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“The "aged" duck”
1 of 5 bubbles Review of Clifton Inn

Clifton Inn
Ranked #124 of 540 Restaurants in Charlottesville
Price range: $25 - $100
Cuisines: American, International
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Romantic, Business meetings, Special occasions, Local cuisine
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Cash Only, Full Bar, Parking Available, Reservations, Seating, Serves Alcohol, Waitstaff
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Route 250 West
Description: At Clifton, it's all about delicious discovery. Our culinary team offers guests the chance to taste the world with daily departures designed to thrill the palette and capture the imagination. The elegant atmosphere and attentive service at Clifton is perfect for transforming any occasion into a special one. Executive Chef Tucker Yoder regularly assembles tantalizing tasting menus that turn a meal at Clifton into a fine food lover’s dream. Clifton diners can also have front row seats for the culinary action at the Chef’s Table. Designed for groups of 6 to 10 people, the Chef’s Table puts you literally front and center, allowing you to watch the culinary team make their magic.
Paris, France
Level Contributor
28 reviews
27 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“The "aged" duck”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 10, 2013

The place looks beautiful, and grand. And we're told that the hotel service is extremely good. Now for the painful stuff about the restaurant.

We went as a group (around 15 people), a foodie meet-up group with multiple Michelin-star eating experience, and high expectations. Our group organizer had negotiated a 50% discount on the tasting menu (looking back, that was a mistake: for half price, what do you expect? but the punishment was way too harsh; read on). Over the 9-10 courses of the tasting menu, a couple were decent, most were very uninteresting and standard, and one was decidedly bad: the duck breast. They must have had two duck breasts in the kitchen, one almost off and the other really very much off. Half of us -- those who had the rotten duck -- obviously left it on the plate. On confronting the manager, he claimed that the duck was not rotten, but simply "aged". We told him that if that were the case, then why were we not told? Smugly, he said it was written on the menu, but then we looked at the menu and nowhere did it say the duck breast was "aged". Upon which, the manager flared, apologized with a forced smile, left, and was never seen again.

Since that event, I have been asking around about aging ducks, and everyone I had asked - including professional chefs in both France and Italy - told me they'd never heard of such a thing. Google actually says you can age a duck up to 60 days, but the procedure is not as simple as leaving it around in the kitchen, which was possibly what happened to our rotten, "aged" duck breast. Moreover, it seems that "aged ducks" are more popular in the US than Europe. Which probably explains why more Europeans like eating duck than Americans.

We sent back two bottles of wine because they were really, really bad: the kind of bottle which might cost 3-4EUR in any French supermarket was listed on the Clifton Inn's menu at 50+ USD (and I'm not saying those same bottles we were served actually cost 3-4EUR - I'm saying they tasted as if they did), then decided to go for a different strategy: we asked to tasted the open bottles (those you could order by the glass) to see which was best. As it turned out, we got the least worst, but still better than the previous trials.

There were also problems with the bill. They left the wine bottle out, in what we though was an apology gesture towards the rotten duck, but the service charge (automatically added to the menu since we were a large group) was too high: around 35-40%, but listed on the bill at 20%. We protested, and were told that the service charge was a percentage of the original tasting menu price rather than the discounted one. This goes against simple maths: 20% of 100$ cannot be 40$. So they took away the bill and re-calculated it. Again, we could make no sense of it - then we noticed that the missing wine bottle item had surreptitiously re-appeared on the bill. All in all, it took around an hour to pay that blasted bill. Talk about transparency.

The service was OK, but no more. Initially, the head waiter explained each course. After the 4th course, he decided we'd had enough explanations, and just served us the dishes without uttering a word.

Maybe it was just a one-off night, who knows? But my advice is to stay well clear of the place, at least for eating purposes.

  • Visited August 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank leoliberti
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
___027, General Manager at Clifton Inn, responded to this review, October 22, 2013
We like on-line sites, such as TripAdvisor, because it gives us the opportunity to listen to what our customers want in a different forum. We do take feedback here seriously, for a lot of places that is word weary cliché, but here it is true

In Mr Leoliberti experience there were three problems:-
They did not like the duck (We listened, and this has been removed from the menu, and they were not charged)

They did not like the wines - they were not charged for the wines they did not like - (we felt that there was nothing wrong with them, but thats a personal opinion - and of course, we are going to say that ) (We listened and gave them wines by the glass)

They did not like the bill. Who does ? Regardless, they were informed of the tipping policy prior to the meal and they did not like it, so we listened and adjusted.

Whatever we feel or think of our guests, there is one thing we always do - we do listen to our guests and learn and improve.

Niall Reid
General manager
Clifton Inn
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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153 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
    85
    19
    26
    9
    14
Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • Any
English first
East Coast
Level Contributor
31 reviews
12 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“Huge Improvement, fun evening”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed September 7, 2013

We sat outside, tried the tasting menu (great deal, but took longer than we thought...) and had personal service from the waiter/bartender. The atmosphere was relaxed, and many of the dishes were top notch. Not all the drinks were but they were happy to take them back and adapt them. Do try them if you like unusual combinations though.

  • Visited August 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank rialto11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington, Virginia
Level Contributor
91 reviews
51 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
“a nightmare meal”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 1, 2013

i've known clifton for over a decade, and it is so disappointing to see what's happened here. we went to the "chefs in the garden" seating and it was simply horrible. we paid $380 for two, and my friend accurately described the one dish as tasting like soap. the "pig skin" dish looked like worms in a bowl. i couldn't eat it. folks were literally ridiculing the meal. "tastes like charcoal" -- describing the one wine chosen. it's so sad to see what has happened to what was once a truly special (amazing) place. that charm still exists in places - in spite of the horrible remodel inside, which sterilized a classic plantation. they couldn't even make a champagne cocktail. and the coffee i ordered never came. yeah, a nightmare meal. good thing that i had some interesting friends to share the moment.

  • Visited July 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank mattva1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
___027, General Manager at Clifton Inn, responded to this review, August 7, 2013
Thank you for taking the time to review on us TripAdvisor.

We honestly do appreciate all feedback, it sounds like really old world weary cliché, but here we do act on feedback.

We are sorry that there appears to be nothing that you liked about the dinner here, which we are honestly surprised about. The other seventy guests were thrilled, we received a lot of compliments from both our regular guests and also first time diners

We received absolutely rave reviews from the majority of the guests, who loved the setting in the garden with the crape myrtles blooming with the sparkling bistro lights overhead. The eight courses by four different Chefs were likewise appreciated by everyone.

We regret that you did not like the refurbishment of the interior of the Clifton Inn from eight years ago, which has been described by many as charming, or to quote from Southern Living “…possesses the elegance and historical charm that makes you feel like you’ve taken a step into Gone With The Wind….” Our website gives a very good representation of the property, but we are surprised you feel so strongly about it, as this dinner was served exclusively outside.

We genuinely listen to all of our guests; from them we endeavor to improve and honestly strive to be the best that we can be. So like any good business, we change – our menu changes, amenities change etc etc. according to feedback. We will be the first to admit that sometimes we get it wrong, also sometimes people do not like change, but we are always trying to do our best for the guest, and always will do.

We sincerely hope that on your next return to Charlottesville that you will pay us a visit and give us a second chance.

Kind regards,

Niall Reid
General Manager
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Norfolk, Virginia
Level Contributor
26 reviews
23 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
“Great Dinner for a Special Occasion!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 18, 2013

I'm a bit shocked at some of the recent reviews of this restaurant. Outside of the Inn at Little Washington, this is probably the best restaurant I've been to in Virginia.

I went recently with my wife to celebrate her birthday. We decided to do the chef's tasting menu as well as the wine pairing. Our server was also the bartender - I'm sorry that I can't remember his name because he was phenomenal. The wines he chose to pair with the courses were all spot on.

The tasting menu was described as 10-12 courses, but I think ours had even more than that. I won't be able to recall every course, but they were all delicious in their own way. Some highlights: I'm not a mushroom person, but one of the courses was a vegetable dish with local mushrooms foraged by the chef and his family that day. Very cool! My wife's favorite course was the scallop, which was great. Mine was a stuffed pasta dish with jumbo lump crab meat.

We know that you need to take your time with meals like this, so when the meal ran close to three hours we were not surprised. In fact, we loved every minute of it. Our table looked out to the mountains and there was a bit of a lightning storm going on, so it made for a wonderful backdrop.

This place is definitely worth a visit. Ignore the recent reviews - the food is wonderful and the experience is unforgettable.

  • Visited July 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
1 Thank John K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Miami, Florida
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Exceptional in Every Way!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 1, 2013

If you are someone who appreciates a complete experience, you will love Clifton. The location immediately takes you out of your day-to-day routine. On the grounds are gardens, plants, and flowers...all of which may appear in your meal that very evening. And the restaurant itself is in a beautiful house full of Southern charm and gentility at every turn.

The decor, staff, and service add to the enjoyment of the evening, but the highlight is definitely the incredible artistry of the dining experience created by Chef Tucker Yoder. Most recently, at the chef's counter, time stood still as our party enjoyed 20 courses, prepared before us with spontaneity, creativity, and amazing craftmanship. Each serving piece complimented its dish perfectly, and the wide variety of tastes, textures, and colors presented over the course of the evening came together into a cohesive, harmonious meal that will never be forgotten.

Of the many dishes enjoyed that evening, my overall favorite was the simple, but exquisite poached scallops over pasta. The flavors were clean and simple, and the scallops melted in my mouth. Generous, bite-sized scallops rested easily on the pasta, and everything was served off-center on a large, fresh, white dish. And because I absolutely love elderflowers, my second favorite was Tucker's presentation of rose petals with rose champagne elderflower granita accompanied by basil seed porridge and the first elderflower blossoms of the season.

On an evening when they were hosting a wedding reception in the main dining room, Tucker and his staff welcomed us into their kitchen with a warmth and hospitality that made us feel as if we were visiting the kitchen of long-time friends with all the time in the world to spend together.

  • Visited May 2013
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
2 Thank PGasior
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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