Just a quick report on a recent experience at Brasserie 8 1/2, the french brasserie with the look of a stylish 50's airport lounge (in a good way, that is) located in the basement of the 9 West building on 57th street.
I've eaten there on numerous occasions with parties ranging from 2 through 10, and always had experienced professional and pleasant service, excellent food, some interesting wines, and general good vibes. Recently, I was attending an event nearby with some friends who wanted a reccomendation for a restaurant that could accommodate a large group. I recommended B8 1/2 and my friend made reservations.
When our group of 14 arrived, we were shown to two separate tables next to each other. We protested the separation (especially given the prior arrangement for one table for the group) and the maitre d' insisted that this was the only option, that the kitchen would not be able to properly handle the order flow, unless we all ordered the same meal. After I discussed/negotiated this with him, he very reluctantly agreed to let us push the tables together, making it very clear that he was not pleased. The group of diners, all seasoned NY hounds and/or foodies, were certainly not thrilled about the reception.
Our waiter and the other staff were all professional and efficient, the menu and specials interesting. The waiter, it should be noted, immediately adjusted his service to best serve such a large group, announcing specials at both ends of the table and moving about to best accomodate the group as he took orders or answered questions. The wine steward was also knowledgeable and pleasant.
Once the meal commenced, the maitre d' stopped over to see how things were going, inquiring in a very pleasant and professional manner. Everything was progressing wonderfully and we told him as much. The rest of the meal was fabulous, fun, and well-managed, with no delays in food delivery, etc. When we were finally leaving, the maitre d' made a point of again accosting me to make sure that everything went well. Again, his manner was both positive and professional.
I report this as it was an occasion where a restaurant, after seeming to flub what was arranged in advance and causing a bit of discomfort amongst the diners, recovered much more than gracefully and oversaw a festive, tasty, and most enjoyable experience. Everyone in the group had a great time and clearly had put the misunderstanding well behind them, made easy to do by the environment fostered by the restaurant. I commend Brasserie 8 1/2's professional and diplomacy.