We walked in about 7pm ish and there were people sat at tables but the place wasn't too busy. We were greeted by a non smiling waitress who asked us if we had a reservation. I explained I'd try but didn't get a call back. In response, she gave me a hard look and said, "Sure; well we're full in the restaurant but choose somewhere to sit in the bar area" and waved her arms around gesturing to the two bar areas - one by the front window and another actually by the bar and then she turned and left us to it. Not exactly a warm or friendly greeting and having been brought up in hospitality, I'm a great believer in if you don't know how to smile, you shouldn't work in hospitality.
Anyway we were excited by the food and the ambience and decor was nice. I liked the suspended light shades made from empty wine and spirit bottles and I also liked the suspended gas fire in the bar area.
We took our seats and waited...and waited...and waited... No one came to help us or welcome us. If it hadn't been raining outside, I'd have left. Eventually a male waiter not in uniform walked by and said he'd be with us shortly. Shortly came and went. So I decided to get up and help myself to a menu. As I stood by the area where the menus were kept looking at all the different leaflets etc there he came by and said; "You're after menus?" To which I replied, "Yes, we've been here 20 minutes and had no welcome, no water and no assistance." His response was lacklustre...something about it being hard to get round everyone and there was definitely no apology. And the restaurant was even all that full!
Anyway, we browse the menu and the waiter / maitre d' comes over and seems very bored when we place our order. Our order and therefore bill is pretty substantial - 2 starters, 2 main courses and a good bottle of wine as well as 2 pre dinner drinks. He still isn't impressed and we feel like we need them more than the restaurant needs our custom.
I opted for pan fried gnocchi dish with creme fraiche, parmesan and mixed mushrooms. And Steve has gone for an asparagus with macadamias. breadcrumbs and feta. Both are stunning dishes. The gnocchi is light and fluffy - little pillows of goodness and not gluey or heavy. The mixed mushrooms are truly mixed with all different types including crispy deep fried enoki mushrooms which I've never had like that before.
Whilst the food hasn't exactly exonerated the lack of service, we are pleased to be there and enjoy the delights.
The steak was good with a strong chargrilled flavour coming through. It came with a light and creamy bearnaise sauce as well as other condiments including a tasty caramelised onion chutney and a surprisingly fresh and zingy salsa verde. Not a mindblowingly good steak like what I've had at Rockpool but still held the high standards set by the appetiser dishes.
Steve's duck and risotto was also a delight to eat. The sweet beetroot was a great contrast to the duck and it was a dish that was sound and consistent with the standards set.
We discovered that as the restaurant emptied and we worked our way through courses the maitre d' became friendlier! And by the time we ordered a cheese platter to share and end the meal, he even cracked a smile. Ultimately, front of house staff shouldn't mellow with time and should be friendly from the start which takes us to the downsides of this meal.
It's really disappointing and a real shame as this place could be stellar. I guess because it's in Margaret River though, the transient one time tourist trade is one that it claims a huge market share in and therefore doesn't need to rely on repeat custom. If we were to return to MR, I wouldn't necessarily return to Must because of our experience. I feel it rests on its laurels of good food and it survives without good customer service because of its location.
We watched a table of four (family with two kids) get turned away when really there was room for them and it struck me that maybe the front of staff and maitre d' had not stake in the business so felt ok about turning custom away. Having worked in a family business, we tried so darn hard to fit everyone in who wanted to eat there as every patron and every dollar counted.
When surveying the management of the front of house, it doesn't look hard to fix. The maitre d' is run off his feet because he does everything from taking orders to distributing dishes and clearing up and he even makes the drinks so of course it takes him a long time to get round everyone as he said to me. He needs to relax and smile a bit more and someone else needs to make the drinks. The other wait staff need to be allowed or trained to take orders so people aren't waiting for the maitre d' to become free. The unfriendly waitress needs to leave hospitality and find something more in tune with her interpersonal skills. Three easy steps and that's why this disappointing experience is so frustrating...because it could be so much better.