My husband and I, having an unexpected overnight stay in the Norwich area, asked a couple of people where we should go for dinner and were told "the restaurant at the Norwich Inn and Spa." I read the dinner menu online, and made Friday reservations for 8 PM, with great expectations. Unfortunately, the only thing "great" about our dinner was the disappointment. We entered through the front door of the Inn to a grand lobby oddly empty of staff, so we found our way to the restaurant. A sign said dinner was being served outdoors and to move to the "terrace deck." another sign advertised a special Caribbean-themed dinner for that evening. Once on the expansive terrace overhung with mature trees, we were seated promptly by one of the two very young hostesses and given menus. We noticed that only a quarter of the tables were filled. (We also noticed throughout the evening that the younger staff liked to "hang out" at the hostess podium, chatting wth each other.) A man was playing steel drums to accompanying recorded music. The young waitperson politely asked for our drink order and recited the specials. I asked about the Caribbean-themed dinner and she replied with a vague wave to another area of the large patio, "Oh, that's over there." No information about whether we could partake, or what was involved. The wine list was inspiring, but I've seen better in our Fairfield County restaurants. Our wine and beer took about 15 minutes to arrive; during our wait we noticed a young female employee walk right by us to the outdoor bar, struggling with a full case of the popular beer brand my husband had ordered. (Why wasn't the bar stocked?) It also turned out that our table was at the edge of the main throroughfare from the kitchen to the bar and "Caribbean Night" dining area. Waitstaff rolled heavy trolleys of clinking glasses, liquor and consumed meal detritus past us the whole evening --an uncomfortable distraction throughout our "romantic" dinner. My husband ordered soup and an entree of grilled salmon special while I decided to forgo appetizer or salad and just have the lobster risotto. After a wait of more than 20 mins., the staffperson appeared with dome-covered dishes that were lifted with a fanciful flourish to reveal...our entrees! Where was the soup?! The waitperson politely admitted she'd forgotton -- would my husband still like it? He declined. I knew I was in trouble as soon as the dome was lifted on my lobster risotto, the lobster did not smell fresh. Indeed, it was not very appetizing, with gray strings of shredded meat trailing off lobster pieces. It was a healthy portion of lobster meat, however, sitting atop a sea risotto that extended to the very edges of the plate. I guess they were trying to justify the $30 price of the dish. The risotto was expertly cooked, but drowning in a creamy but too salty tomato sauce. My husband said the "simply grilled salmon with goat cheese polenta, herb-roasted asparagus and Portobello fries" was "disappointing." The salmon was undercooked, as was the asparagus -- making it tough to chew. We decided to try dessert to see if they did a better job, however, trying to catch the waitperson's attention took many minutes -- her tables were over a large area and she seemed to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It was shortly after 9 PM when I ordered the Hot Molten Chocolate Cake. My husband ordered the Summer Berry Crisp and was told it was baked on demand, so would take "about 15 minutes." Big mistake. FORTY minutes later, we were finally served our desserts, which turned out to be only mildly flavorful and disappointing. Another agonizingly long wait to catch the waitperson's attention to ask for our bill, then have her process payment (yes, they automatically add 19% gratuity, no matter how your service was). It took more than two hours just for an entree and dessert. Another surprise, the giant oak tree over our table dropped a pointy acorn on my husband's head --ouch! With the exception of a wonderfully professional waitperson who sported "Dawn" on her nametag, the waitstaff seemed inexperienced and inefficient, though kind. This restaurant has a prestigious reputation and inspiring menus, but needs improvement in a number of areas.
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