2 Acland St, St Kilda
Phone: 9534 2922
After some morning shopping at the farmer’s market with Penny (@jeroxie) and her Mister, we stopped in at Il Fornaio for a late brunch. I was quite excited, because I still remember my dinner at Ondine many years ago – the oysters five ways in particular – and I was keen to see what Philippa Sibley’s take on a bakery cafe would be.
I’m going to start with the positives. The place was bustling when we arrived, and we luckily got a seat by the window. I ordered the blood sausage frittata.
Never having had blood sausage before, it was something of a revelation. The sausage in the frittata was tasty and dense. I could have dealt with more caramelised onions, and the egg was a little rubbery, however. Thankfully, the relish on the side held the dish together, which otherwise would have been pretty dry.
Penny, a black pudding veteran, ordered the black pudding with poached eggs, which looked delightfully gooey. I think the whole dish looked, again, like it lacked moisture, but Penny didn’t complain, so it must have been OK. It seems quite a rich and heavy brunch option to me. But she was nursing quite the hangover, so that was probably a good thing!
Penny’s Mister ordered the eggs Benedict, which he promptly demolished,so again, I’m assuming it also was satisfying.
Now, the negatives. The service was abominable. Our waitress was brusque to the point of being rude. Actually, no, let me amend that; she was rude. She was visibly pissed off when we asked for a couple of minutes more to decide what to have, and she was rather overbearing when she returned to take our order later. I understand that it’s a busy cafe, but I’m sorry, you work in hospitality. Be hospitable.
Here’s an open letter to our waitress that day:
I realise that you were very busy the afternoon we came to eat at Il Fornaio. Maybe you were understaffed because someone had called in sick. But life throws challenges at us, and we really should all try to rise to meet them. I’m sorry if your boyfriend had just broken up with you earlier that week, or your cat had died, or you just had an absolute blinder the night before and you were nursing a gargantuan hangover. But perhaps if you weren’t in a decent enough mood to at least fake being nice, you should have called in sick. Oh wait, someone else already did that.
What you shouldn’t have done, was treat us as if we were insufferable fools, who were testing your patience – which was apparently failing -and who you only tolerate because you have to pay your bills. When one of us ordered a pourover coffee, it was OK that it wasn’t available, even though it was on the menu, because you were short a barista.
When one of us tried to order the pink grapefruit juice, you told us that it was only available on some days, and that you thought it wasn’t available today. Oh no, please don’t bother offering to check. And while you’re at it, please don’t apologise at all when you spill water across the table and onto Mister’s lap. And yes, we’re very thankful for your going to get some napkins and a tea towel to clean it up. Not like it’s your job or your mess or anything.
I’m hoping for your employer’s sake that you were just having a bad day. Because I wouldn’t go back if I thought I would have to endure that sort of service again.
In all honesty, the food at Il Fornaio was quite good. I think I might just go for the baked goods and take them away next time, though.