'The customer is always right'. Words to live by? Or irritating mantra that makes most customer service workers want to tear their hair out? Chatting with many of my waitress friends, this maxim seems to be the bane of their existence, conjuring memories of being bombarded with a barrage of idiotic questions and requests they would rather refute. Even my most bubbly of buddies have to remind themselves to leave their attitudes firmly stowed in the overhead compartment when dealing with some of the interesting characters of the day. Yet, what is it like when you're on the other side? When you're the one discovering that the person serving you possibly didn't wake up on the right side of the bed. Well this is what I experienced first hand when I visited Bowery Lane.
Located in O'Connell St just down from Wynyard, to look at Bowery Lane it is definitely inviting. Dark, cosy, dimly lit - as seems to be the décor de jour in Sydney. Upon entering, there was a hostess that came up to me on that fated day and that was when I ran into a spot of bother. At first she seemed nice, inviting, even smiley. I smiled back at her and said that I had a reservation for three under the name of 'Blanco'. She promptly looked it up and took me to a table in the centre of the dimly lit room. However, being the amateur food photographer that I am, I was hoping to get a table with just a smidgeon more light and so I turned to her and asked, 'Sorry to be a pain, is it at all possible to get a table in that other section out the front?'.
Now before I go on, I should mention that I had arrived before the morning rush and there were quite literally only two tables taken at this point. She looked up at me (with a face as though I had just asked if she were an orange unicorn) and quite flatly replied 'We are a city cafe, we are incredibly busy. You'll have to take this table'. At this point I am more than a little perplexed as I stare at the plethora of empty places and wonder if I am hearing this correctly. In my ignorance, I decided to try again with my most apologetic of voices and sweetest of smiles. 'Sorry, but it seems there are quite a few tables, would it not be at all possible to move?'. This was met with a curt 'We are actually fully booked unfortunately' and off she walked. I subsequently sat down, feeling a little put out and wondering if I had done something in particular to incite such a cold response.
After being seated for ten minutes the crowds began to pile in and the hungry mouths began to take their seats. She was right, they were incredibly busy. In the end, everything she had said turned out to be correct. However, as I sat there, I got increasingly irritated with the disdain with which my questions were met. Surely there is a way to inform the customer without belittling and patronising them? I decided to attempt to forget this issue of miscommunication with food, but although my granola was tasty, it was tainted with my altercation with the hostess.
I thought this was the end, but this was not my only grievance with Bowery Lane. I always feel as though I can't make a judgment without going somewhere at least twice - for all I know, my unhappiness was simply an anomaly - so I decided to go back. During my most recent visit, I sat myself in the corner and decided to order the decadent sounding 'West End Waffles' as my friend was running late. It arrived and I looked down, disillusioned. The $17 dish should have been more aptly named, the 'West End Waffle', for the plural in the name was certainly misleading. Although the honeycomb, pistachios, raspberries and various other toppings were delicious, one wonders where one's money is going - straight to the profit pile it appears. The flavours married well and the different textures made the dish exciting but I just wanted more. I wanted waffles plural.
In all, I can't say I was pleased with my experiences of Bowery Lane. I know that this may all appear trivial, perhaps even slightly petty, and I'm not claiming that it isn't. However, in a city with trendy dining spots around almost every corner, even the smallest of grievances can deter a diner from returning. When you go to a restaurant, the ambience, service and value can be just as important as the food you are getting in making your experience memorable. Unfortunately in this instance, Bowery Lane was memorable for all the wrong reasons.