I’m useless at complaining in restaurants. I find it much less confrontational to pretend everything was fine and then go home and and write about any shortcomings on here. I know restaurant owners and chefs always say they would prefer to hear any negative feedback while you are actually at the restaurant but I can’t bear to make a scene and spoil my meal.
I’m taking a new approach now though after a fabulous response to some constructive criticism at Carlos Grossi’s (son of Guy Grossi) salumi bar Ombra which has opened next door to Grossi Florentino. I went there for lunch with my friend Joyce and after ordering a selection of things to share from the menu our waiter said he would bring the dishes out in stages rather than all at once. That was fine by us but we didn’t realise quite how long the timing between each plate would be.
Ombra prides itself on its salumi and makes lots of it in house so it was good that the selection of melt in the mouth pancetta, gamey venison salami and lonza were spot on ($18). I also loved the arancini ($4 each) with their crisp, fried exterior and soft filling of rice studded with pumpkin and goats cheese.
The crisp 12 hour lamb ribs ($16) were tender and had us both gnawing the meat off the bone but the wait was so long that we managed to work up an appetite between plates. Nduja (a spicy sausage paste) and rice polenta ($16) looked spectacular but the texture of both components of the dish was too similar and again service was at a glacial pace.
After an apology for the wait we were finally served our ordered pizza topped with eggplant and anchovies. The pizza base was impressively thin and pliant but the pizza suffered from too much oil.
By now our lunch had taken almost two hours and Carlo (who was serving us) asked us if everything had been ok. Often a two hour lunch can be great but not when you are not drinking wine and seeing other tables arrive after you and leave while you are still waiting for courses. So Joyce bravely ventured that the food had been great but the service had been too slow. I felt horrible but he handled this piece of constructive criticism perfectly. He apologised and comped the cake and coffee we had ordered.
It wasn’t something we expected at all but showed me how actually making a complaint when there is a problem doesn’t have to ruin your meal. If it’s handled well it can leave you feeling even more positively towards a place. I may just be a changed woman.
Details: Ombra, 76 Bourke St Melbourne 3000 (Ph 03 9639 1927)
Damage: Reasonable. Our bill came to $76 for two without wine.