Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dumb waiters

Having spent several years of a former life waitressing in various establishments, I admit, I'm very fussy when it comes to restaurant service. I know how things should be done, and I get a bit tetchy when things are done wrong. Things guaranteed to really piss me off include:

  • Removing people's plates while others are still finishing their meals
  • Waiting ages to take a drink order
  • Not knowing the specials off by heart (it's what, FOUR THINGS? Come ON guys, it's not Shakespeare)
  • Not knowing how dishes are prepared, or what they're served with
  • Bringing out dishes before they're ALL ready to go, so one person ends up without a plate in front of them for 10 minutes while everyone else is staring at their food
I could go on, but instead I'll tell you about last night's dining experience with the wackiest waiter I've ever encountered.

My friend Mr M and I decided to try out a place we'd never been before, which ended up being Esca in that god forsaken, windy hell hole they call Holdfast Shores. If you've ever managed to do a lap of that place without freezing your arse off I commend you on your super-thermo abilities. Even in the height of summer it's like the fucking Antarctic. Every time you get up from your table you feel like saying "I may be some time..."

Anyway last night was no exception, given that it was about minus two anyway (despite this there was the usual quota of inappropriately dressed, hypothermic girls queueing outside the Grand) so the warmth of Esca was quite welcome. But then things got weird.

ME: We'll have a bottle of the D'Arenberg High Trellis cab sav, please.
ODD WAITER: Hang on hang on, I'll have to write that down cos I'm not very good with wine and I've already got a wine order in my head from someone else.
ME: Riiiight. So, a bottle of the D'Arenberg High Trellis cab sav, thanks.
ODD WAITER: Hmm... Do you reckon I'll be able to find it if I just write down 'D'Arenberg cab sav'?
ME: Umm...

YOU'RE THE WAITER, YOU TELL ME! Fortunately, our super sleuth managed to track down the wine, triumphantly presenting it to us at our table. I thought he might have been waiting for a certificate or a pat on the head, but I think he was just happy to have found it.

ODD WAITER: See, I found it!
ME: Yay.
He then tried to open the bottle with the foil cutter, before realising it was actually a screw cap, and declaring "I told you I was no good with wine!"

Sorry, how much are we paying for this again?

Anyway he then made the mistake of asking if we knew about the specials, and we didn't, which was quite the coincidence because neither did he.

ODD WAITER: There's soup of the day, and then there's something with this really tiny pasta called granelli or something like that, I'd never heard of it before, and... I'll just go get my pad, hang on.
He returned with a sheet of scribble, and then felt it necessary to explain that it wasn't actually HIS pad, which is what he had been looking for, but one he had borrowed from ANOTHER waiter, which was a good thing because he didn't know WHERE his pad had gone, and he hoped he could find it before the night was over.


ODD WAITER: Ok so that pasta is gemelli, and it's really crazy cos you can SEE through it. It's weird. I'd never heard of it before. Oh and there was another pasta I'd never heard of before I came here, what was that again... TAGLIATELLI. That's it. Have you guys heard of that?
Reader, I shit you not. This guy works in an Italian restaurant serving pasta dishes for $29 and he thinks tagliatelli is exotic. No one tell him about gelati, his brain might explode!

If you want a review of the food - it wasn't all that special. If I'm paying $23 for gnocchi, I don't want to find bits of bone and fat in the veal ragu. Unacceptable. Mr M's scotch fillet looked nice, if overcooked, but the goats cheese mash that sounded so good on the menu was quite flavourless and disappointing. The total was $96 for two mains, a shared bread entree and a bottle of wine.

Not exceptional value, still, the odd waiter show was completely free. Because we didn't tip him. Ha ha ha.


  1. Somwhere, out the back of Esca, just past the kitchen...

    "Hey dudes. How's it going. The funniest thing happened today. Haha. There are times I *love* working in an expensive restaurant - get this: This couple walks in, right? I could tell straight away that the girl was one of these prissy 'I-once-worked-in-a-restaurant' types from the way she ordered her wine, so I spent the whole evening pretending like it was my first night. Hahaha. She didn't even bother to ask if I was new or anything, even when I told her I didn't know what gemelli was. She actually believed it! Hahahaha. Cracks me up! That's what these Aussie fuckers get for never tipping, the cheap bastards. I'm just glad to be quitting this crappy restaurant next week. Hahaha! Hook, line and sinker!"


  2. Yeah, I'm surprised you're so vitriolic considering you've worked restaurants before. Everyone knows the waiters don't give a shit and the ones that do are career hospitality workers and therefore insane. Just because you've managed to graduate to a proper job is no reason to get so uppity about the ones that are still stuck in the swamp waters of customer service.

  3. Why should I give a fuck if he's new? If he'd just shut the hell up rather than blathering on and showing himself up, I wouldn't even have noticed. Vitriole DESERVED.

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  5. I'm with you, sister! Proper job, Audrey? Have you ever waited yourself? If you have, I'm surprised you can be so condescending. I've done a range of jobs during my short but colourful working life and I can assure you that providing quality restaurant service is just as hard, if not harder, than any of the other supposedly respectable jobs I've performed. Sure, I get fed up of pearl-laden, twin-setted dotards attempting to enforce their alleged class superiority by demeaning staff, but I'm also thus disappointed when those I'm defending can't be arsed or are too thick to do their job properly. Perhaps an Italian restaurant charging those prices ought to review their staff requirements to include knowledge of products such as, ooh, I don't know, Italian food and wine.

  6. Oh dear.

    I must admit that when I first worked in a bottle shop I didn't even know that red wine wasn't meant to be chilled.

    I learnt a lot in the year I worked there though, and now I know my cab sav from my merlot.

  7. Sorry, my original comment was supposed to be in jest. Perhaps I should have put a winky face next to it?

    I have waitressed more than anyone would care to in a lifetime. I stand by the statement that career hospitality workers are somewhat insane and the rest are probably so disillusioned by the minority of really shit customers they have to deal with that they end up not really caring about being tip top at their job.

    Maybe it's just because I don't eat at really expensive italian restaurants because I don't have a proper job.

  8. Come on guys, let's start a flame war! It'll be fun!!

  9. Brilliant. Bad waiters can be highly entertaining, but not when you're paying decent prices for the meal.

  10. yup I agree. I'm happy to be served by a dimwitted person full of personal angst and self doubt from say.... McDonalds.

    To order a $30 meal however is a different story.
    I expect a decent customer service level, a clean establishment and tasty food.

    Yes, i've worked in 5 star establishments and pulled pints at the local pub.

  11. I;ve never ordered the vitriol before. Is it nice? :)

    Whilst I do find this particular waiter's honesty (ie "I'm no good with wine") refreshing, I do kinda shake my head.

    Especially when a place like Esca is trying to balance casual dining with formal... it's not exactly the top environment for someone not particularly au fait with the ever confusing subtles of dining...

    Like "whats on the menu?" for instance are probably hard enough to grasp for a poor waiter who has probably had his brain frozen by the climate outside ;)

  12. Ohhh how i heart bad service.
    No offence to any Adelaideians, but i ALWAYS encounter the worst service in the fucking country there.

    Must be something in the water.
    Still, good for a laugh, and an excuse not to tip. Yay!

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