I had concerns it would be more style over substance as everyone would talk about the view and the setting over the food. Food comments were always positive but were often an after thought following extremely positive opinions about the setting. Whilst my family like a good setting, it's always more about the food for them so yes, I did feel a little nervous.
When researching, I realised that the minimum charge for the private room was not far off what we would likely spend so it made sense to book it to guarantee a good table. The reservation process was pretty simple and I was contacted by phone and email to confirm. When discussing requirements I was asked several times if I wanted to pre order drinks and whilst I initially thought about it, I decided ultimately that for a group of 9 it probably wasn't necessary and we could choose on the day. Not knowing what our guests' food choices would be meant that wine decisions could also wait. As we were a table size of less than 12 we didn't have to pre order food and could choose from the a la carte rather than go with a set meal.
What I did find interesting is that whilst I was asked repeatedly and advised to pre order drinks; the function administrators I spoke to and had email contact with were not that interested in any other requirements. I wanted to order a few seafood platters to share as a pre appetizer so raised the request in an email which was acknowledged. When discussing the reservation on the phone, I mentioned I would be in touch closer to the time to finalise details. At the time I was still pondering over the pre ordering of drinks so thought that once I had decided I would contact them. I was advised not to call and they would call me because they had such a tight timetable of functions and were so busy that it would be better to wait for them to call when they were ready! I was reassured that they work through the rota of bookings efficiently and have processes in place that effectively I should leave it to the professionals! So much for personal service and I definitely felt like a number rather than an individual. I fully understood though that my booking was small fry compared to what they can organise so just let it lie. I couldn't help feel though that all the pressure relating to pre ordering drinks was really about lining their pockets and guaranteeing revenue rather than what I wanted for my small event.
In summary I guess what I am trying to say in the longwinded paragraph is that Cafe Sydney is a slick operation and when doing business with them, as a customer I was definitely made to feel that it's a money making commercial operation and that they held the power. Anyway as long as the experience was good I was prepared to forgo that valued customer feeling.
The irony was that in spite of claiming that the events management function at Cafe Sydney is slick and under exemplary control, as per my conversation when organising this reservation, they held no record of my request for seafood platters! So I re ordered and they came. It all worked out but wasn't quite the seamless service I was expecting.
The seafood platters looked very grand; two tiers of oysters, crab, Moreton Bay bugs, scampi, prawns, marron and a duo of sauces, mayonnaise and Marie Rose. The seafood was fresh and this a delicious pre cursor of our meal to come.
Drinks wise we enjoyed an array of cocktails, mocktails, beers, iced teas and wine. My mum and sister are not big alcohol drinkers and my cousin Carine is completely teetotal so it was great that there was such a wide choice of mocktails and iced teas for them to work through. One or two of their choices weren't quite well balanced in flavour being either overly sharp or too bland and our waiter was happy enough to take them back to the bar for readjusting such as adding more coconut water.
Main courses included choices of roast chicken, crispy pork belly and beef tenderloin all accompanied by an array of french fries, mashed potato, asparagus and salad. We also had some fries arrive early so that Amelia could start eating.
Desserts were described beautifully in the menu and amongst us we had the chocolate and peanut buter slice and a berry. peach and meringue mix. Again each dish looked appetisingly attractive and there were appreciative comments from everyone.
We enjoyed the long leisurely lunch and the chance to be together in such beautiful surroundings and delicious food. My concerns about whether the food would deliver were unnecessary an exceeded expectations.
At the end of my family's trip, when discussing highlights, it pleased me that this was one of them and we had many good meals both in Sydney and Melbourne. I would say that a meal at Cafe Sydney is definitely one of the key necessary experiences of a successful Sydney trip much like having a drink at the Opera Bar. It's not going to be a personal experience and yes, I still stand that improvements could be made to make that better but the way it stands at the moment it doesn't diminish a positive overall experience. I guess that aspect is just not as necessary when the view, the company, the food make up for it and create a wonderful memory.