I still remember when I graduated in 2005.  With my first few pay cheques I bought my mother a Louis Vuitton handbag, my father a Moran leather recliner, and shouted the whole family to a degustation at Jacques Reymond in Windsor to celebrate.  My mother and I still love the handbag I chose for her, and my father still reads his newspaper in the recliner I bought him every morning, but our dining experience at Jacques Reymond was, rather, forgettable to be completely honest with you.  The food at the time paled in comparison to what Shannon Bennett was serving up at Vue de Monde and although the company was absolutely faultless, everything seemed a little too pretentious.  With the Reymond family’s new approach to the hospitality industry – what with the opening of Bistro Gitan and the launch of their food delivery service, dish’d, I had hoped that our dining experience two weeks ago at L’Hotel Gitan would hit my reset button and change the way I felt about good old Jacques….

My husband, I & Miss B arrived, sans pram, on a week day at 1.00 pm on my afternoon off and were ushered by a jovial waiter to a bar table whereby Miss B perched on my lap and we perused the menu.  The restaurant was busy with a great atmosphere and with a play date for our 9 month old daughter arranged for 3.30 pm, we expected to be out by 2.30/3 at the latest to get home in time to whip up some afternoon tea and get her down for a short nap before our guests arrived.

After getting the attention of a waiter, we ordered and approximately 20 minutes after ordering, tucked into our entrees.

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Complimentary baguette with French butter

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Moreton Bay Bugs – tempura, harissa dressing ($7.50 each) – 2 serves as shown $15 
The Moreton Bay Bugs were overcooked though the condiments were delicious.

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Pork Indochine – crispy pork belly in a milk bun, condiments ($13) 
This was smaller than the length of my thumb.  There was so little pork that we could hardly taste it.

For mains, we waited 50 minutes from the moment our entrees were finally cleared away whilst everyone else in the restaurant seemed to wait for their meals.  There were about 8 tickets slotted up which we could see very closely from where we were very uncomfortably perched right at the entrance of the restaurant.  Initially we played with our daughter, then we were somewhat entertained by the open kitchen where Monsieur Reymond was in a foul mood, seemingly shouting feedback to his kitchen staff in very emotive, short, succinct sentences.  After 50 minutes and with our daughter being incredibly bored and rather uninspired by her small nibbles of our entrees and essentially the entirety of the seemingly mundane bread basket, we hailed down a waiter once the mains that they had been procrastinating over finally started to appear on other diners’ tables.  Where was ours?  He disappeared for 15 minutes, there was further disquiet in the open kitchen, and he reappeared and perkily stated that our ticket had been lost and our mains would be “another 8 minutes.”  Really?  “10 minutes.  12 minutes at the most.”  Did we want to stay?  To be honest, we didn’t.  But we’d already been at L’Hotel Gitan for more than 1 hour 45 minutes by then and were kind of ravenous.  I was fortunately able to reschedule our play date a little later and after our mains arrived 15 minutes later, we paused briefly for two photos, and ate as quickly as we could.

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Three Pepper Duck Magret – glazed duck breast, legumes pot au feu, cider vinaigrette ($35) 
This was absolutely delicious and almost faultless.  Our duck was a tad overdone.

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Hopkins River Black Angus Eye Fillet (250g) – with a choice of Latina dressing or béarnaise, frites $38 
The bearnaise was over-whisked but I absolutely loved the Latina dressing which was lovely and tropical, and a little bit spicy.  The steak was cooked medium rare as ordered, and the fries were absolutely phenomenal with their perfect seasoning, lovely crust & tender insides.

My husband paid the bill in its entirety, and we left focused on bigger and better things – our catch up with Miss E.

Overall we had an extremely disappointing experience at L’Hotel Gitan.  It’s probably not ideal to have an open kitchen with so much drama going on.  And it’s probably a good idea to make a good will gesture (eg. surprise us with a side salad as an apology) when you make diners wait 80 minutes for their mains.  Really poor form.  Although the mains were pretty darn good, the appetisers were disappointing.  We don’t tend to make the same mistakes twice so in the future, we’ll be saving our cash and our priceless family time for bigger and better future foodie (& fun-filled educational) adventures.

32 Commercial Road
Prahran  VIC  3181
03 9999 0990

L'Hotel Gitan on Urbanspoon

4 Responses

  1. Laura

    I’m really disappointed by this review! I am about to have lunch at L’Hotel Gitan and have been looking forward to this for weeks. On the upside, I’m not paying so I won’t feel so bad if the food is disappointing, but I want so hard to have nothing but praise for Jacques. Like you I had the degustation at Jacques Reymond a few years ago and although everything was lovely and the service was impeccable, I also found the food forgettable. I wanted to like it so much but nothing stood out in my mind – it was all just “good”. I recently tried dish’d and maybe because again I dived into it spurred by the hype of Monsieur Reymond, I was also left quite disappointed; had it been sold to me as just frozen food I would have probably been more impressed but once you add the Reymond name to something, your expectations are immediately high and maybe unrealistic? This is the curse of many chefs, striving for recognition and good business but then dealing with the double edged sword that is a Michelin star or chef’s hat: diners come to you with high expectations that often cannot be met.
    Also, I wonder how frustrating it must be for experienced chefs who are only ever as good as the chefs working around them. How do you control every single meal that is sent out to ensure it’s up to your standard? In this regard, I can understand why he may have been in a foul mood. However, 80 minutes is extraordinary and no apology is just terrible service especially when you’re paying into the high 30s for bistro-type mains.
    We’ll see how my lunch goes – if I set my expectations really low maybe I won’t be disappointed!

    • Elaine

      Hi Laura

      Thanks for stopping by. I was really disappointed by my experience at L’Hotel Gitan and I waited a good two weeks to calm down before sitting down to write about it! We knew that we had waited a long time for our mains but were actually quite shocked when we correlated the photo times and realised it was even longer than what we had originally thought.

      Anyway.. hopefully it was a once off and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience than we did. The food was actually quite good. Though on Urbanspoon only 58% have enjoyed their time at L’Hotel Gitan so far…

      • Laura

        Hi Elaine! Thanks for your reply. I am now one day post-lunch and I’m afraid to say I basically had the same experience as you. While we didn’t have to wait 80 minutes for our mains, it was probably close to 45 minutes and some people who had not eaten entrees were ravenous. I ordered the duck and it was overcooked and the vegetables tasted really bland on their own, saved only by the accompanying vinaigrette. Service started out great but as the place got busy it was hard to get anyone’s attention and even when we did, staff were harried (I did feel bad for them but…). Overall I’m disappointed as we had all been looking forward to that lunch for weeks. Whatever it is they are doing right at the Bistro they need to implement it at L’Hotel, or risk sinking.

      • Elaine

        Thanks for your feedback Laura. I am sorry to hear that you had a similar experience to ours. Hopefully they will pick up their game; but in the meantime there are plenty of other awesome Melbourne eateries for all of us to try out (there’s ALWAYS a silver lining)! :) xx

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