[Although I'm new to posting on this board, I'm a long-time CHer. And generally, I start threads either to extol a place or to ask a question.]
Last week, I was part of a group of about 100 people having dinner on a Sunday night in the (an?) upstairs banquet room at Farallon. I had nothing to do with the planning of the event, although I did have to pay for my meal (not sure what it cost, honestly, but that isn't the point of what I'm writing).
The event was scheduled to start at 8 p.m., and when several of us showed up about 15 minutes before the start time, instead of being led to the back of the restaurant to the elevators leading to the banquet room, we were gestured to the bar area and handed drink menus. Considering that they were going to have to get 100 people up to the room shortly, by elevator, that seemed a bit odd to me. But okay, maybe the room wasn't ready to receive us.
Once we got to the banquet room, there were plates of butter on the tables, but no bread or anything else to eat. This persisted for at least a half hour, despite wine being poured generously and aggressively. We were given a choice of two white wines. I'm pretty sure people who preferred a red wine had to ask for them, and I'm not sure how many options for reds there were.
We had short menus, and we were given an option of two different salads, then everyone had the same pasta course, a choice of three entrees (two fish and one meat, with a note saying that a vegetarian option was available), and a choice of two desserts. We gave our server our entire set of choices at that point.
Still, no bread on the table. It was getting downright unhealthy, and it was late for a "school night."
Eventually, there was bread, after more than a half hour, and the salads showed up soon afterwards. The meal continued apace. I thought the food was fine, not thrilling, but this was a group of 100 mostly out-of-towners. I was seated next to someone from the East Bay who was a bit embarrassed at the quality of the preparations. I wouldn't say the food was a "wow," but I really thought it was fine.
Then we got our pasta course, and the main courses.
And it was 10:30 on a Sunday night, with no desserts out yet. And no coffee or tea.
Dessert came. No hot beverages.
In fact, the hot beverages were offered after the desserts had been cleared away entirely. Way too late for much of anyone to bother.
However, all through the meal, the wine was poured, and aggressively. It was as though the servers were determined that each person would leave with a half glass of wine left behind. The worst offense, to me, was that we weren't even asked whether we wanted more wine, and often the pourings were into glasses that had been barely touched.
At one point, a server behind me started pouring into my 1/3-filled glass a different wine than I'd been drinking! "I'd been told that the whole table was drinking X," he said when I objected. I said that not only was that not true, but he hadn't even asked if I wanted more wine. His response was that he'd take this big full glass of wine and replace it with a fresh one. Oh really? It's not like we were at a table in the main restaurant and they'd be comping us a glass of wine. Instead, it only added to the quantity of wine the restaurant got to put on our group's bill.
The server seemed offended when I said (while he was protesting that he'd done nothing wrong) that he should ask people if they want more wine before pouring. Gee, you think people might want to be able to keep track of how much they're drinking--and what?
(and yes, I drank the two wines mixed--not terrible tasting, but a real waste of two nice wines, and more than I had intended to drink)
I must say, I loved the over-the-top decor of this place. Not the same, but reminded me of the aesthetic of the 1970's Maxwell's Plum in NYC.