We were staying in the Museum Art Hotel, and hosting a delegation of business partners visiting from India.
On their final night in Wellington, we chose to dine at Hippopotamus, as it is so well reviewed. Unfortunately, the evening was soured by the pretentious arrogance of their serving staff - primarily the French speaking person serving our wine. He may have been the Maitre'd - I really don't care. Most of our Indian partners are strictly vegetarian and we had earlier approached the restaurant about this. They told us that as we had a large table they would not allow us to order a'la carte, and we would have to eat off a cut down function menu. This they assured us would have ample vegetarian choices. When we arrived, we found that it contained 2 vegetarian options, and a pasta dish, which wasn't to our visitor's like. When I asked if it was possible for the vegetarians to order off the a'la carte menu, I was told in no uncertain terms that they had been serving their food for years, and it had never been an issue in the past! (Strike 1!).
When we were ordering the drinks I stated that I preferred Sauvignon Blanc. The person taking the wine order insisted that Chenin Blanc would be a better pairing for the food we were ordering. Note that he didn't recommend - he insisted. When I pointed out that I had worked in hospitality for years, including managing a wine shop, and preferred Sauvignon Blanc to Chenin Blanc, he pouted and snapped "and I am one of Wellington's best sommelliers!" - at which point he proceeded to bring and serve the Chenin Blanc, irrespective of the fact that I had said I wanted sauvignon. (Strike 2!). We had sauvignon blanc for our second bottle!
A while after ordering, we were all served individual plates, containing a single spoonful of food. There was considerable confusion at the table as to whether this was the first course, or not. At no time did the wait staff inform us about it, and I don't recall it being mentioned on the menu. It wasn't until the first course arrived that we realised it had been an amuse-bouch hors d'œuvre.
All in all, Hippopotamus is a very nice restaurant, in a very nice hotel. The company was fabulous, the view toward the harbour was nice, the food was good, but I (and some of my colleagues) will not be returning as I have no desire to be treated with arrogance or pretentiousness by restaurant staff, no matter how experienced they may be.
Contrast this with a recent Italian meal I had at the equally good MariLuca Ristoro in Wellington where the humour and congeniality of the staff uplifted an already great meal.
The Hippopotamus would do well to learn that quality tempered with humility is a much more attractive service combination.
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