Over the past year I’ve become quite reticent to buy restaurant vouchers from sites like Groupon and the various copycats it has inspired. This is mainly due to a few bad experiences where we felt we received substandard service because we weren’t paying full price. I won’t name names because we didn’t make more of a fuss at the time when really we should have; if you weren’t willing to complain to the establishment at the time then you shouldn’t be complaining online as they were never given the opportunity to rectify matters.
Of course, you can see it from the restaurants side too, margins are thin enough as it is and the groupon sites demand very aggressive price reductions and more gallingly only reimburse businesses for vouchers redeemed. This means that they keep all the money for unredeemed offers even though those offers never would have been purchased were it not for the business in question.
In these circumstances I can imagine how frustrating it would be for a restaurant for people to come in, only drink tap water, stick rigidly to the terms of the voucher, order no extras and have in effect a free night. But what we would normally do is splash out on a more expensive bottle of wine than usual and maybe pay extra to get better dishes not covered by the deal so for us to still be treated like scroungers was particularly insulting. And in the end, no one is forcing your business to sign up with these companies, if you do engage with them you know what you’re getting into: treat every customer the same regardless.
All of this is to say that our experience in Rock Lobster could not have been more different: we were given a great table, the staff, both front and back of house, went out of their way to accommodate our son and I even got an upgrade on my starter because one of the ingredients was out of stock. Since you ask, it was four (rather than the usual three) of the fattest, sweet scallops perched on rounds of pressed confit guinea fowl and a truffle hollandaise curiously lacking any truffle flavour, not actually a bad thing because I think truffle oil is little more than a gimmick.
There was also a fabulous crab cake with a punchy pepper and tomato sauce topped with an elaborate net of what I think was kadaifi pastry. We had Maine style lobster rolls to follow, the bread properly crispy and buttery, with excellent chips (surprising how many places get something as simple as chips wrong). A small portion of fish and chips with peas and tartar sauce was excellent, all crunchy shell and soft steamed interior but it was a bit strange the type of fish wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Still, I can’t imagine they’re committing the heinous foodie crime of serving fish from sources that, whisper it, aren’t sustainable.
The little fella was getting restless by now (note to the maître d’, it’s probably not the best idea to seat a two year-old at the table right beside the light switches for the whole floor including the kitchen) meaning we had to forgo desserts and as I was driving and my wife is pregnant neither of us had the glass of wine that came with the voucher. There’s a virtuous circle at work here: we still got good food at a good price and the restaurant didn’t have to take as much of a hit on our meal they would normally. Everybody’s happy and isn’t that how it should be all the time?