The importance of feedback

While holidaying in Bali, we went to a rather fancy restaurant to try out the Ubud version of fine dining – I was really curious to see if they would be as good as the places we have in Cape Town. The price was comparable given that it was heading into peak season and the average cost excluding drinks was R1 300 (including a mandatory 21% tax + service charge). However, that, and the exceptional presentation of the food, were just about the only comparable things between that restaurant and the many places I’ve been to back home (La Colombe, Fyn, to name a few).

I was excited to go to this restaurant – it had many great reviews and accolades. My first impression was indeed a good one. The menu came hidden in a beautiful ceramic box underneath a tray of edible flowers. The staff sprayed some seasoning on the flowers and once the petals were eaten away, it revealed what was in store for the night. In true fine dining fashion, it consisted of 6 or 9 courses of vaguely descriptive dishes.

There were a number of tasters outside of the menu and some were quite inventive, such as this … thing, which for a lack of a better word, was just some lemongrass sticks dipped in honey and something sweet, hidden in a giant foliage of leaves. A feast for the eyes but not so much for the palate.

 

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The actual courses were underwhelmingly small. Minute. Quantum. I wondered how anybody could be full afterwards, even with all the sides that came with. I’m a rather tiny human and I was starving at the end of the night. And no, your eyes did not deceive you, below is some carrots, in a gigantic bowl, and a whole lot of sodium. In fact, I couldn’t taste much of the food’s natural flavour because every dish was so darn salty.

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I’m usually not one for complaining, and I wouldn’t have said anything if it weren’t for the fact that I got sick from eating the food. Probably from the above oyster dish… or perhaps from the complete juxtaposed flavours that did not complement one another. My tummy was probably wondering what the fudge was going on. For example, the one dish was to inspire a combination of hot and cold. They put some sorbet in a hot soup… totally weird!!! Plus 1 for thinking outside the box but minus 5 for not checking with the 5 senses (including common sense!).

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Usually after a meal at a nice restaurant, I’m left feeling satiated and… happy. But not this time. It was a bit of a let down and a few hours later, I was feeling so ill, I couldn’t sleep. At 1 am I promptly vomited everything I’d eaten that night.

The very next day I emailed my grievances to the owner, who kindly offered to refund me (but also stressed that they won’t be changing the menu because most people don’t complain). She also asked why I didn’t say anything to the waiters – and that, I think, circles back to the point of this post. Often we try to avoid any sort of confrontation. In this case, it was further spurred on by the fact that the staff couldn’t speak great English and half the time I couldn’t understand what they were saying. And so, the easiest thing to do was to nod, smile and say thank you.

Of course, there is also a balance between giving appropriate feedback and complaining incessantly about every little detail. I think it is important to be honest whilst trying not to be petty at the same time. If the food hadn’t made me sick, I probably would have just chalked it up to a bad restaurant selection, but in the end, I’m glad I spoke up. It took about 2 months for the money to be refunded – and at one point I thought I wasn’t going to get my money back. It took a number of emails and hassling on my part – but it finally came through.

We are incredibly spoiled in Cape Town. We have some really amazing restaurants and if you go during one of their winter specials, it’s an absolute steal.

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