Our experience with the food and the people of Barcelona only made us want to go back as soon as we can. From a 9 course, 45 euro meal at Restaurant Gelonch ...
Gelonch, eh ... hmmmm ... made ya want to go back, eh ...
Chambo, less so ...
While having that recent unmitigated disaster of a meal at Gelonch that I hinted at somewhere, I was seated next to a gregarious, gastronomic-going Parisian couple. During our interminable waits for plates, while sweating rivers due to a broken A/C system in high-humidity August and swilling warm white wine*, we talked Parisian restos ...
* " Why warm white wine, Chambo?
* because they had no ice cubes !
No fuckin' ice cubes ! Not one !
When was the last time you went to a resto aspiring for a Michelin star that couldn't chill a white wine ?
and this was totally unrelated to the A/C problems.
Did I mention that the meal starts with my asking for agua con gas
and they said that they had no bubbly water ???!!!??
"You don't serve bubbly water here?"
"We ran out."
"Ran out? I just walked by three places that are open and selling it?"
"Yeah. Can I go get you some? It would be my pleasure."
"Oh no, that's not necessary" (I think to myself : ummmm, it IS NECESSARY ! A customer just requested some !!!)
"I'll call them ! Really, no worries. There's a place 50 meters from here. They'll walk it over in a minute, they weren't busy at all!"
WTF ! Are you kidding me ! It is acceptable not to have bubbly water when it is being sold on within a sand wedge of your location ?
I just had their flat water instead, which started semi-cool and slowly but surely rose towards 90-ish degrees.
Actually the meal didn't start as I just described - I'm misreprenting the situation.
The meal started by their telling me that I couldn't order the full tasting menu (but that's why I came)... and on and on and on it went ...
Wait wait wait, I'm forgetting a good one. They actually said to me "How would you like to come back another night ?"
I laughed and said "Come back another night ? It's past 10pm right now. What do you recommend that I do for dinner tonight ? I'm kinda hungry and I'm standing in the restaurant where I have a reservation ? "
Other than the broken A/C, their reasons and excuses throughout the night were so searingly pathetic that your jaw truly drops.
This was such an inexcusable amateur hour that it was mind-blowing.
They had a full house dining and they were massively understaffed. But they assured me that was not the case in later discussion.
They had 2 front of house ... that's it for upstairs and downstairs ... they need at least four to pull off any reasonable service when full ... and the kitchen was clearly understaffed too ... dishes took forever to arrive and then they arrived when the dirty prior plate and utensils were still sitting there, causing a laughable juggling act (once resulting in food from the arriving plate falling off the plate and onto the table, causing them to apologize and make Chambo a new version that arrived who the hell knows how much longer ... I knew early on that I should have just walked out but it was late late late and I was already here and I was tired tired tired ... post-juggling, when the plate was put down, then no utensils FOR FIVE MINUTES cuz no one was seen on the upstairs premises for 5 minutes ! (I was just about to walk downstairs, say not a word and simply find and grab myself my utensils)... it was continuous like this .... continuous ! ... my warm white wine waits in the warm, iceless water bucket at a separate table and it waits and waits and waits. But my glass has been empty for another FIVE MINUTES ! I finally stand up and grab my bottle, pour myself a glass and place it on my table ... While up, I bow and ask my equally-thirty Parisian neighbors if I could humbly replenish their glasses from their bottle "Oui, monsieur, ca sera gentille. Tres gentille !
We'll soon make lemonade out of lemons and laugh at the ludicrousness of the experience. But frankly, I should be slightly pissed at them ... because as I sat down and waited waited waited for someone to take my order or ask if I wanted some (cold) liquid refreshment in the upstairs sauna, I noticed that not a single service person could be seen for ten minutes. I had politely asked my Parisian sauna-mates if the pace of their meal was proceeding reasonably. They told me yes. They lied.
The next night, when I enter Hisop, guess who's there ! My Parisian sauna-mates from the night before. We nod and smile at each other. While passing by their table shortly thereafter to use the facilities, I'll wink and say "C'est bien, diner avec la clime ... non ?
to which they respond "Air-conditioning - one of man's great inventions! " to which I respond "And service, too! "
Hisop was enjoyable. (By the way, I counted 6 service people at Hisop.)