to service the stragglers who came in late. When we finally ordered our food, we had the option of either ordering straight off their regular menu or from the prix fixe menu. With our large group, two people ordered off the prix fixe and everyone else ordered enough tapas to feed our army of guests. About 45 minutes later, the food started to pour out. With no rhyme or reason, the server came by and started to drop off food plates. I asked, “What are you bringing out?” His smart ass replies, “I’m bringing what you ordered.” No shit asshole. Clearly I can see that. With at least 6 plates simultaneously coming out, he should have had the common courtesy to tell us what was on each plate. I told him, “We don’t remember what we ordered. Can you tell us which dishes are part of the prix fixe menu?” He responds, “Look, I’m just the server. I bring out the food. You can ask your waitress.” What.a.fucking.moron. I desperately looked for his hat and cymbals, like typical performing monkeys have – But no such luck. I wondered if I gave him a penny he’d sing and dance. Two hours into the meal, we asked for the check. After waiting 45 minutes for requested silverware (since there wasn’t enough place settings) and still waiting for the check, I stood up and looked for the waitress (which was no where to be found). One of the servers came and I asked, “Could we please have 2 boxes to go and the check. Now.” She looked at me as if I was going to laugh. “We’ve been waiting for 45 minutes for the check. I really need to go.” She replies, “I’m asking for your patience tonight because we’re really busy…. And we made special arrangements to accommodate your large party on Valentine’s night.” Then she walks off. I completely understand restaurants being busy on Valentine’s night – but people in the hospitality industry should know AND expect a packed house on nights like these. Definitely not our fault for the manager’s lack of common sense to properly staff their employees. If serving a reservation that was made 2 weeks ago “accommodating a large group”, I’d hate to see what they do with their normal business. While checking the status of our waitress sorting the bill, I asked a bus boy, “Who is your manager tonight?” He responded, “We don’t have one tonight.” What kind of business are they running? I’ve dined at Bossa Nova a few times in the past and had regular service. Nothing over the top, but nothing as terrible as tonight. I wonder if they’re under new management. Whatever the case – The food is pretty good, the place is cute but the service sucks ass. Keep that in mind if you ever go – Make sure you have at least 3 hours to spare for shitty service.
Ok, maybe a little dramatic on my end but I’ve had a string of bad news this past week. The straw? Early Saturday morning I noticed a crate on my sidewalk…. then I noticed my downstairs neighbor messing with it. I immediately asked him, “Are you moving?” He responds, “Yeah….” I nearly freaked out. I went into panic mode asking him a string of questions. For those who are curious, he’s moving back to where he lived previously (in another state). Sure, I might be over reacting… but if you had a nasty neighbor like I had before, you would probably react the same. The young man downstairs has been an angel compared to the devil bitch who used to live there. Here’s hoping that my Neighbor Saga doesn’t get reincarnated to another story.
During my stay in Sydney, I had dinner with a friend at Bootleg Bar and Italian Food in Potts Point. The establishment was tiny. Passing through the front door, we walked past the bar on the left and intimate booths on the right. Not too many steps further, we got to the “dining room area” which was basically a few table tops that were aligned in front of a long bench against the wall. The lighting was dark and the music playing was old school hip-hop (think Wu Tang and Tribe Called Quest). I immediately fell in love with the place. In addition to the table menus, I noticed hand-written specials on the chalkboard on the wall opposite of the bench. Lucky for us, the bottles of wine were half off that night! When the waiter approached our table, I noticed that not only was he good looking, he was knowledgeable of the food menu and incredibly kind. The atmosphere of the Bootleg is trendy and non-pretentious – a perfect mix. As we leisurely enjoyed our wine and dinner, the waiter kept perfect pace with the service and didn’t skip a beat with filling our water (once our wine was done). I would recommend Bootleg Bar for a casual dinner or an intimate date. The food was good (we both ordered the prawn linguine special), the wine went down nicely and the service was outstanding.
Hand made noodles. Yum. On a Saturday, I had the chance to try Chefs Gallery. This Chinese restaurant is not the typical run-down Chinese restaurant. Located by Townhall in Sydney’s CBD (Central Business District), is this impressively clean, modernly furnished Chinese restaurant. The interior is decorated with cubed tables and chairs, but it was the wide window of men working with raw noodles that caught my eye. Similar to many sushi restaurants where you can sit at the bar and watch the chefs prepare raw fish, they have the same concept – but rather than looking at raw fish, you see boilers, steamers, tables of flour and chefs using their whole upper bodies to stretch out the flour to create perfectly shaped noodles. For our meal, we looked through their hard-bound menu with beautiful pictures of dumplings, noodles and an assortment of food. We ordered a number of dishes and everything that came out was magnificent. Every dish had its own distinct taste and satisfied my palette. The service was odd. They had waiters and runners, but were all dressed alike and it was after mistakenly ordering through a runner, we soon found out the difference. Overall, the service was good. They were relatively attentive with our water glasses and they picked up our empty plates in a timely manner. I would definitely visit Chefs Gallery again. Not for their service, because it was average, but for their distinctive handmade noodles.
Every neighborhood has its coffee bar. You know, the place where you become a regular, enjoy the food, enjoy the coffee and really get to know the workers. Let me tell you about Coffee Bar. Good fucking grief. Every time I go, there’s always a fuck up. Don’t get me wrong, I understand some places brew the “laid back” culture (like Blue Bottle – another blog post to follow), but there are times that I’m in a hurry and I don’t understand why it takes half an hour to get a latte. Really. And just to note – their coffee isn’t even that good. Regardless of the time I get there, this is the usual routine when I visit Coffee Bar: I’m standing behind the 4th person in line for at least 15 minutes, and after I order my latte, I have to wait a good 15 minutes to get my drink. Why is that? Well, they have 3 people behind the counter. The cashier, the barista and someone that stands there to “oversee” what the other 2 are doing. To give them credit, the people who take the order and process the payment (cashier) is generally really nice and personable. The café itself is really cute. Walking into the entrance, you pass the patio seating and as you walk into the café, you suddenly have the urge to buy Apple stocks as everyone inside is on their mac. The interior is clean and has a wood cabin atmosphere with couches and wood benches. The only time I’ve enjoyed Coffee Bar was when I actually sat down and had lunch. You’re probably thinking, “If you always have a horrible experience, why do you keep returning?” It’s because I have hope for them. Maybe, JUST maybe, they’ll get it right. Ok, who am I kidding – They have a kick ass cobb salad and they offer this delicious ‘sugar bun’ pastry. If it wasn’t for the salad, I would never return.
While in Sydney, I tried to frequent as many cafes as I could manage. In the morning before work, during my lunch breaks and anytime I could sneak into a café, I did. Each one that I visited was great, everyone was friendly, service was prompt and the food was pretty good. However, there was one particular café that blew me away. Signature Café on Sussex street is straight up, awesome. Whether I arrived at 7am with no one around or 9am during their peak hour, they’re always efficient and courteous. They have the ordering process down to a science. They have a gentleman by the door receiving orders and writing them on the lids of the coffee cups, and he simultaneously yells the orders to the 2 coffee baristas. If there’s a food order, he yells that to the guy by the grill. Once I get to the register to pay, I probably wait 2 minutes (maximum) and my coffee is being handed to me by a separate gentleman who is passing out the drinks. Honestly, I’m a bit particular about my coffee – I always add dashes of cinnamon on top. As I receive my latte, I ask the gentleman for cinnamon and he adds the spice to my drink as I open the lid. The very next day, I go through this again – the only difference – they remember my drink when they give it to me and I don’t need to ask for the cinnamon. I left with the biggest smile on my face. How amazing is that? Every time I visited Signature Café, I was never disappointed.
I had the opportunity to explore Darling Harbour. Darling Harbour is an area located close to Sydney’s CBD (central business district). At night, the Harbour is very charming with a lake surrounded by restaurants and shop lights giving a glow to the area. It could be a very romantic area. For me, it was just a casual night out. The ground was wet from the rain, but the air was dry. I was having dinner with a friend and we decided to try something Italian. We randomly walked up to Olivo, an Italian restaurant that had seating indoors and offered a cute patio. The host immediately greeted us with a friendly demeanor. We opted to sit outside to enjoy the cool breeze. Although I enjoyed my friend’s company catching up, I couldn’t help but notice that it took nearly 15 – 20 minutes before our waitress came to our table to greet us. She started with, “Has anyone told you about our special tonight?” We both shook our heads and she continued to explain, “You can choose from any of the two items on the menu and if you want, you can choose a third but those are the specials we have for tonight. Do you have any questions about the items on the menu?” Puzzled, I ask her to explain the special to me again and she points the menu to me and repeats herself in an irate tone of voice, “You can choose any of the two items here or here and if you want you can choose to have the third. But you can only have two. And those are our specials.” At this point, I think I’m getting stupid just listening to her. I pick my original order of spaghetti bolognese and she rushes off. As she’s leaving, I turn to my friend and ask him if he understood the special for the night. “I don’t know. She confused me and asking her again didn’t help me either.” We laughed and although I’m annoyed, I don’t think much of it. Another half hour or so passes and our dinner finally comes out. Mind you, the restaurant has a good crowd. It’s not terribly busy, but it’s not dead. They are appropriately staffed with waiters/ waitresses serving both indoor and outdoor patrons. When my dinner came out, I asked for chili flakes. The dumb waitress asks, “Peppers chopped in oil or dry chili flakes?” I told her the dry, chili flakes. The bitch brings out the peppers chopped in oil. During my meal, I asked three different people for a refill of water (of which, only the third guy – the host – brought out a pitcher). I was so fed up at the end of dinner that when they cleared our plates, I immediately told them to give us the bill. The service here sucks. They employ idiots and their food is mediocre. At least the view of the harbour was nice. I wouldn’t return nor recommend this place to anyone. Sydney has tons of really cute restaurants, it’s a shame this one tainted my Sydney dining experience.