Mercer Tavern – A Series of Unfortunate Events
I know I haven’t written a review on WordPress in a very long time. I have been enjoying some great food experiences and will have to catch up at some point!
I really don’t enjoy having to write about a negative experience. I would much rather leave it in the past and move onto something more positive. Really. On the other hand, I would not want someone to have to experience the same thing if it can be avoided.
Here is a bit of the back story:
We are a group of friends that started getting together once a week on Tuesdays. There can be as few as 6 of us, or as many as 20. We are very laid back. When we see that the restaurant is busy, we are patient with our server. I would like to think that we are a pretty fun group to have in your restaurant. We tip well for good service. We have been doing this for a little over two years now.
We are currently looking for our next “Cheers” – It was Social Modern Pub, which is alas, no longer.
Our friend Paul was the kitchen manager at Social Modern. We LOVED his food. It has been a while since SMP closed its doors and we really missed Paul and his cooking. Paul started working at the Mercer Tavern and asked if we would be interested in stopping by. I made it happen the following Tuesday.
Everyone that knew Paul was excited to try Mercer, because if Paul works there, it has got to be good, right? I had one bad experience there about a month or two after they had opened. The food was bland and the service was extremely slow. I decided that I would give them another try.
We had a group of 17 people. As the server started to seat us she told us about the beer bucket Tuesday special and informed us that groups of ten or more people are charged an automatic gratuity of 18%. My guests were instantly not impressed. We had never been to a pub in our two years of doing this that charged an automatic gratuity. I can understand in a restaurant – but not in a pub.
Looking at the menu and trying to decide what we wanted to drink turned out to be a chore. The menu had not been updated. What was listed as being on tap was not what they had. A pint runs you a minimum of $6. Yes that is correct – the draught is expensive. The bottled beer was also expensive and surprisingly didn’t have a lot of the “local” breweries to choose from.
On to the menu… The time that I had visited previously, there was some decent selection on the menu. This time around it was your basic gastro-pub fare with appies, burgers and a small amount of entrees. Fish and chips $20? I checked the menu to see if it said “Sawmill”anywhere – nope!
One of my guests asked if there was a food special and he was told “no”. There was a steak sandwich special listed on the board coming into the tavern as well as on the chalkboard specials overhead. Disappointing.
I had ordered the Reuben with fries. It was nothing spectacular, but at least my choice was edible. Not so much for my other guests. The one guest that did order the steak sandwich – it was cold when it finally came out. The burgers were charred. The chicken burgers were also charred so badly that one of my guests only took a couple of bites of her burger and couldn’t eat any more.
There was nothing at all spectacular about the food. The one positive thing I can say is that the presentation of the one steak sandwich at our table was beautiful.
Now the service… I have worked as a server in a high end steakhouse once-upon-a-time. I know how it feels to deal with difficult and demanding clientele. I always tried to smile and go the extra mile for the folks that I was serving. I wanted a great tip and I wanted for them to come back and ask to be seated in my section!
Our server was awful. The drinks were so slow that you had to order the next one while she was dropping off your current one. One of my guests went to the washroom to refill her water after she had already requested a refill twice. The couple of guests that arrived a little bit later than the rest were watching what was going on and decided not to order food at all.
The one pickier guest decided he would test the bar and order a Manhattan. Although he said it tasted good, it was served in a rocks glass with ice!
I am sure near the end of our stay the server could hear at least someone complaining about the experience. Did she ask any of us if there was anything she could do – nope!
We were done and out of there by about 8:15. This never happens with our group. We like to keep the beer flowing until at least 9 with the stragglers staying until around 10. Unusual for this bunch.
When Paul came out to say hello, I gave him a big hug and told him “I love you – we are never coming back!”. The look of horror on his face said it all. We asked him about the food special and he told us “steak sandwich”. I told him what had happened and he was angry he went to back of house to speak with someone but again – no management came out to speak with us and no one (besides Paul) apologized for the bad experience.
Now here is the kicker; at about 10 pm I get a text message from one of my friends that reads that her roomie has her head in the toilet and can’t stop vomiting. My heart sank. I asked what she ate and kept it in mind just in case someone else ended up getting sick as well. Thankfully that did not happen.
So the next morning I did my homework on Urban Spoon and Yelp, reading most of the reviews that had been posted and started to see a theme. The service and the price points seem to be the biggest complaints. Everyone loves the building – it is stunning!
So my suggestions; if you want to charge that much for your food and beverages the service has to be of the highest standard. If you wish to enforce an automatic gratuity,please make sure that your servers aren’t “coasting” like ours was. I can see 10% or 15% but 18%… really??
Please ensure that you have a cocktail recipe book under the bar to make sure that you have it right when you have newer staff behind the bar.
Please make sure your grill cook has taken the food safety course. Internal food temperatures are important so that your patrons don’t get food poisoning from eating something that is charred on the outside and raw in the middle.