Louise: Undertrained staff ruins it all (6.8)

Readers who follow my writings know that hospitality and professionalism are taken as seriously by me as food quality. Being hosted by someone who cares about and knows what they are doing can salvage an imperfectly prepared meal, but even the most exquisitely prepared dish could not remedy a server that upsets you whether out of pure incompetence, neglect or simply having an attitude. After all, what can be worse than losing precious time dining at an establishment that frustrates you rather than offers you a pleasant mental space for recharging and socializing?

Louise is a beautiful restaurant sitting inside a two storey heritage building that triggers colonial nostalgia, its outer walls hanging a proud Michelin star shield. Beneath the façade, however, seems to be a fairly undertrained team where servers were either nonchalant or quite unable to handle communication properly. The food that we had were elegantly plated and produce was of good quality. Not 9/10 good, but solid. The frustration that our server had caused from an incredible lack of competence, however, revealed serious loopholes in the restaurant’s management expertise. To avoid the risk of ruining anyone’s dining experience, and in light of the number of choices we have in the city, I would not recommend Louise.

Food Rundown

Bread and pastries
Fresh bread and very nice butter

“Polmard” beef tartar, French fries, salad, $258
The tartare was very finely ground with a buttery mouthfeel and I wonder how it is that an aged steak could help the flavor grow into such a fine balance of delicate and sharp. Seasoning was minimal so as not to distract one from the meat itself. I had beef tartare at another restaurant a day earlier and the difference was particularly stark.

Mediterranean Octopus Salad, $208
The octopus salad comes with cucumbers, tomato confit, sweet piquillos and pesto. The octopus was chewy but tender, with a slightly citrusy flavor, pairing fine with a crunchy salad base that looks and tastes like summer, or the Mediterranean, if you will.

Brittany Dover Sole “Meunière” with spinach and fondant potatoes, $1088
If you do go on to read the Problem Rundown, you will find out why we did not eat this.

Problem Rundown

Before entering the restaurant, I completed a health declaration for both of us, as is the norm everywhere else. The server glanced at it and, seeing that I had only written one name, questioned rhetorically whether “it was two names or not“. We thought that she could just have asked me to fill in both my name and my partner’s directly. But I could still give her the benefit of doubt there.

What was really astonishing was how the server and the kitchen had handled our special requests, the foremost being that we would like to finish our meal within fifty minutes. Our server was comradely and assured us that was no problem at all. We were also subsequently told that our main course, which was sole meunière, only takes fifteen minutes to prepare. That, along with a beef tartare and an octopus salad to start, should be well within our time budget. In the end, our main course came at 13:10 (we arrived promptly at noon and ordered within five minutes of sitting down). In the interim, we had checked numerous times about the fish with our server and the only phrase he would repeat was that it would come as soon as possible and that it was already prioritized by the kitchen, and this was despite my specific question that he let us know exactly how much longer the preparation would take. The third time I had asked the server, he finally agreed to check with the kitchen and came back with an answer of 2+4 minutes. It took a little over ten minutes from his answer until the fish was placed before us. Being pressed for time and having waited about forty-five minutes between our appetizers and main courses, as well as experiencing a difficult time communicating with our server whose English was incredibly unclear, we simply left the restaurant without eating our main course.

In addition to that, we mentioned that we’d like the dressing for the octopus salad to be served on the side. That request was also mishandled. The salad came drenched in oil and when I spoke to our server, he stated that as the octopus was marinated in oil, the oil on the greens came from the octopus. But that was highly unlikely, as the entire salad was evenly coated in a rich layer of oil. It was so difficult to communicate with our server that I just ordered another straight salad without oil/ dressing to save the hassle.

My partner felt so offended and frustrated that he did not feel the restaurant could right his experience through discounting or other means, so he paid the bill in full before speaking with the manager, Marc. Marc was somewhat apologetic and sent over a message later that day, hoping to make up for our experience. I appreciate his effort to reach out, although we were too discouraged by our experience to want to return any time soon.

And oh, when my partner asked to speak to the manager, Marc nodded and said he was the manager. In his message, though, his title was Head Sommelier, which is a great example that about sums up the lack of clarity and competence in communication at Louise. To be fair, if we didn’t have any requests, we may just have been satisfied, but I had greater expectations for Louise. After all, it is the ability to handle the ad hoc needs of diners that is the real test for a restaurant’s professionalism.

$$, French
PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central