So now I'm thinking, schmuck, I should have known, Campton Place seems to have achieved pure buzz-free status in recent times. But we decided to try the lunch special on Wednesday, because we'd never been there. I guess we were remembering the old days when Ogden was establishing himself. Our reservation was at 1:30, and the place was emptying out fast.
It's a pleasant room, in that slightly sterile genteel hotel style. The service is that way too, all about jumping up to fold your napkin when you leave the table, and rushing to pull out and push in your chair when you return. I guess hotel guests and dowagers like that sort of thing. Our server was sort of a Stepford waitress; she was competent enough (until the end), but she was on auto-pilot, with a hollow smile and a vacant gaze. The bread man hawked four varieties from his basket; the olive bread was marvelous. And when Dan's white bean soup came, the bowl held the rosemary croutons and the niblets of duck prosciutto, and a serving-man poured the soup into it from a small copper pot.
This soup was the best item of the meal. It was rich with a good stock, perfectly smooth, and the rosemary croutons were nice fresh zings of contrast. I had the salad with grilled slices of Comice pear (which had more char flavor than many hamburgers I've had) and arugula with blue cheese cream and balsamic reduction, all of it ordinary. Oh yeah, we were served a nice amuse-bouche, an espresso cup of carrot-leek soup with lemongrass, redolent of chicken stock, the leek and lemongrass giving it almost a mussel broth-like piquant quality. Main courses: I had roast chicken breast, served in four slices, with tiny roasted yellow and purple potatoes, roasted quince slices, a pile of tasty sauteed spinach and chanterelles, and a decently rich red-wine sauce reduction. The chicken was noticeably, oddly tender, almost spongy--had it been brined? But the potatoes were soggy, revealing that the cooks were too lazy to throw them back in a pan and crisp them up at the end of the lunch hour. Dan had seared salmon (nice crusty skin and rare but pretty bland) on celery root mousseline, baby red mustard greens with bacon (pretty bland) and a red-wine-and-port reduction. Everything on his plate was fine, but it was more like something that didn't offend than something memorable. He did get all special fish utensils though, including a three-tined fork, a notched fish shovel and a notched butter-knife sort of thing.
When I went through the lobby to the bathroom, I overheard the concierge recommending the R&G Lounge to a hotel guest! I chimed in my enthusiasm. Unfortunately, they must have plated our desserts while I was out. It was a sphere of chocolate-chip angel-food cake with a pool of hot fudge and a chocolate cup filled with vanilla ice cream. But the hot fudge was cold, and the ice cream was completely melted. How markedly inattentive, we thought. We told our waitress about it, and she said, "the ice cream was a little bit melted?" We replied no, it was totally melted. And she said, "Sorry" and walked away. Not "I'll tell the kitchen" or "oh dear" or "I'll comp you some coffee" or anything indicating she had any role to play in helping the restaurant execute properly or helping us get a good meal. Not a good moment in the history of the service industry.
Actually, she should have comped me my chamomile tea--how does $6 grab you for a pot of tea? Or $7 for a liter of bubbly water? And there was only one wine by the glass for under $11, which was a $9 Groth sauvignon blanc. With the beverages and tax and tip, we ended up paying just under $80 for our two $20 lunch specials. Which left us feeling pretty resentful, even though they gave us a little plate of cookies while they nickel-and-dimed us. And then when we were walking out, the woman at the maitre'd stand bid us to "have a nice day, Mr. Aronson." I'm sure an out-of-town traveler might feel great to be greeted by their name as they left their fancy hotel restaurant, but we felt it was another Stepford touch, and another indication that Campton Place's priorities were all wrong.