Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Review: RedOak Boutique Beer Cafe (A Night of Bumps)

The RedOak Boutique Beer Cafe is in Clarence St, Sydney, just in case I'm mixing it up with any other establishments of the same name.

Mr Coffee and I ventured out there last Friday, in a group of 12. And it was a pretty bad experience.

Let me first preface this by saying - I think it had a lot to do with the fact that we picked one of their busy nights, and we were a large group.

That doesn't get away from the fact that it was still a pretty lousy experience.

The great part of the night was the company, but we brought that with us. Hahaha.

First whinge - the place was like a maze. A puzzle. So when a large group books, they find it difficult to put you anywhere, and we were rather carelessly put in a certain place, despite requesting a "quiet corner". The place is darn noisy and the acoustics bad, so forget about conversation, try sign language.

But heck, it's part of a Beer Cafe experience, isn't it? Noise?

That wouldn't have annoyed us so much if it hadn't been for the stupidity of the table arrangements. The way they placed the tables was so illogical, it was like they wanted to create a warren so the waiters had to bump in to people, when it was perfectly obvious to us there were places they could have arranged the same tables so there would have made room for easy carriage.

This caused waiters to have to squeeze past Mr Coffee, behind him, constantly, and one deliberately gave him a shove. That's when you really want to be like those guys on TV and can swing another guy with immunity. Or have a special sperpower that makes a guy get an electric shock, a big one, whenever he shoves your chair. A waiter tried to tell him he ought to have to squeeze himself in to the table into a position that would make Mr Coffee uncomfortable, simply to make up for staff stupidity.

Really, the whole RedOak experience was one where the waiters acted as if they were doing you a favour by allowing you to be there! One got Mr Coffee's order wrong, and when he brought out the wrong beer, and was corrected, tried to argue with Mr Coffee and convince him he'd really ordered what he'd brought out!

At another time, waiters brought out entrees and placed them in front of some of us. They rested there for a while, but just before our friends were about to dig in they said "Sorry, wrong table!" and picked them up, and carried them elsewhere!

I wouldn't like to be at that other table - I mean, who knows, someone could have eaten a bit of those entrees, or got spit in it or something! What was the waiter going to do next, argue and try to convince you that you had ordered table 20's spittle?

We waited quite a while for our entrees and main courses, our stomachs were GROWLING. We watched as people who came much later than us got their meals faster and finished up before us. It could be that they were trying to coordinate our meals as a large group - but how long really does it take to cook those meals? The wait was really far too long.

I had nothing against the actual meals when they came out, the portions were fair-sized and quite tasty. I had the chicken, which was fine.

Mr Coffee said the beer was ok, but was not really strong, and tasted like water when compared to beer you could get at the Bavarian or Belgian Beer Cafes.

If you have a MYER ONE card you can get a buy one get one free main meal here, but there's a maximum of two redemptions per table, so at twelve people per table, this didn't amount to much, and as those who paid the bill didn't specify the second and fourth most expensive should be those taken off the bill, the least expensive were taken off the bill.

With this deal, this would probably be a good deal for up to four people, and on a week night, in a smaller group you probably get far better service. The food, then, is not too bad. But if you're booking for a large group, steer clear away, this place is hell.


TimT said...

Sounds like one of those avante-garde cafes where they're attempting to do away with such bourgeiosse* concepts as geometrical table placement, the restrictive capitalist model of customer service or, you know, customers.

Like drinking in a Salvador Dali painting, basically!

*Not the right way to spell that word, but what the hell.

Maria said...

It's spelt lengthily and strangely enough that many people will assume it's correct, I think!

Mr Coffee said...

I still think the waiting staff at Redoak could easily go work in front-of-house at Telstra BigPond. They probably know just as much about broadband technology, and would fit right in with the customer service culture there.

Maria said...

Mr Coffee and I have decided to name the villain in my next attempt at quasi writing-quasi-humour, Redoak.

At least I'll get the joke, even if no one else does.

eyrie said...

I have a friend who thinks that Red Oak is just marvellous. I was cajoled into going there once and agree with you about the noise and the arrangement of the tables, but what really made me almost fall off my chair was the bill. They gave you a lot of free beer (which was so-so) with the tasting plates, but I didn't think the quality of the food warranted the price. And they use tea bags (just one per pot!) instead of tea leaves, which is just not on when you present yourself as a "fine dining" or "pseudo-fine dining" establishment.

I prefer the Belgian beer cafe, because they have buckets of mussels and TinTin posters on the wall.

Maria said...

Well, as Mr Coffee and I were saying, the RedOak wouldn't be too bad (pricewise) if you had a small group, and you had a MyerOne card. Say four people and two MyerOne cards, that could halve your main meals. I didn't think the food was fantabulous but it wasn't rotten so at half-price I'd be fine with that. I had the chicken so at $27 that was steep, but for $13.50 I would be ok with that. Probably quite pleased, as it's hard to get sit down main meals for that price any more in Sydney(darn).

But I'm with you, I prefer the Belgian.

Mussels are yummy, and if it's a Wednesday they go half-price too! Very generous servings and all sorts of flavours. I like the TinTin au congo, I've enjoyed the blue cheese ones ... and the mushroom ... heck I've tried quite a few and very much liked it!

Maria said...

Oh ... and as for the tasting plates ... I did not get one myself, but really, good thing too as I am not a beer drinker. Some of my friends got a couple of tasting plates instead of dinner. There is little food, lots of little beer drinks, in the end they could not finish the beer but I would say it probably was not much food. And a tasting plate is $20 - with 4 tiny morsels and then 4 little cups of beer to go with it.

I would suggest that they are better for a group in the middle (or a couple) while you wait, say a couple sharing one as an appetiser then each ordering a main. Or good for ordering if you've already eaten. But the proportions don't really suggest they replace the mains.

On the other hand I have heard of these girls who when they go out to lunch, don't order mains at all but skip straight to dessert and eat lots because that's their favourite, so each to their own, according to what they like and can fit in, I guess!

Maria said...

Hey I just looked - the Belgian says on its website HALF-PRICED MUSSELS for everyone 6PM - 10PM Wednesdays


Is this "6PM" from the time you order, the time you begin eating or what?"

Because it also says that every Monday-Thurs, if you have joined them after 4pm and left the atble bby 6.30pm you can get 20% off your bill!

Now, is it possible to combine that?

Order your mussels at 6PM - can you get them, squaff 'em down and be out by 6.30PM on a Wednesday, getting both half-priced mussels and a further 20% off?

Anyone want a challenge?

Please post intimate details of your experience if you have successfully completed the Mussel Muscle Mission!

eyrie said...

Well, I suppose the prices seemed so hot because I was in a group-dining situation and certain members of the party ordered much more than others but insisted on splitting the bill evenly. I got suckered into the cheese tasting plate because I love cheese. I'm not really a beer drinker, but I like Japanese beer and some European beers.

But no, I wasn't impressed and at least one other member of the party agreed with me.

Really, Lowenbrau is the place to go if you want a nice, well-priced chunk of pig's belly and sufficient alcohol to wash it down.

Maria said...

"but insisted on splitting the bill evenly"

Ahhh yeah, that happened to me. It probably was good value for the man in our group who had beer, an entree and the most expensive main on the menu, on the other hand there were some people who just had the cheap main and maybe a little drink. We split the bill evenly too, and I paid for more than I ate & drank even though we split it after we used the MYER ONE cards to reduce the bill by two mains.

I don't mind splitting a bill generally, and it especially works at those restaurants when you have lots of dishes in the middle (although you may eat a little less or more, than others). Even though I am usually not the bigger eater of the group.

However I generally think:

When you go out in a group and people are ordering there own things and it's painfully obvious that there are vast discrepancies (for instance some people ordering three courses and others just ordering an entree) then it's probably better to paty for what you order, or else it's polite for the bigger eaters to pay some more, even if it's not calculated to the cent.

For instance, I've been out when we've split a bill but a few people didn't drink alcohol whereas some drank two rounds of beers. The ones who drank offered to pay an extra $10 each towards the bill.

I read an advice book on etiquette that said that if you are often paying more - and there is a distinct price discrepancy, not a matter of a couple of dollars, then what you should do is something like this:

When the bill is being calculated, get in first and say "I just had the salad so here's my [x amount of dollars]" and put it in (you'd have to have the change on you I guess). Round the price of your smaller meal up and also add in a tip. If you do that no one can really complain you are being a stinge. That way you can probably pay $17 for a $14.50 salad instad of $37 which covers everyone else's beers, appetiser, main and dessert once added up and divided out with your salad.

On the other hand you could try eating like a hog and ordering the most expensive stuff out of spite so they are paying for you!

eyrie said...

I'm inclined to agree with you, but you do get into these awkward situations with etiquette, especially when the group includes people you don't know well. I myself would always offer to pay more if I had ordered an extra or more expensive course or an additional round of drinks and I would consider someone who didn't do so to be very rude. But I would also feel that it would be very rude of me to indicate, even in a subtle way, that I disapprove. So you're stuck with subsidising their two deserts or five drinks out of a sense of good manners. It was very bad on that occasion as I was on a tight budget at the time and so was the man seated next to me (a close friend), so we were both trying to keep our costs down.

I just looked up Lowenbrau, inspired by a sudden lust for pig's belly, and, jeez, the prices have gone up since I last went there! I guess it's the "Sydney surcharge".