We were shocked to have a very frustrating experience at a local restaurant last night. We went there regularly when they first opened and have been back less so recently because of time constraints but still considered it a favorite. We went with a friend last night for his 40th birthday. The food, at least, was quite good. We had two duck specials and a rack of lamb dish, plus two warm mushroom salads and two orders of blue corn encrusted oysters with barbecue sauce. (Actually, the oysters were disappointing, overwhelmed by the sauce, but otherwise the food was tasty.) Our issues were with the service/policies.
From least to most frustrating.....
1) They offer a tapas menu in the lounge which we were lauding to our friend. I completely understand that they don't offer it in the dining room because they don't want people taking up those tables and ordering a light bit of food, but we have always been able to add some of our favorites to a complete meal. We often order several cheeses to make up a cheese plate after dinner, and my husband is a particular fan of an egg w/ asparagus and truffle oil. When we mentioned to the waitress last night that we'd like to order these, she said it was impossible. I explained that this had never been an issue before and would she check, based on the fact that we were already getting entrees, salads and apps, and two bottles of wine? She came back and said no tapas are allowed in the dining room under any circumstances. Fine - we reduced our order accordingly, thus costing them $14 in additional sales and some good will. It's not as if these dishes are offered at a higher price in the dining room - we were just unable to buy them at all. OK - not a big deal on its own.
2) We started with a bottle of sparkling wine. I was surprised to get a mouthful of grit in my glass of sparkling wine. Looking down, we saw a good amount of powder (the consistency and color of salt, but flavorless) in the bottom of the glass. We mentioned this to the waitress and she took my glass away, then brought it back saying "We think it's just sediment from the wine. But we're giving you half-off your wine." Then she walked away. We weren't expecting a discount (I would have been fine with just getting a new glass, honestly, which she did not provide.) But I found her response odd - how could it possibly have been sediment? I have never heard of such a thing w/ sparkling wine and have had perhaps a thousand bottles over the years. I assumed the riddling and disgorgement would take care of that. Her tone was not very pleasant, taking away what otherwise might have been a positive experience with the discounted wine. And why on earth would she not replace my glass? There wasn't much left, so I just wound up sharing with my husband.
3) Two of us wanted a duck special, more expensive than the usual duck dish. This came with mashed potatoes and vegetables and the normal dish comes with goat cheese mashed potatoes and veg. They asked if it would be possible to get the goat cheese mashed instead of the regular, but said, "if not, we'll just take the regular." The waitress said it would surely be no problem subbing one mashed potato dish for another but said she would let us know if there was any issue. The dishes came out with goat cheese mashed potatoes and they were happy. Until we got the bill where there was an $8 charge for the mashed potatoes! I asked the waitress and she said that we had to buy the goat cheese mashed potatoes as an additional side. I asked her why she had never mentioned this to us - they would have been very unlikely to get the substitution if they'd had any idea it would cost $8 - and her response was, "I thought it would be free. But it's not." I asked again how they could charge us then and she said, "Because you have to buy it as an extra side." I was tired of going around with her, especially in front of our friend, whom we were treating. So I just shut up and paid. But that still seems inappropriate. Had they told us there would be an additional charge in advance, that would have made sense (though I still think $8 is a bit much.)
I think our frustration was exacerbated by our server's general behavior. She spilled a full glass of ice water on my husband, left our friend without a fork, and was slow all night. She seemed sweet but clueless - definitely not someone ready to work a Saturday dinner shift at a nice restaurant. Usually we are the type to let things slide and carry on, but for some reason this dinner is still annoying us. What do you guys think - reasonably frustrating or are we overreacting?