A Valentine pantomime
Saturday was of course Valentine's day and Lise and I decided to go out for dinner at Raymonds mat og vinhus which is a place we had wanted to visit for a while. It turns out that, while far from romantic, this particular evening had me laughing on the journey home and we plan to return sometime.
An rough translation of the appropriate section of the restaurant's website goes as follows.
Norwegian food with exotic taste
An exotic journey through our own land. Most dishes are based on Norwegian ingredients for example, reindeer, king crab, elk, grouse, strawberries, halibut, lingonberry and lamb. Our head chef puts together a surprise menu based on the day's ingredients, weather and mood. Of course we pay attention to the basic wishes and needs, do you want fish, meat or vegetarian?
Long experience and happy guests - that's what we do! The kitchen puts together a tasty and exiting menu for you.
After reading that and the many good reviews it has receieved online it sounded like the perfect place to spend Valentine's day.
As we arrived at the restaurant only one other table was occupied and no one was around to wait on the tables. After about a minute a rather stressed looking guy came out of the kitchen, showed us to the table and offered us a white wine saying that it would be a good choice for the meal. Everything up to here went perfectly normally, he opened the wine at the table went through the usual tasting routine, filling up both of our glasses after I had confirmed the wine was good. This, however, was where the normality of the night stopped. After taking another quick trip into the kitchen he rushed out of the restaurant announcing that he doesn't actully work there and the owner was on the way.
After about five minutes a woman arrived and began seeing to a couple of people who had arrived in the mean time and our started arrived after about 15 minutes. The starter itself was perfect, a chinese style chicken soup with mushrooms, celery and "home made" bread.
While we were eating the first course and shortly after there was a group of guests came in to one of the larger tables in the restaurant. This is where it really became obvious that the watiress that had come in wasn't really up to scratch. As the people at that table were trying to order drinks, she was telling them in very broken norwegian that they did not have any non-alcoholic drinks at all. Of course when they asked for water and coke, she did actually find some, with the exception that she had to take another round to the bar to fetch real coke, not diet stuff.
During the course of the next half an hour there were three couples that came in and left due to the fact that they had not even been offered drinks in that time but the place did still seem to fill up with people that had ordered food.
After a reasonable wait, and watching the pantomime of broken norwegian explanations of the menu to the newer guests ("you have no choice"), the second course did arrive. Again the food was good, salmon and pollock with rice and vegetables, well presented on the plate.
As we were finished with the second course, the wine bottle we began the night with was empty. Seeing everyone around us wait it was obvious we would have time to work our way through another bottle of wine. This time the service was not so great as before, after showing us the bottle of wine the waitress ran off to the bar to open it before pouring the tiniest drop in the glass for me to taste. This time however, after confirming the wine was good, she just placed the wine bottle quite firmly on the table and ran off to the kitchen, leaving us to pour the wine for ourselves.
It's around this point that I lose all track of time, but we had fun watching the drama around us, the restaurant was now completely full, despite people paying up and leaving after only two courses instead of the full four. There was at least one group who seemed quite surprised at being turned away from the restaurant, I assume that they had reserved a table but there was nothing free due to the fact it was taking so long to serve everyone.
During this time we did get the chance to get to know the couple at the neighbouring table. They were there to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary and have been happy customers of Raymond's for the last 12 years, it's their favourite place and they tell a story of the type of place we imagined when reading the reviews. Good service, perfect wine recommendations and great food served in a timely manner.
Finally the third course came, pork chop with roast potatoes and red wine sauce. This was nice but a touch under perfect, the pork was a little tough although it wouldn't surprise if this was because it had been waiting around in the kitchen for us.
It was around this time that the poor waitress had completely lost any kind of overview over who was waiting on what food and had to go around asking each table asking them which course it was they were waiting for.
After noticing that, considering the restaurant was full of people waiting for food, it was strange that nothing had come out of the kitchen during the previous 30 minutes I decided it was wise to ask how long it would be until desert came. 15 minutes later, beginning to get a little bored (we had managed to get through a reasonable amount of conversation topics in the three hours we had used so far, including trying to teach Lise a little about reading music), I asked again after which we did actually receive dessert... a scoop of sorbet with two mini heart shaped jellies, something that must have taken all of 30 seconds to prepare, unless they were waiting for the jelly to set.
No hard feelings
Despite the bad service, or perhaps because of it, we had a great evening. The food was good, and I assume would have been perfect if it had have been brought to the table as soon as it was ready. I really want to give the place one more chance when the owner is around and you can consider that a tentative recommendation.