It is with regret that a restaurant I have enjoyed so many times in the past will, for this Chowhound, become a thing of the past.
I have enjoyed many (over 10) meals at Lumiere. It is not that the food has gone downhill - it is just that it has now become a poor "quality/price ratio" experience. The wine list has always been ridiculously overpriced, but the food prices, I felt, balanced it out. Especially with a reasonable corkage fee. Pricing (QPR) for their food is now equivocal to other local restaurants. I compare to Ouest/West, Bishop's, La Crocodile, La Gavroche (can't wait for it to re-open).
The style; similar, but not nearly as well executed as Thomas Keller or Charlie Trotter, lacks the service and intimacy of these two restaurants. Tables are tightly spaced, decor, etc is quite basic. I make the comparison, because this seems to be the peer group that Robert Feeney feels he is in. Mr. Feeney feels that he can now charge French Laundry/Charley Trotter corkage fees, with a wine list mark-up to match. That would be fine if the ambiance or service was close, but unfortunately my last two meals made me left feeling as though I were in a very decorative cafeteria. Please see Burke & Wells posting on Chez Panisse -Chowhound San-Francisco board 01/06/02 "Chez Panisse-subtle disappointment"- the experience wasn't made to fit us, we were there to adjust to the experience.
My main problem; however, is that I enjoy wine with my meal, and Lumiere has always had a poor value wine list. It is full of wines that have been inflated 300% (perhaps even 400%, but my sense of being taken advantage of may be impairing my memory).
If the wines were gems in the rough, then fine - but the morning of our last dinner I saw the sommelier at the local liquor store filling the shopping cart with some pretty pedestrian offerings. When you are charged $40.00 for a bottle of wine you see the next day for $11.99 you feel taken.
It perpetuates the myth that wine is an elite beverage ONLY meant for special occasions. Furthermore, when you drink that $40.00 wine that is meant to retail for $11.99, I believe the wine producers reputation is affected. The general public don't see a $12 bottle of wine, but a producer that makes a poor QPR $40 bottle of wine.
My solution in the past has been corkage $20-$25, order a couple of wines by the glass, and tip well (20-30%) to make up for REASONABLE lost wine sale revenue. Well imagine my shock at finding corkage has been increased to $75!! - See post below-. At those prices, they must be trying to direct me towards their stellar wine list?? The last time I checked, it was full of: overpriced lesser vintages, an assortment of average - widely available producers, or immature wine.
Basically, I am now at the mercy of a punitively priced wine list. Fine if I am AT The French Laundry, Gary Danko, Charlie Trotter, Daniel, Chez Panisse, Troisgros, Carre des Feuillants, L'Alexandrin (in Lyon - go!), el Raco de Can Fabes, or El Bulli. I've been to them, and many others, so trust me - Lumiere is NOT in the same ballpark. Furthermore, the European counterparts price their lists well. Is it because the public is more wine savvy, and refuse to be taken advantage of?
I'm tempted to order water (tap) with my meals. On second thought, Vancouver has so much else to offer!
I welcome debate on this topic - Your thoughts!