bits and pieces

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reviews: Cafe Medina - Chinatown/Gastown

Cafe Medina is raved about as *the* best breakfast/brunch place in Vancouver, so I was eager to test it out. In fact, the morning in question when we groggily stumbled to the skytrain, wondering where to go for breakfast, I was the one who pushed for Medina. If you can't tell already - it was not a good choice.

Initially, impressions were positive- cute urban locale, quaint decor, foreign-ish staff who make the place seem more cultured, 16$ breakfast places, and so on. Pretty much what you'd expect from a hipster brunch spot called Cafe Medina. The place also smelled amazing and the serving dishes are all cute little mini skillets or equally adorable dishes.

Sitting down and I looked at the menu - I was torn between the Cassoulet (eggs, beans, bacon, sausages, grilled focaccia) and the Saumon Fumee (smoked salmon, fried egg, etc). Despite not eating beef/pork/chicken I decided to go with the Cassoulet (I really wanted beans that morning). This was my fatal mistake. I informed the waitress that I didn't eat beef/pork/sausage/whatever, and asked her if this was an integral part of breakfast or if I would still be fine with beans, eggs, and toast. I understand that ordering a meal involving meat when not eating meat is not the most logical thing - however, I hoped the bacon and sausage might be sides that I could simply eat around/pass on to hungry friends. While bringing us our raspberry lattes she assured me in a lilting french accent that it was delicious, that the beans were the main component of the meal, and that the bacon and andouille sausage were just on the side, so I could definitely feed them to one of my more carnivorous dining mates, leaving me to enjoy my breakfast of beany goodness. ERROR.

The lattes were fine if a little sophomoric (too sweet.. they tasted like candy vs. coffee. Not a great milk-espresso-milk ratio) but came with a cute little picture made in the foam. Aww. Darling little touches and superior ingredients are what make it OK to charge upwards of 15$ for brunch of eggs, beans, and bread. Unfortunately for me I was to be left alone, hungry, and generally irritated.

The trouble started when the food came. Note - I was STARVING. We had told the waitress we were starving. She laughed at how charmingly hungry we were. Then mon petit cassoulet arrived. There was grilled focaccia (which actually was nice, if scant), there were eggs, and there was my beans and the sausage + bacon. I fed that to my fellow diners and decided to eat my breakfast. Unfortunately for me there appeared to be large chunks of meat throughout my beans. "This can't be," I thought to myself, "I explained to the lovely foreign and dangerously pretty waitress that I don't eat beef/pork/chicken/sausage things." I got her attention and she came over. When I asked about the meat, she gave me a look that said "Yes, idiot girl, there are beans and therein is meat". When I reminded her that I had asked about the presence of meat due to my disinterest in eating it she gave me some response about how me stating that I did not eat the aforementioned meats hadn't led her to think I didn't eat those meats. I then got a blank stare, which went on for a good few awkward seconds before my companion said 'welllll are you going to eat it at all?' to which I obviously replied in the negative. She asked if I would like something else. After it was made clear that this was not going to be a replacement breakfast but rather an additional 15$ breakfast, I declined. I asked if there was a manager or someone present, and she shook her head and left.

Whether due to shift change, table reassignment, or fear (I was SO hungry, and quite unimpressed) she did not wait on us for the remainder of our meal. The trendy gentleman who did wait on us, took a look at my clearly unfinished plate and asked if something was wrong. The situation was explained and he offered me a new breakfast - however, by this point, we had been there for about an hour, companions had eaten, and we had commitments to keep. I politely declined, and he brought the bills. Unfortunately, despite my sad story of woe, I was still charged for my meal - full price. I considered leaving without paying, but I have (some) manners and morals, and dining and dashing just isn't part of my character. All in all I payed roughly 24$ for two eggs, half a piece of focaccia and a latte.

I have to note that everyone else really enjoyed their food. And I'm sure the food is great, but seriously - I would NEVER go back there and I may make it my life's work to tell dark ominous tales of unsated hunger to anyone who asked about this famed Cafe Medina. Clearly, this was one bad experience at what I'm sure is a traditionally excellent brunch place, however, for an establishment owned by the same group as Chambar and the Dirty Apron, I have only one thing to say and that is BOOURNS. And also - shame on your poorly trained service staff. If someone has a terrible meal - don't charge them for it! If a customer is unhappy with their food - offer them a replacement! I am but a friendly pescatarian, however, what if I had been an individual who didn't eat meat for religious or cultural reasons? And please have a manager or senior staff member on duty during brunch if your restaurant is famed for its brunches. Last but not least: avoid hiring halfwits to serve brunch, no matter how hippyishly cute they are. Brunch is a serious meal.

Caveat:  I honestly don't even know whether to consider this a food review as I didn't really get to eat breakfast, however, given the fact this is a restaurant, and reviews generally include service, experience, etc., in their judgements, so I thought - OK, why not. As for the eggs and bread - they were fine.

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