The Commoner, Melbourne, Australia 122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
I thought I had chosen the restaurant carefully. It was on many trusted best of 2012 lists. Small. Intimate. Simple fare. A hands on owner who supposedly took pride in every detail. And indeed when I made the reservation several weeks in advance via email, that seemed to be the case. I got a lovely response from her wishing me safe travels and even telling me my hotel was going to be wonderful.
Perhaps I should have been wary when two days later I received a second email confirming my reservation for that very evening. No mind, I quickly dispatched a reply that they had the wrong date. Again, another lovely response apologizing for the error and assuring me my reservation for the correct date had been recorded. Only when I arrived on the correct date, there was no reservation on the books. Whoops.
No mind, a short trip to the bar for a drink & an appetizer and a table was arranged for us in the dining room. Dinner would be a 4 course “feed me” affair, the restaurant’s specialty. The first course of warm cheesy croquettes was delicious. The second, a beef carpaccio topped with grated cheese and potato sticks, less so. The third, pork belly and beets, not my idea of a satisfying main but seemingly the trend in Melbourne restaurants so understood if not enjoyed.
Thirty minutes after finishing course number three . . . and dessert was nowhere to be seen . . . and not a word from our waitress. At around the 40 minute mark, she did come by to tell us there was a small delay in the kitchen due to the fact it was only the second night for a new menu. About 10 minutes later, we were served a “starter” dessert that I translated as anything the kitchen could throw together to keep us occupied — warm rice pudding with cold poached fruit. Surprisingly the rice pudding was tasty but the warm/cold combination was odd. Just after we finished that, the real dessert was served — a deconstructed ice cream sandwich with a dollop of chocolate mousse and a spoonful of caramel sauce. Not a bad concept only the ice cream tasted like it came from the bottom of the freezer at the local convenience store. I guess someone forgot to make the homemade ice cream. Whoops again.
More disappointing than the food, was the fact the only person who apologized was another waiter but only because he ran into my dinner companion on the way to the men’s room. The supposedly hands on owner, tucked herself behind the bar in the other room, never acknowledging the issue, never offering a free drink or to comp our wine, nothing. I would have expected a free glass of wine just for the reservation mix up let alone the kitchen screw up. But my favorite part of the evening was when the waitress came around looking for feedback on the desserts to give the kitchen. Why anybody would ask two people who had waited as long as we did for any course, even if it was delicious which it clearly wasn’t, and expect to get anything but a disgruntled answer is beyond me.
Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.