Atlantic City Restaurant Week has finally arrived and as someone who knows this island inside and out, I look forward to this week (and the ‘surprise’ extended week) with a hearty anticipation. No matter what the newspapers and magazine articles and television shows can say about my troubled city, I know that there are some amazing eateries to be found all over it, from the hidden gems down side streets to the major casino tourist destinations, there is a lot of delicious food to be had and this is the best time to enjoy it all.
Rita and I quickly made a few reservations for some choice destinations and the first on our list was Gordon Ramsay’s Pub & Grill at Caesars, although she had been there before, this was my first time. As an anglophile, I have passed by Ramsay’s place many times looking longingly at the Disney-esque, Brit-themed restaurant that took over the former Mia’s in the main lobby of Caesars Hotel. The cute tartan outfits and mod-punk look of the wait staff was charming from a distance. But I never seemed to find myself going there for lunch or dinner, I had heard the menu was rather pricey, undoubtedly to pay the rent for that choice location, and as I said above, I know far too many places in the city where I can get great food without having to empty my wallet. But now I had the chance to give it a go and see what all the fuss was about. Our reservation was for 2:15p and we had arrived in plenty of time to check in with the hostess, who searched her computer to find our name and told us there would be a little wait time and for us to stand along the railing. By the looks of the restaurant, they were very busy, it was Sunday afternoon and the weather had been beautiful so the casino and the city was bustling with tourists. so we weren’t troubled by having to wait a few minutes.
And then a few minutes longer.
And then many more minutes longer.
By now, people were walking up and getting seated and my grumbling stomach was getting annoyed that we were still standing there.
Finally, the hostess seemed to look in our direction and realize that, oh, we were waiting to be seated and she asked our name, again, and looked over her computer screen, then she finally gave the seating hostess some menus and directions to wherever they had decided to finally put us. Finally.
By now, it’s nearly a half hour after our reservation but we were getting closer to getting fed. And getting a cocktail, if you know us, you know we’re going to drink.
Another five or so minutes went by, the two of us had already decided on our courses and were engaged in that pass-the-pepper conversation you inevitably have as you wait for your waiter to come over. By now we were getting a bit annoyed, this had become tedious and we were thirsty and hungry. Our waitress arrived, all bubbly and exuberant, took our order but had to tell Rita that the dessert she was looking forward to, namely the chocolate fondant, was sold out and everyone was getting the toffee pudding. We accepted our dessert fate and told her to hurry up with our drinks (Guinness for her, a dirty martini for me). Of course, we waited another interminable time to get even that bit of solace, and I was getting less and less enamored with our friend from across the pond and his Pub.
Now here’s where I have to note that the staff, and there was a lot of them, all seemed to be working very, very hard. They bustled to and fro, moving plates, cleaning tables, setting out tableware, punching the POS, rushing by our table, it was controlled chaos but I kept thinking, Bloody hell, all this action and yet we are STILL sitting here waiting and waiting for our courses to arrive. What could they all possibly be doing that’s more important than serving the paying customers? Especially paying customers who drink!
Our first course arrived, I had chosen the English Pea and Ham Soup and Rita chose the Scotch Egg, the presentation was impeccable and my soup was tasty but by the time our main course arrived, I had wished for a much larger portion to tide me over. Yes, once again we had to wait far too long in between courses. When it finally arrived, I was very happy I chose the hearty Chicken Pot Pie as my second and Rita’s Bangers and Mash looked really good, with three individual sausages made of chicken, beef, and pork over a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with a giant onion ring. I tried to cut into my Pot Pie but the dough topping was a bit tough/gooey, it was extremely hard to cut with a knife and I simply folded it over and pushed aside in the bowl to soak up the creamy chicken broth that contained the freshly cut and cooked vegetables. It was a bit bland, even with the fresh veggies, but it was filling and I was very hungry at this point. I did manage to break up the dough crust topping and eat that as well, but as before, it wasn’t anything special, especially with soaking up a bit of the aforementioned bland broth. Another wait and we got our dessert course, and as I said, we both had to have the only choice available, the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Surprisingly, it was really, really good! The toffee poured over the pudding (which I suspected was previously hot at some point before it got to our table) and the tasty bit of vanilla ice cream was a great finish to a rather ho-hum meal. After another long wait to get our check, we finally paid and hurriedly left to get an after-lunch cocktail elsewhere. We had no intention of staying there for another round, Prince William would be crowned king before we got it.
After watching Kitchen Nightmares (on BBC America most mornings), and seeing how hard Ramsay is on American restaurateurs, I have to say this foray across the pond is not his finest hour. I’m not sure if it was poor planning, over-booking the reservations, or incompetent staffing that contributed to the dreadful service we received, but I can guarantee you that if we had been paying the usual listed prices for our meal, I would have started a revolution all over again!
Thankfully, the happy hour at the Continental on the Pier/Playground (whatever Blatstein is calling it nowadays) helped us forget our regrettable and forgettable lunch, and ensured the day wasn’t a total waste.
Next up: Girasole, a bit of heaven, draped in Versace!