Monday, December 21, 2015

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 12

After our trip to Gruyeres, we came back to the hotel and were once again enthusiastically greeted by a staffer.  The singer/piano player was back, too.  Bill and I went to our room and I said I thought I might prefer to order room service.  I was feeling really tired and fatigued after spending the day dodging kids.  We looked at the room service menu, but Bill seemed more interested in trying the hotel restaurant.  So we went downstairs, dressed in the same clothes we wore in Gruyeres.  I think we were clean.


Another shot of the Christmas lights.  I was on the balcony when I took this.



Someone got married.  We ran into the wedding party just before we were seated for dinner.  The mother of the bride teetered a bit on her high heels.

We were greeted by a young male waiter and a man I assume was the manager, as he was dressed in a business suit rather than a uniform.  They showed us to a table and handed us menus.  The waiter came over and immediately explained the menu, which was actually pretty self-explanatory.  He suggested a number of items, none of which really interested me and, I noticed, were among the highest priced selections offered.  Then he offered us each a glass of Champagne.

Now... I know that real Champagne by the glass from the Champagne region in France is expensive.  What I didn't know was that the waiter was pouring Louis Roederer Cristal.  When I saw the label on the bottle, I knew we were about to get sticker shock.  Cristal Champagne is very expensive.  If we had known that was what they were pouring, maybe we would have declined.  On the other hand, I was pretty much in "fuck it" mode at that point.  I knew we were going to have a big hotel bill anyway, so I just went with it.


Bill sipping very expensive Cristal.

I wasn't that hungry.  Neither was Bill.  And frankly, I was a bit perturbed that we were sipping glasses of Champagne priced at 39 francs a glass (close to $40).  Don't get me wrong.  The bubbly was very good, though I would have been just as happy with Taittinger, which is much less expensive than Cristal is.  Hell, I could have had a whole bottle of Taittinger on the train for about 80 francs.  Now I wish I had splurged then instead of in the restaurant.  On the other hand, at least now I can say I've tried Cristal.  I have the same opinion of it as I did when I tried Dom Perignon the first time.  I enjoyed it, but don't necessarily need to drink it again.

Anyway, since I wasn't that hungry, I decided to forego a starter.  None looked appealing enough to justify the high cost and I really just wanted to eat, take a shower, and go to bed.  The waiter brought us our sparkling water and an assistant brought us bread, along with butter, olive oil, and a very delicious smoked salmon spread.  Bill asked for the wine list.

Time passed.  The wine list never appeared.  Bill reminded the manager, who got our pushy waiter to bring it.  Naturally, the guy tried to make suggestions to us... I was getting pretty peeved, especially when he said we could have a half bottle.  No... I needed a full bottle, thanks, especially after making his acquaintance.  And we know what kind of wine we like better than a waiter who has never seen us before.  That didn't deter our obnoxious waiter, though, as he pointed out high priced bottles on the list.  Bill finally picked a white wine from Montreux, which came in a flowery bottle.  The waiter made a point of telling us that the winemaker also makes a limited edition syrah that is hard to acquire (and probably very expensive).


The amuse.  It was good.  Crab meat with guacamole and a chili sauce, along with cilantro.

As for dinner itself, I had sea bass and Bill had lobster.  Both were prepared very well and beautifully presented.  However, the waiter seemed to have a bit of a snotty attitude.  Though I hadn't said anything about the wait, he made a point of telling me that the food would soon be ready.  Then, he brought out a truffle and took it around the dining room, inviting people to smell it.  He was telling people that they could have some shaved on their meal if they wanted it (for an extra charge, of course).  I don't happen to like truffles and am very sensitive to and repelled by the way they smell, so as he started to offer me the truffle to sniff, I quickly said "Not for me, thanks."  I probably also made a face.  The waiter actually seemed offended.

I then watched him take the truffle, which he had in his bare hand and had waved under Bill's nose, and present it to people at other tables, inviting them to sniff it.  I couldn't help but wonder what he planned to do with that very pricey food item once he was finished passing it around the dining room like a joint.  Truffles are rare and very expensive.  Was he going to throw it out, now that so many people had sniffed it?   Somehow, I doubted it.  Anyway, that little trick, along with the Cristal shenanigans really put me off.


My sea bass.  It came with a clam fritter type thing-- see the standing up triangle.  There was also a savory custard.  


Bill's lobster was more interesting, especially since it included squid.  He doesn't normally go for squid, but said it was good in that particular dish.

When we were finished with our entrees, we asked to see the dessert menu.  Sure enough, our waiter had something to say about that, too.  He recommended the chocolate tart, which was, of course, the most expensive item.  Ordinarily, I love chocolate and I probably would have gone for that... but the waiter had pissed me off, so I chose the slightly cheaper creme brulee instead.


This was actually more like gingerbread with a layer of custard and burnt sugar top.  Little dollops of mousse were on top, along with a touch of ice cream on what tasted like shortbread.

Bill had a cheesecake, though at this point, I'd be hard pressed to describe it in detail.


Candies presented before the check.  We skipped the coffee.  I got up to use the ladies room and the waiter actually walked me there.  It was not necessary.

Our bill was about 233 francs, I think.  

The whole time we were eating, the pianist/lady singer was performing in the bar/lounge area.  She wasn't terrible, but seemed to be playing songs she didn't know that well.  The end result was a woman who wasn't emoting very much as she performed.  It sounded a bit like karaoke, albeit from someone who had a decent singing voice.  We did notice that she didn't use sheet music on a few numbers.  Those she played noticeably much better and with more soul than she did the pop songs of the 70s and 80s.  For instance, I was impressed by her version of Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme".  Bonus was that she didn't have to sing it.
  
At one point, she played a rather ridiculous rendition of "Careless Whisper" by Wham!  I have always thought that song was kind of cheesy, but when it's played much faster than intended and without any real passion, it just sounds stupid.  Bill had a good time watching my facial expressions as she played bloodless corny number after corny number culminating with a very annoying version of "Your Love Is Lifting Me Higher", a Rita Coolidge cover that was a hit in the late 70s (probably before the lounge singer was even born).  I actually cringed when she did that one, mainly because her piano playing sounded a bit like a doorbell that wouldn't shut off.  She could only play the simplest melodic line of that song, so it sounded very amateur.  She would have been better had someone who knew the song been accompanying her. 

I am a singer myself, have studied voice on and off for years, and am pretty good with music...  and while I can't play the piano worth a damn, I can definitely sing a song.  I say without hesitation or even arrogance that I could have done a better job singing than the musician they had working the room during our stay.  But only if I had an accompanist, of course...  :D  Also, the singer was younger and prettier than me... especially if one goes for long haired, exotic, Asian types, with nice figures.  She had that going for her.

Anyway, we thought the food in the restaurant was pretty good.  The service could have been much better than it was, mainly because I think suggestions are the kind of thing that shouldn't be offered unless someone asks for them.  Our waiter seemed very intent on running up our bill and not too interested in what we actually wanted to eat.  He needs to take a few lessons on what service really is and polish up his act a bit.  I mean, if you're going to pad a bill, at least try to do it in a less obvious way.  From now on, I will ask for a wine list before I accept a glass of Champagne from a waiter.  And next time I think I might prefer room service, I will definitely heed the impulse.

2 comments:

  1. Your waiter sounds almost like a caricature. The lounge singer sounds worse. Were you able to make any conclusions about her language proficiency? While her musical skills appeared to have gaps, I wonder if her linguistic skills do as well. That could account for some emotionless singing. then again, maybe she's just lousy.
    I, too, despise truffles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that you mention it, I don't know what her language skills were like. She never spoke to the crowd. She just played loudly and with little heart.

      The waiter was a bit of a jerk. I don't know what motivated his desire to turn a franc. My guess is that he was just money hungry. I wasn't impressed, though.

      Delete

Comments on older posts will be moderated until further notice.