5 May 2008

Dinner/Disaster At the Alto Restaurant

| Mysterious
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Dining in Canberra had been a pleasure, with few if any problems ever encountered, that was until I thought I would try the ALTO Restaurant, situated at Telecom Tower atop Black Mountain.

It is one thing to experience long delays, busy night, we don’t have gas only electric service and it takes longer to cook food excuses, but to be rudely dealt with and spoken to by some testosterone enhanced freak who seamed more interested in raising conflict rather than resolving an issue, made for a pathetic experience.

In a rotational restaurant you are essentially sitting on a great big timer. One revolution takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes, so patrons are more aware of the time factor of their experience.

Had we have been warned of delays, or at least apologized to for the lack of service then some understanding would have applied on my behalf. After being seated, it was then around 20 minutes before seeing any form of Wine list or menu for that matter.

After watching inexperienced staff cluttering round like an ants nest dosed with methadone, my forethought of the experience came to life.

One waitress dropping her order note pad with out even noticing, I am sure could have resulted in another patron(s) finishing off the night with a tarnished experienced had I not told her that she dropped it.

I am now left to wonder if this is what had happened to my order, and if it is still at this moment doing laps around the tower. Thirty minutes in to the ordeal and we were finally graced with beverages and the orders taken.

If it were not for the location and views from this venue, any connoisseur would have switched to plan B and went elsewhere, where at least your presence is acknowledged !

Argh I felt how Bruce Willis felt in “The Sixth Sense”, with the wait staff morphing in to zombies by the minute !

I am left to wonder if the working environment has an impact on their ability to perform as they may be subject to vertigo !

Forty-five minutes in to the ordeal, and at the halfway mark of our circuit, we were served a sample of pumpkin soup in what appeared to be a shot glass, with some bread rolls which came 10 minutes after the pumpkin soup sampler was served, and was now cold. After attempting to break my bread roll in half, I was sedate enough to not request a mallet with which I could then maybe soften the roll in to something edible and decided it best that the bread roll would be best kept and donated to science to see if they could determine if the matter was from the Igneous or Sedimentary groups, or if a new group all together had been discovered !

After 1 hour some one managed to notice that I had to align my oesophagus with a sextant and various celestial objects in order to quench my thirst from a glass that was now as arid as Arabia.

After this zombie had stood their for 5 minutes with the bottle in hand and looking at my empty glass, ( like a model from Wheel Of Fortune ! ) he finally realized that this was the same wine that I ordered the first time, and yes I did like it the first time I sampled it, and yes I had just finished the glass earlier, another sign that I liked it, and finally realized that I wished for another drink and that he was not there to model a bottle.

At this point the clear sign of incompetence was prevalent, as was the frustration of my interstate guests who also were bemused by the goings on on this carousel/merry-go-round.

We had now almost completed one full revolution, with carnival music ringing in my ears like a bad case of tinnitus, when the testosterone filled freak had recognized us, much to my surprise, from when we first embarked on this joy ride, and he managed to notice that after one full rotation, yes 1 hour and 25 minutes, that we had not even seen an entree, nor had any feedback in regards to delays.

It was at this point we were made aware that this imbecile (AKA Waiter) was not interested in any form of solution or meal, but was more interested in an argument about the quality of service, and since being a lack of service that how
could argument even be entered in to !

He then proceeded to confirm the fact that the kitchen was poorly fitted out and only had “electric” cooking facilities and not “gas” thus causing delays, and that they were “overwhelmed” ! indicating a poorly prepared team of staff.

After indicating our frustration of such delay, we had given the waiter an ultimatum, he was still unable to deliver any satisfactory resolution or remorse for that matter, nor any kind of response from management (if there was any present)

At this point we had now just surpassed one full revolution of this merry-go-round and were now at our end of the ultimatum, and as such they lost our patronage.

As I proceeded to pay for the three glasses of wine we were lucky enough see, mister testosterone turned nasty, and quite freely became rude and partially abusive in front of other patrons to the point where one could have felt threatened !

I only wanted some food not a fight !

To say the least, as there is not much to say about the menu, I was surprised that it all managed to fit on the one page ! It almost reminded me of “counter meal” genre, with European pricing…

As a reference… http://www.forbes.com/2007/11/14/restaurants-meals-expensive-forbeslife-cx_pl_1114restaurants_slide_2.html?thisspeed=25000

And these are 6 to 16 course meals !

The four meals consisting of Entree and main, totaled to around $330.00 averaging at just over $80.00 per head for only 2 courses! (Yes, they had our orders on their billing system but not on the table or in sight)

A lack of variety and also Vegetarian offerings is one thing, but the fact that some of these limited dishes were “unavailable” had me feeling as though I had ordered an endangered species.

As an entree, all I wanted was some fresh oysters, by the end of the ride, I was now concerned that the trainee/whoever that had been sent to Sydney to collect them was lost or MIA !

Sadly I can not comment on the food since I did not have it grace my table, however from seeing food delivered to others that had arrived after us, its appearance came across as “steak and three veg” placed on the usual square plate as seen, um wellhttp://www.catererswarehouse.com.au/categories.asp?cID=254″> everywhere !

Upon entering the foyer, and being spammed with Telecom/Telstra logos, one should have know to expect long delays, poor and rude service, and unsatisfactory outcomes !

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We ate there as a group of 7 with some English relatives a year (and a bit?) ago. Quite an expensive night, but well worth it. The food was lovely (though small serves… but that’s what you get in ‘posh’ places), and our waiter was wonderful – he was extremely patient with our two profoundly deaf table-members, taking extra time to face them while explain dishes. He was also funny, and flattered all the women at the table 😀

It was an awesome night out.

I love the restaurant reviews. Interestingly people have raved about Alto for weddings etc. Maybe they are only good at function food – or maybe you caught them on an off day.

the more restaurant reviews, the better! I like the rolling review idea, although I rather hope that if one writes a topic, the title gets snaffled by google? Whirlpool’s topics get googleized pretty quick.

Jewel of India saw a lot of visits by the Indian cricket guys when they were here, apparently.

Perhaps we should enshrine as a weekly thing like the DIY WotzOn Guide – a regular Monday morning bad restaurant review, to kick the working week off right.

No, actually, the fun does not die. I always wonder at people who frequent internet forums and deplore the fact that people post on them.

Snahons_scv6_berlina9:09 am 06 May 08

needlenose, the fun dies when every week there is an article published.

Yes, el, cough it up!

And @ Snahons – the fun is not so much in knowing which restaurants are bad, but in knowing *why* they’re bad. Or why someone *thinks* they’re bad (like those tools on Amazon.com who rate a book one star because Amazon delivered it late). I enjoy reading a good well-founded winge, and I enjoy a clueless one even more. I still recall with affection an exchange by a couple at a table near mine in a bad restaurant in Brisbane, which went as follows:

Her: God, this shiraz is bloody awful.
Him: Yes, but at least it’s cold.

Come on el, we want the gory details! Love tales of crappy feeds (and good ones). In verse, if possible.

Sounds rather similar to my utterly pathetic lunch time experience at Cafe Essen yesterday. It’s a shame, I’ve been going there for over a decade, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

This venue does not accept bookings ”

do not eat in this wanky establishment…..

… because either it’s so poor there is no chance you won’t get a table and they can’t afford to put even the slightest obstacle in the way of a potential customer; or it is good, but lazy, so you’ll have to queue for ages, if you get in at all.

I wish Bookplates took reservations. I’d go there all the time if it did, but because the odds of getting a table are so low, I’ve stopped bothering.

Mysterious said :

” Children’s menu ”
expect kids running round screaming possible food throwing, yelling housewife
random public tantrems(not for some)

Children’s Menu means Stay Away if you want to enjoy a normal grownups night out. Ditto High Chairs available. I’m not against kids in restaurants, but I am against the way so many of them behave nowadays. No one’s taught them that the world’s not their rumpus room.

Some new terms to add to the vocabulary of “The Dining Out” Experience

” Modern Australian ”
chef has little experience or knowledge of alternate dishes

” Ample parking ”
AKA dull or dead venue

” Group bookings are supported ”
please we could do with more customers

” It is essential to make a reservation ahead of time ”
good sign here ! patrons known to flock here in masses for good food

” Children’s menu ”
expect kids running round screaming possible food throwing, yelling housewife
random public tantrems(not for some)

” Take-away available ”
oversized portions can be expected, good for the gluttons

” Smoking area ”
may not comply with latest government health regulations

” Limited parking ”
limited requirement to drive their or home for that matter
(suited to those who wish to enjoy a few wines)

” This venue does not accept bookings ”
This venue struggles with any form of basic paperwork, also known to lose orders randomly and may on occasion panic at “Audit” time

VYBerlina, too true!

One of the downsides of record low unemployment is you get rude/incompetent/uncaring staff in the retail and hospitality industry.

Ari said :

I quite like the reviews of bad dining experiences, particularly when they are done with a dash of wit.

This one could have been a bit shorter, but no one is forced to read.

My apologies to you Ari, blame the experience for such a long saga…

I dont mind paying for good food and tipping for quality service, but since I saw neither, my coin remains in hand.

I had a HJ there one night a long, long time ago when it was a Spanish restaurant. It was one time i didn’t mind the slow service!

I had a meal at its previous name. shit value.

I wonder how long before the Google Spiders find this topic?! Meanwhile, it appears from these reviews
that poor service is a feature (not a benefit). Best quote “PS it’s rude to charge for bread rolls”.

PS: I’ve dined at Alto once before, and found it as equally disappointing and overpriced as Mysterious did…

Not all ‘Revolv(t)ing’ restaurants are bad!
In fact, my wife and I enjoyed one of the most satisfying dining experiences we had in Japan in the ‘Sky’ rotating restaurant on top of the New Otani hotel in Tokyo.

I even kept their business card to recommend it to others visiting Japan!

3 words – Dewberry, Hells Kitchen

Oh my god, so right!

Hehe. That was well written, gave me a laugh. Thanks for the heads up – I was considering taking a friend there for her birthday, but not now. 🙂

leaving the bottom end hospitality and retail jobs for the human turnips, who at other stages of the economic cycle would be unemployable.

3 words – Dewberry, Hells Kitchen

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy1:46 pm 05 May 08

The restuarant up the tower has always had the reputation for being overpriced and lacking quality. I didn’t realise the service was quite that bad, though.

My theory is that dining (and shopping) experience is usually poor at this stage of the economic cycle, because the smarter young people who are traditionally studying and working part time are now able to get much better jobs, leaving the bottom end hospitality and retail jobs for the human turnips, who at other stages of the economic cycle would be unemployable.

I quite like the reviews of bad dining experiences, particularly when they are done with a dash of wit.

This one could have been a bit shorter, but no one is forced to read.

That is some serious arse creative writing skills there my friend.

You should make money from it!

Oh andI am sure they knew that they had electric stoves when they planned their menus.

As a chef myself, I do not plan a menu and then try and make it work with what I have got, I plan a menu keeping in mind what resources I have available not only in the kitchen but on the floor as well.

Menu’s should also be constructed so that no matter if you have 4 or 40 dockets on th eline, you can still get them out in a relitively short period of time.

Obviously delays happen, but not to excess – and once again, good waiter can make a potentially bad situation better.

A good waiter can save a bad meal, but to teh same extent a bad waiter can spoil a good meal.

I was getting pretty sick of the diatribe, but this made reading to the end worth while…

Upon entering the foyer, and being spammed with Telecom/Telstra logos, one should have know to expect long delays, poor and rude service, and unsatisfactory outcomes !

Snahons_scv6_berlina12:34 pm 05 May 08

every day of every week someone somewhere in canberra is having a crappy dining out experience. Instead of having these massive write ups, I suggest RA set up a polling system for restuarants, people vote and each week RA post a summarised article.

CanberraResident11:55 am 05 May 08

Hhhm. Seems to me you were clock-watching from the moment you walked into the front door, setting your subconscious psyche up for a bad experience, and sure enough … the bad experience happened. Hilarious. I can imagine your interstate visitors were probably just as sick of listening to your whinging about the slow service, as they were about the actual service. Maybe they didn’t care, and just wanted to enjoy the idea of being in the tower and seeing Canberra at night.

Bloody whingers.

Go the Tower!!! Woohoo!

Woody Mann-Caruso11:44 am 05 May 08

exchange the second ‘v’ for a ‘t’.


Hmmm, I’ve bee there a couple of times and its always been really good. When it was the twoer it was awful, but after the guys from milk and honey took it over I thought it really picked up.

If there is one thing I have ever learned, it is that it is madness to go to a revolving restaurant expecting a decent meal. Somewhere in the mystical realms the gods of dining exchange the second ‘v’ for a ‘t’. Attempts to have fine dining revolv(t)ing restaurants in Sydney (such as the Summit)ended in abject failure. Normally it is just the food that is bad though – I’m impressed with the service angle they’re running at Alto!

Amusingly written! I imagine one of the kitchenhands is still wandering around in the Lake, looking for the oysters.

The various restaurants in black mtn tower have never been highly rated, to my knowledge. They seem to go for the tourist market or the one-off marriage proposal restaurant market. Which is a shame.

as for no gas stoves, well there’s been restaurants in there for decades, since Mal Fraser let the thing be built, I wonder where they’ve gone?

Sounds like a pretty farcical experience. Tehre’s a new and quite well-regarded fine dining place in Red Hill lookout. It’s pricey but popular. Floor doesn’t go arouind in circles though!

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