[NOTE FROM THE MODERATORS: even though the original post is about a local Toronto restaurant, all the replies are a discussion about the restaurant's behavior and etiquette, so we've moved it over here to the Not About Food board.]
We arranged a long-overdue reunion/dinner for five last Friday. This was for a dear group of friends, and I wanted everything to be just right, so I suggested Pomegranate, which has long been one of my favourite restaurants. It didn't take much convincing, as I've raved about the food there off and on for so long, and all of my friends were eager to try it. It's been a while - over a year - since I'd been there, but I only have good memories of eating there, and one of my Iranian friends agrees it's very good.
We made a reservation for five at 5:00, and were told we could have the table only until 7:15.
Four of us arrived between 5:00 and 5:30, but got the bad news that our fifth person was delayed at work and might come late, or not at all. This is when the problem started. The woman serving us (who I believe is the owner or owner's wife) said the two extra seats at our table were needed, and she wanted to move us to a table for four. We said the fifth person might still show up, but she said we couldn't have the extra seats if not, because the restaurant does fill up and it would mean her having to turn people away. I've worked in restaurants before, and I do understand this situation, but she was not very accommodating and there was an unpleasant tension over it.
Note: I found out later from my friend who made the reservation that the person on the phone had said we could have a table for four with a fifth seat on the end, or a table for six. As it's getting colder and everyone has heavier coats, naturally we'd asked for a table for six, as the extra seat would come in handy for coats and bags. But if filling to capacity is such an issue, why were we given a choice? I did notice that the restaurant did indeed fill up, and one couple was turned away.
We did finally get confirmation that our fifth person was on his way, and he showed up at 6:30. The poor guy had to order in a hurry and then wolf down his food - including receiving his dessert (saffron ice cream, which I've been raving about ever since I first had it at Pomegranate) at the same time as his main course.
We did manage to finish our meal by 7:15, although we had to really rush through dessert. By then, half of the restaurant had cleared and there was no sign of a second wave of diners. We were sitting at the back, and the entire row of tables on our side of the restaurant were now empty. But here's the kicker: as we were now relaxing and talking, our server comes by again and reminds us that the table has to be vacated by 7:15. With half the tables empty, we're still being rushed out?
I do have to say that the food did not disappoint. It was even better than I'd remembered; every mouthful was delicious. But the unpleasantness over the seating issue had me nervously watching the table occupancy the whole time I was eating, and the tension between the server and my friends didn't help. I saw one of my friends the following morning and found that she, too, had been left with a sour taste in her mouth from the whole experience. Granted, two+ hours should normally be ample for finishing a meal, but there was no attempt to accommodate our problematic circumstances.
So, dear foodies:
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? One of my friends recounted a similar experience elsewhere recently, of being given a deadline for vacating her table. Is this becoming the norm? Will you go to Pomegranate if you expect to be rushed?
As much as I *loved* the food, I don't think I will return.
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