Monday, August 25, 2008

Lemaire - Doubly Disappointing

Last month my hubby and I went to Lemaire at the Jefferson to celebrate his birthday. Big mistake! He wrote the following letter to express our feelings that evening:

To the Management and Staff at Lemaire and the Jefferson Hotel:

My wife and I dined at your establishment last night and, frankly, our experience was less than stellar. In fact, sub-par is the word that comes to mind.

We did experience some good things. The hostess held out a warm greeting and seated us at a window. She also congratulated me on my birthday. It was very nice that you read my comments/request on the Open Table reservation and thank you for utilizing Open Table. Our cocktails were delicious and refreshing. We liked that the bar featured a Pimm’s Cup and a Tequila Sunrise. We ordered a 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from your wine list. A 2006 appeared. For an establishment such as yours, not to have updated the list to reflect the change in year or at least for the staff to alert us to this fact is an oversight. The wine was presented to us and I was asked to taste it before I had finished my cocktail. A minor glitch in attention to detail, but still a glitch all the same.

For appetizers we ordered the Vidalia Onion Bisque and the Fried Oysters. Both were excellent. It shows that you take pride in your seafood selection. We definitely thought we were in for a real treat for the remainder of the evening. Alas, it was not meant to be. I was so delighted by the sweetness and quality of the oysters; I asked the waiter where they were from. He said he would follow up with the kitchen. He never came back with the information, even though he cleared our plates and delivered new dishes. The wait between our first and second courses was longer than it should have been. Another table arrived after us and had finished two courses and left by the time our second course arrived. This may have explained why our spoon bread was room temperature. If this dish had been served piping hot, it would have been the hit of the evening. My wife would have raved about it for months; instead, she took a few bites, commented on the lack of heat, and we took it home with us. This morning she microwaved it for breakfast and thought it was much better hot. My filet mignon, although a good cut of meat and cooked to my order, was lacking some of the promised flavors. Did you use bourbon and brie in the dish?

The most disappointing and to the point of downright annoying was the end of our meal. As we waited for second courses to arrive, most other diners had left. As we made our way through the second course we thought at least we will have a quiet romantic end to our meal. We never should have entertained this thought. Even though we were still eating, the wait staff began noisily setting up for breakfast the next day. This was at 9 PM. As we ate, all we could hear was clatter from silverware and dishes. In fact, one waiter clattered down coffee cups and 10 minutes later another waiter took them up again with the same vigorous amount of clatter. The noise bordered on rudeness as we hurried through the rest of the meal so we could escape to a more peaceful landscape. We did not hurry enough. The dining room next to ours also started setting up the breakfast buffet. We heard what sounded like pots and pans crashing down an interminable number of steps. It was so loud, my wife jumped and exclaimed about some potential kitchen disaster. 10 minutes later, we heard a similar cacophony. We then knew it must be some regular nightly ritual. But why would this occur when diners are still present? To top it off, my wife was presented a piece of birthday cake and was congratulated by the waiter instead of myself. The thought was appreciated but the attention to detail was again missing.

We moved to Richmond six years ago and always wanted to experience Lemaire’s storied hospitality, service, and cuisine. Unfortunately, at this point, we are not likely to return and we cannot recommend this place to others. I hope with the coming renovation, that not only the surface features will improve (particularly the fuzzy sound speaker tortuously sending out classical music), but that kitchen coordination, wait service, and attention to details will also be addressed.

Thank you for your attention,

About a week later an employee from the Jefferson (my husband did not catch his name, unfortunately) called and apologized profusely and then told my husband to expect something in the mail. We were pleased that we received a phone call and thought it would be some sort of gift certificate.

That was three weeks ago. We waited patiently, but three weeks seemed to be more than enough time to receive something in the mail.

Needless to say, we have been disappointed twice now due to lack of service and attention to details. Why would I or anyone else shell out big bucks for such a lousy experience?

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in vino veritas said...

we just had a similar experience except our oysters were not nearly as tasty - and they were completely out of the (2) two bottles of wine we requested. simply unacceptable.

Janet from Richmond said...

We went there in May and had a fabulous meal from beginning to end. It was the night of VCU's graduation so we were expecting things to go slowly but they did not. I hate when a place is inconsistent..I would hate to recommend and then they have the experience you did.

veron said...

Hubby and I went there for our
Anniversary one year and was extremely
Underwhelmed. We never returned.

RVA Foodie said...

The chances of my ever going to Lemaire just went from 4% to 3%. Wouldn't mind trying that onion soup, though.