We had previously dropped by the restaurant and had a very pleasant chat with the owner/manager who assured us of his desire to serve excellent food "a la carte" style. I was impressed that the owner/manager (Mr "A") was very knowledgeable food and we were comparing notes about cheeses, oils, Arborio rice, Porcini mushrooms, etc. and how difficult it was to obtain such items here except from specialist importers etc.
Additionally, we personally had a recommendation from someone in the MM2H Melaka chapter group, during the inaugural MM2H social that I helped organise in Feb.
So, it was with great anticipation that we arrived shortly after 9pm on Friday, 14-Mar-2014. We were planning to let the chef have free reign, and basically charge us on a time-and-materials basis, which we were previously told would cost between RM70-100 per head for a two to three course meal.
When we got there, there was no welcome to the restaurant, despite it being quiet, with only another table occupied inside. The waiter came over and told us a matter-of-fact way, "Only buffet available", then we clarified what was the cost, and it was RM35.00 (approx. USD$10.00) per head. The waiter then walked away, not even bothering to check that there was sufficient cutlery at the table - only one set was there for a table of four.
Hindsight of course is 20-20 and we should have checked that the food was hot or at least warm in the hot-box (bain marie) holding the hot meal items. We started helping ourselves to the salad as a first course, then the waiter came over, "You eat buffet, you must pay first!". No usage of the words, "would you mind", "could you please" etc. - it is understood that English may not be the first language here in Malaysia (it is taught as a second language), but surely staff can be tutored in some basic stock-standard phrases to use in these instances.
In the meantime, I'd suddenly noticed that the drink dispenser containing pre-sweetened tea with bergamot flavour (bit like Earl Grey) was leaking, to the extent that a bowl had to be placed on the floor to collect the puddles. Tea had spread to quite a wide area, but at no stage did staff put on any signage of "Caution: wet floor", or attempted to mop it up.
The "best" was yet to come! The items in the bain-marie were stone cold - from the macaroni bake to pizza to kidney beans - all cold. We had a few bites of a few items, then moved onto fruit, which thankfully was alright.
BTW, all up, there were fourteen (14) items offered in the buffet, counting the chips (French Fries), salads and fruit.
The alarm bells should have rung prior to entering the restaurant when there was a sign outside the place advertising job vacancies for a chef, manager and wait staff. Looks like the place was running very short-staffed, or there was an overwhelming staff turnover, and therefore could only manage a buffet, and not a very good one at that.
The owner/manager was chit-chatting outside with his friends, and asked us on the way out how was the food and we told him it was cold and disappointing. He replied that the buffet only ran from 6:00-9:00pm, so it was puzzling that at 9:15pm the food was already stone cold?? And if the buffet finished at 9:00pm, shouldn't the customer be told it's too late, or what to expect?
It's not the price, but the nasty shock of getting something awful when you have high expectations. My suggestion to all is to phone ahead first to see if they have a full-time chef cooking a-la-carte menu items, lest all being offered is a very second-rate buffet.