Saturday, 19 July 2008

Eat Me -Eating, drinking, not as merrily as one should

Oy Vey! .. as the Jewish exclaim, meaning "Oh My!" Or something like that. 

More than a month and a half since my last post, but I'd like to think it makes for a far better blog instead of trying to keep you riveted by describing my every involuntary habit. 

To keep you reading, I'm going to do three at one go, seperately - yes, yes, overreaching I know, but don't stop me now! I'm having such a good time, I'm having a ball, so said Freddie M. 

Couple of Friday nights ago, gal pals, cocktails and eats at 1Twenty Six, at the old Big Splash spot along East Coast Parkway. I’m over One Rochester so I wondered what the folks behind the outdoor-bar-with-hip-plastic-resort-furniture and foliage franchise, which they championed at Rochester Park, could do here. 

1Twenty Six is spot on as far as landscape and design go. It feels like the full approximation of the owners' dreams from Rochester and then some. For one, they’ve grabbed the best spot: beautifully billowing sea breeze, space, and nothing but the end of the highway and trees after, so no distractions or possibilities of ugly buildings overhanging the environment.

Everything is cool and loungey and the plants are lush enough without getting irritating, and the lighting gives good glow. 

We decided to eat outside - the best spot really - under a canopied area (the rest of the seating surrounds on a raised platform and in secluded sorta groves) where only snacks and platters are served in the food department. Loved the platters - decently prepared and fairly generous (given the average $38 per platter price tag). Service was quick; drinks were mixed in literal seconds and adult in composition and size, and loved the customised stools that double as side tables. Nice. 

But, none of that mattered when during the course of the evening it was deemed quite allright to zap our hearing, brush us off, or, indeed, tell us how to enjoy our night. 

With the owners of the place clearly in sight at the central hot pink hued bar that Friday night, and I assume with their own hearing intact, what’s with the overtly loud music and mis-placement of speakers in the central, canopied area? Music is an integral part of practically any entertainment facility, and no one is asking for muzak levels - or genres, however, why launch an outdoor, seaside lounge-gastrobar, and then have everyone yelling at each other to hear themselves over the music? 

My polite complaint to a waitress at this point was met with a “this is the level we play music at”, followed by the next tier - a manager’s “can we move you further back”. The staff are efficient all right, but something's missing. Everyone's a little too fast, too sure, too ready to resolve, yet overall, it's as if they've somewhere better to be. 

After we agreed to being moved back, kind souls that we are, the same manager made the requisite clucking, soothing sounds, and satisfied that he’d done the necessary, turned around while I was still talking to him, and.. left.

What topped it off? You’re actually told you get one round of water free. Clearly it's an issue, for the wait staff appear almost embarrassed to mention this. Thereafter you pay for your water. Seriously? I can't figure out the clientele being catered to here then: the ambience says well-exposed, fairly sophisticated adult, but the attitude reeks of the sort doled out to overstaying teenage study groups in a fast food outlet. Which one is it? 

All of it seemed to smack a little of that particular degree of unfortunate self-indulgence a number of new bars and restaurants have been dishing up lately.

I'd say, 1TwentySix, show your staff the right way, for I can't blame them for following orders. Know and respect your clientele, and pay attention to reasonable requests. And, if you're going to charge for water and are happy with increasing your carbon footprint by forcing patrons to pay for the bottled variety, then declare it from the start. Otherwise, these are embarrassing, indelicate slips for an already recognised brand, that do disappoint. 

Lastly, may I suggest a lighting analysis for your indoor restaurant, as well as a discussion about the space between the tables. Everyone came off looking pallid and cramped, and looked as if they wished they were outdoors with us going deaf instead. 


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