Monday, August 09, 2010

Arintji (Federation Square) 08/2010

I have been twice to Arintji and loved it not. It seems I am not alone.

We discussed, for virtually the entire time we were at Arintji, when was the last time we experienced such neglectful service and disappointing dishes and concluded that the entire brigade and front of house staff must have been hungover from the night before to put on such a pathetic attempt at service and food and then such a nasty reply to questioning the bill…. but I digress.

We fronted up to Arintji on a beautiful Melbourne Sunday afternoon with a friend from interstate and looking forward to a good meal in an ideal setting… to wait for literally about 5 minutes to be attended to while 3 wait staff within arms length stacked dishwashers, made drinks and attended to bills whilst another just swooshed by – surely even one could have at least acknowledged our presence and confirmed that the state of the dishwasher was indeed more important than welcoming us?

But alas and alack, we waited until there was seemingly little else to do and we were shown to our table with a begrudging offer of water – on acceptance a jug landed on our table leaving us to fend for ourselves (yes we can do that – we’re not that precious). After falling in love with Arintji years ago when it first started up and then becoming disenfranchised in later years, the Entertainment book special of "One complimentary MAIN COURSE when another MAIN COURSE of equal or greater value is purchased" and an article in Epicure a year or two back about Jacques Reymond sending down his Sydney talent to fix the place were the primary drivers to trying this place again. Fail.

Based on said offer we chose to go for a choice of 3 entrée sized plates for $50, and then using the discount doubled that so we’d have 2 x entrée’s each – sounded like a win to me.

Well, here’s the winner;

Smoked duck with a frisee salad and pickled cherries. It was lovely - the duck was tender, the smoke penetrated almost to the core and the flesh was still full of flavour– if I had to be critical and only through a sense of greed I would have loved a few more of those cherries to even with the amount of duck. But it was good – at this stage I was willing to ignore the lacklustre service including the fact that we had to go to the bar 25 minutes after ordering and trying to get attention to get our bottle of wine, and just put stock in the food to make it a nice lunch.

My dining partners were not so lucky; this is an aftershot as I hadn’t planned on reviewing or creating a journal of this meal, but this…. this… is what was left of the potato salad – one with chicken, the other with chorizo, either way the it was a matter of searching through the forest for a pot of gold; But unfortunately, their contents were dry, sparse and didn’t blend well at all. The vast expanse of roquette may well have been a better idea in both cases.

The second round of dishes were upon us before we were able to put fork in the first;

Chicken wings.

The chilli, garlic and mint chicken spare ribs looked okay but I didn’t try them - my friend who did put it, “honestly I could have got these from the freezers in coles and put them in an oven” .

The lamb meatballs however would have been recalled from coles – they were one dimensional, bland, and basically horrid.

The meat was dry and flavourless (I think the pic actually makes it look better than it was – that meat was grey and I did try them) with a clear lack of anything to give body or taste. Their only saviour was the chick peas that were ironically brought down by the key menu item.

I decided to be trendy with the food times and get the cured ocean trout with beetroot and horseradish - my god after semi-recently having takes on this dish at Pettavel , the Estelle and Lakehouse I love it so…. And today it loved me not.

The ocean trout had the texture and particularly the after taste of a fish that was caught many many days ago… you know… fishy and with a funk that lasts with you hours later, and it did. The beetroot had no flavour and was seemingly there for texture alone –it must have been the least astringent pickle I’ve ever experienced and it didn’t work. The horseradish, yeah good but it was all too late.

We were going to hang about and meet up with family for coffee and cakes but even an espresso seemed beyond their capabilities so we walked past our inattentive waiter who was seated at a nearby table folding napkins and went straight to the register to get the hell out of there. Actually, I won’t cane that waiter too badly – he seemed to be the only person doing anything especially at the start (he was the one whooshing between outside and inside dining areas covering way too much ground) but in the absence of support he was the object of our disappointment, he did still stuff up our wine order and generally had a negative presence though. Okay, so I am caning him. Sorry, but yeah, they all sucked – at least he did have a half assed apology when I pointed out the errors in the wine and good service to agree when prompted that the price would be the same if it was more than the bottle we’d ordered.

At least you have to hand it to them for consistency – even the bill was an episode of disappointment. Despite checking with our waiter and clearly stating our understanding of the ‘buy one, get one free’ deal and ensuring it applied to their share menu – they instead decided a 25% discount applied instead. We questioned this and was, in the best choice of words, completely stonewalled and tersely so whilst said inattentive waiter slunk off and hid in the shadows after we repeated our confirmation from his mouth. The manager then interjected with not a calming compassion for customers yet maintaining restaurant policy (despite its non-adherence to broadcast offers) but instead more like an oafish bouncer intent on just getting us out the door. Fine. Given the 25% off was near the max $40 for the buy-one-get-one-free offer as it was pointed out it was a moot point to argue so we just paid and ran and by then the damage to customer service relationships was done anyway.

I would admit that after an hour and a half of shocking service and sub-standard food our dining friend was quite heated and his reaction to the bill probably didn't assist in the situation but the manager and the cashier were completely unprofessional in dealing with this, if anything they did nothing but lambaste an already bad scenario, ending as we walked out with a horribly sardonic, "Thank you for your feedback" when I had summoned all my calm to politely, and I mean that, say that all billing misunderstandings aside we were really disappointed throughout the entire meal. Their instant dismissal of the people that they need cater for the most (now ex-repeat customers) makes them deserve to fail and I hate to say that.

This is the first restaurant ever that I will actively be encouraging people to not go to. Ironic given 6 years ago it was the one I recommended my best friend to take his now wife to as a first date.

Again I don’t want to offer a score out of twenty as it will be naturally disparate to Elliot and Sandra’s so I’ll just say, don’t go – even if you get a white elephant of a discount offer.



Lynda Buckley said...

I recently dined at Arintji and the experience and staff could not have been lovlier! It was a cold Melbourne nite and some friends and I ducked in for a warm drink and a nosh. They had a live guitarist strumming romantic songs, fire blazing and service was quick and efficient. We landed up staying (and eating and drinking) longer than planned. I will definitly be back. Sorry to hear of your experience!

Elliot and Sandra said...

Ty Lynda
It's good to here that others have had much better experiences at Arintji. Were we just unlucky or was it the converse?