Al Nafoorah, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray - the big let down
There were a couple of posts scheduled for this week both here and on my work blog, but they all fell by the wayside on Thursday evening at Al Nafoorah. My friends and I are great fans of Lime & Tonic. They do a superb job of curating experiences for you - and I mean experiences though most of them are dining related.
They sent us the heads up on a "Unique Menu by Joe Barza" that sounded just up our street and so we collaborated on Twitter and booked the dinner for 1st May as early as 1st April! So far so good. I of course researched a bit on Joe Barza and knowing what Jumeirah Group stood for, was so looking forward to it. All of us were. The thing about expectations is that you are liable to be monumentally let down.
Let me recount my (our) full experience.
Despite having booked so well in advance, we were allocated (probably) the worst table in the restaurant - next to the service counter and almost at the entrance to the service door from the kitchen. And though we had subsequently added two more to our table of 3 within the last week, the table was not set or ready for us at 8pm when we had booked it for. This set the tone for the rest of the evening.
What we expected was an impeccable table, a waiter that was well aware of the fact that we had opted for the set menu through Lime & Tonic and since it WAS Jumeirah, perhaps someone to explain the courses of the 'unique menu', offer recommendations on accompanying wine, ensure that we had attention without intruding, and, of course, sublime food.
What we got.
Waiting staff that had no clue how to behave so close to dining guests - they were loud and noisy - we had to complain to get them to take notice and change their habits. This was made worse since all of us are quite discerning diners and this is not our first 5-star rodeo. Two of them were hoteliers themselves and one of them worked for Hotel PR. So it did not bode well.
We had been waiting for around 30 mins and had to ask for a wine menu before one was offered to us.
We had one set of cutlery that we assumed were for the starters. Starters (normally) are served first to ladies and then to the gents. But we live in the 21st century and understand that this doesn't need to apply, but some of us got our starters first and then the others followed. They were served at random and from the wrong side and across the table in front of a diner. We might as well have been at Automatic or Bu Qtair, for the service etiquette we were shown in a restaurant and hotel of this class. To make this worse, they brought in the next course without clearing the first one. And we had to ask for cutlery. The head waiter, in the meanwhile, decided he needed to wipe his sweaty brow with his bare hands before serving our course. This first hot starter course of seared scallops was served in a cold dish with cold spinach. Not brilliant. And one of us was served raw scallops. They did take away the plates and brought us lukewarm replacements. We were too hungry to argue.
By this time, the manager got a bit involved. So things did get marginally better in service but by this time we were inured to the level of service.
What is surprising is that one of the couples said they had had similar experiences in one of the other restaurants in the hotel - Voi. And since then I have heard similar stories about Al Nafoorah.
The food itself (for me) was not wow and did not live up to the hype. It wasn't bad and looked pretty but not worth the hype (IMHO) but then food is quite subjective.
This has given me such a bad taste that I will be loath to go back to Zabeel Saray in a hurry. I think the hotel needs to do some very serious service training for its staff and attitudes. At the end of the day, it reflects on the chain and its reputation.
Lime & Tonic, it is NOT your faultbut I would check experiences with this particular hotel before recommending them. Folks don't let this post reflect on Lime & Tonic, I have had many more fabulous experiences with them and only this one lousy one.