First, a guidebook or review only gives you old news. First the place is reviewed, or worse, someone collects third party reviews Then the review is edited. Then published. Then read by you. Then, eventually used!
Second, you have no idea who the reviewers were in most cases. Readers? Diners asked for their opinion? What kind of taste do they have and what is their level of experience? How do you know what they call charming isn’t an awful place that microwaves their food? How do you know that what they call nice, isn’t pretentious? The simple answer is, since you don’t get to interact with them and ask questions about their recommendations, you don’t know their point of view about these things.
Third, it’s written and then done. It doesn’t revisit or speak to people or update itself for your trip…
Fourth, what if you have a problem, change your mind, or something doesn’t go according to plan? The guidebook is useless.
Here is a recent true experience that highlights all four of these points:
I had been reading about a great little restaurant, with a “brilliant” young chef for a while. The place was teeny, tiny. The location was good. And I thought, this will be great either for a private dinner for a small group of my clients, or simply to recommend to my clients for a night out in a charming, authentic and well priced, casual gourmet bistro meal. But, and here’s the big “but”. I never recommend a place I haven’t tried. So, I went.
I was told I could only eat at 7 or 7:30pm, though I booked well in advance. Okay. I arrived at 7:30pm. The place was adorable. The waitress was lovely. The kitchen was open and the chef was visible and quietly working. All good signs. After about 40 minutes, I had not been shown the blackboard menu, and my order had not been taken. For a solo diner, that’s really inexcusable. Seeing that there were still 6 people ahead of me who had to order (a little less than 1/2 the restaurant) and making some calculations given there was one chef and one waitress, I decided to invent a polite excuse so I could leave. I said I had a 9pm appointment and as it was a little after 8pm, I was certain I’d never finish in time, and was very sorry, but could I pay for my glass of wine. I’d have to come back another time, I said (and meant). The chef was a bit brusque, and said, why? There would be no problem serving me and getting me out before 9pm as they had another seating at 9pm. Now, here’s where someone with experience clicks in….
Immediately, that brought three major problems to mind:
1. They planned to serve me 3 courses (first, main and dessert) along with a check within 45 minutes? That meant they’d be able to prepare 2 of the 3 (assuming dessert was pre made) within 10 minutes. That meant it had to be microwaved Or precooked and microwaved…You can’t cook a duck breast in only 5 minutes etc. Not a good sign. Plus given the tables needing to order, and the one chef, it meant nothing whatsoever was made on the spot, not a pot on the stove.
2. That then made me wonder how fast I was going to have to eat….If it took them 5 minutes to prepare each microwaved, or cold plate, then that gave me about 7 minutes per course before their next seating. That sounded like a lot of stress!!!
3. There were NO SMELLS in the restaurant. There were two very friendly diners next to me, eating a braised lamb concoction (that truly did need to be made well in advance –and was better prepared like that) but there was no smell of food in the restaurant. Also, the couple on my other side ordered dessert, which had to have come directly from the fridge –as it arrived in less than 30 seconds. Not a great sign.
So instead of deciding to return, I’ve decided that the reviews and the hype were inaccurate and Bliss Travels clients will not be going to this restaurant…Pas de tout!