LA CREMAILLERE: WE CAME FOR THE BREAD, NOT THE GROUPON.
The old institution La Cremaillere is apparently trying new things. One of them is Groupon. The other is management. I don’t know if it has changed in the last 10-years but if historic reputation serves me, a star rating on Zagat documents, I can only believe so.
If you want service at La Cremaillere located conveniently at 46 Bedford-Banksville Road, be prepared to ask for it. That was my experience, last night. Pre-Superbowl Saturday found me with one of my best-friends and colleagues, Laura Bays, in celebration of her wedding engagement to Jacksonville Jaguar and friend Brandon Deaderick.
There is a correlation between a Mink Coat, Chanel Bag, Barney’s Shoes and the ability to pay a check. Call it consumer profiling. It seemed grossly underestimated by the wait-staff. In fact, being an educated and self-employed woman had an opposing effect on our Maitre D’Hotel. It quickly became clear we were sitting in a floral chintz draped room of chauvism celebrating older white males, when our waiter greeted us on an assumption that we were table three taking advantage of a Groupon.
For the record, I am bargain hunter but I didn’t take advantage of this particular sale. I also didn’t take lightly the assumption that perhaps being under 40 and stylishly dressed somehow quanitified us as only coming in for a discount
First of all who wouldn’t take advantage of a groupon if it was available to them. It turns out about 700-people did before the deal ended. I found the offer later on the internet, after we dined. I won’t have believed it otherwise. La Cremaillere does not have a reputation for soliciting new clientele but if their was a need to fill tables, Groupon met the challenge.
700 is an impressive number. I own a family run small, local business, http://www.tigerlilysgreenwich.com. If a Groupon promotion for our business had a similar outcome, I would execute graditude. On the contrary the reference to the groupon by our waiter had a degratory tone to it, as if we couldn’t possily pay a full retail bill.
La Cremaillere is a destination restaurant. It is reached by car only, in the middle of nowhere which happens to be my neighborhood. For others, when you agree to drive to this remote georgraphical place you have made the decision to park valet, to pay for club soda at $4.50 a glass and well beyond that should you chose to tap into the renowned and sommelier selected wine cellar. To put this beverage figure into perspective consider that club sofa is just water infused with carbon dioxide, it is usually free and at the grocery store you can buy a 24-pack of Diet Coke for about the same price No one stumbles upon La Cremaillere. You know you are paying out the pocket when you go, but with that expense you expect a magical fine dining experience. Afterall, La Cremaillere greets you with a warm fresh french farm loaf. The service in general in impeccable according to folklore. If you have lint on your coat, it is rumored the maitre d’ dusts you right off. It is a place to celebrate. Prior to this, I had on occasion.
I was excited to share my experience with Laura Bays. So, you can imagine my surprise by the Groupon Greeting. The waiter, took the liberty to walk over with a special discount groupon menu with out first introducing himself. I found that incredibly insulting and simply had to ask him if indeed I should be insulted by that? He responded with an equally snide comment.
Sale item or not, waiting tables is a service business. Patrons should be valued for the money they are chosing to spend at retail or discounted prices and treated first class. Clearly we were off to a bad start.
I said it earlier, you come for the bread. You stay for the soup laddled out of a porcelain soup tureen and the entree that is revealed from beneath a silver plate lid. The food by and far is excellent with the exception on this night of the special soft-shell crab spring rolls that came out soggy, a gritty after taste to the scallops and the lack of pronounced sage in the brown butter sauce. It is however more the service that I am opionated about.
Following the akward introduction our head waiter began an uncomfortable food service.
1. He pretended to listen and write down a specialized order request of a simple Parisienne take on the Italian’s linguine with olive oil & garlic. It never came.
2. He accused me of having a problem because I order the soup to sample only and didn’t finish the bowl.
3. He never brought us water glasses and only filled our club soda glasses upon request which of course we were paying for.
4. He never asked us if we needed anything after the highly anticipated main course reveal.
5. When I later flagged him down to ask for fresh ground pepper for a pasta that I hadn’t yet ate, he retailated by saying it was not a customary garnish for my plate. Pepper is my preference. I frankly did not ask if it was appropriate. All that said, my food that came out warm had cooled significantly by the time I ate it.
6. On the subject of pasta, he left before Laura could ask for her missing side.
At any given time in the dining room, there were two lead waiters, two subwaiters and one bus boy. The ratio per table by 8:30 at night was pretty close to one-on-one. Yet, despite that, any service we got we flagged down and asked for. At one point, I was a spectacle forced to wave my hand for attention to get the assistant waiter to replace my dirty knife. The same exercise was the only reason we were able to request our final bill. It came late and not before the table was properly bustled with a brush to remove the drippy dessert crumb in front of me. We must have sat 15-minutes in filth.
However neglient or dismissive our head waiter was with us, he managed to take care and time to smooze with the gentleman from New York City that sat next to us. That guy’s navigation had taken him the longest route possible from the Upper West, along Route 22. It turns out he was on a date. From the attention the young-blond Russian gave her phone when he excused himself, I can conclude they won’t be back together again. I won’t either.
When the numbers add up, the odds were in my favor. I am local business owner, though the waiter never cared to ask and the literal next door neighbor to this place. I like to eat and make recommendations. I have no problem spending money on food and expect good service to accompany it. I expect my dollar bill to matter as much as the man next me and as much as the groupon coupon… if there is such a thing. How about treating everyone equally?
On the subject of the numbers, our bill did added up, We asked up front, if the waiter left the side of pasta on our bill before we opened it. This was in fact the first time we called his attention to this gross oversight. He had a chance to take the bill back and make an adjustment. He answered with out skipping a beat that he was sorry he forgot, didn’t think to write it down for the kitchen and didn’t remember it enough to put on the bill.
There was no discount. We paid the bill with a tip. There was no further recognition of the order mishap or that we were greeted as grouponies who might be deserving of such.
I can’t recommend La Cremaillere. If you can believe Zagat, here’s what it says:
“Bedford “treasure” for many decades, this “class act” dispenses “sublime” French fare in a converted white-clapboard 18th-century farmhouse with “enchanting”, “old-school elegant decor”; factor in a “gracious” staff both “unobtrusive” and “vigilant to your needs” and no one seems to mind paying “an arm and a leg” for a “true special-event experience”; P.S. jackets suggested.”–Zagat
There’s a lesson in all this. We could have afterall been influential food bloggers. Treat everyone the same. #onelove