Lady Marmalade

608 Government Street tel: 381-2872. map

UPDATE - May 2008
Much to my surprise this review garnered a tremendous amount of attention from both the yay and nay camps. All I can say, my findings are perhaps inconclusive. The 'Lady,' as I recently learnt it is called to fans, has a rather vocal support base. Similarly, I got a fair bit of feedback supporting various aspects of my account.  As I remarked in the review, the loyal staff and customers must mean something - what, has yet to be seen..

Lady Marmalade enjoys a good reputation among diners in Victoria and since their opening have had the opportunity to expand their business. It's been on my 'to do' list for some time. I made two visits to do a breakfast review. I wanted them to do well, at least better.

Our first visit was in December, on a Thursday morning. We were seated fairly quickly. We ordered fairly quickly, and that's pretty much where it ended. We waited about 45 minutes and were quite certain the order was lost. I could see into the kitchen and could see the bills hanging and as soon as the cook (note singular) had gone through double the amount of bills that there were when we ordered, we informed the server. He was polite and confessional, but indeed no breakfast for us. They comped the drinks and we left. This experience would only be relevant to a review if they did it again.

Taking us to my February visit. It's a busy restaurant and people wait, that I can accept, but the following I can't: We arrived, a somewhat large group, to be told the wait would be 45min-1hr. Since we were meeting friends who had not yet arrived, this seemed acceptable. So we waited, the host was polite and communicative and I was happy enough with the process. Once seated we were told that the restaurant was very busy and the food was going to take a long time. Huh?!? Having waited for a table for 45 min the restaurant should be able to ensure a modest guarantee of service. You can't redeem bad service by disclaiming it in advance. If your kitchen can't handle the volume, you have one of a few problems - a) not enough people in the kitchen, b) not enough skilled people in the kitchen, c) too many tables in the restaurant and not enough resources in the kitchen. Are you seeing a trend?  I wonder what the relationship could be between their expansion and this problem...hmmm....

After 90 min the food arrived - short two covers. Nothing's more fun that eating with your starving friends when two of them don't have anything to eat. They fixed the mistake within about 7-8 minutes, but ouch!

The food was acceptable. I had the Huevos Migas ($10.95), scrambled eggs with too much cheese and not enough chorizo, rice and beans. The rice and beans were fine, but the pico de gallo and sour creams garnishes were super skimpy. Nevermind, it's hard to gauge enjoyment  when you've been starving for two hours. Erin had the bacon benny: bacon, eggs, spinach, sauce on toast with homefries and salad. She seemed to like it, but complained that it deconstructed as she ate it.  It definitely looked like it needed some work in the structural area. Debbie and Nicole had poached eggs and toast with a bunch of side (bacon, cream cheese etc...) Other than they forgot Debbie, it looked like very standard and acceptable egg breakfast. Lisa, who looked like she would have bitten the head off the server and had it for breakfast if her food hadn't finally arrived, enjoyed her fruit crepe. That said, I was suspicious of putting uncooked apple, and what looked like a winter fruit salad in a crepe.

By this point the restaurant was slowing down and the train wreck that had just occurred became visible. I'm not saying that it's always possible to keep serving spaces clean when you're busy, but they certainly had pushed it to the bottom of the list. The bar area looked like a bomb had exploded as I searched for the bathroom key - it was like I had to pass some cognitive function test to be allowed to pee. The bathroom was a disaster, with a carpet of used paper towels and a grubby toilet.

I was most surprised by the jovial demeanour of the staff. Considering they're roles as the bearers of bad news, they were all polite and managed to maintain the appearance of professionalism in the face of what is clearly, some clear systemic problems in both the front and back of house.

We were in and out in a remarkable 2.5 hours - which would have been fine if this were a multi-course dinner. It'll be awhile until I have the time to try Lady Marmalade again.

Reviewed Feb 23/08