During the Spring break Park Hyatt held a 'Chocolate Delight' at its The Lounge restaurant in Jeddah. A chocolate dessert buffet was advertised to be enjoyed at only SR65. Desserts made from the finest Felchlin chocolate from Switzerland were on offer with a hot/cold chocolate drink of your choice.
Now this was an offer any self-respecting chocolate lover simply could not resist. So, after much debate with various diet conscious friends I managed to convince a friend of mine to accompany me because I simply could not live without partaking in the choc fest at the Park.
At 5 pm on a Thursday, we walked in to the outside courtyard the afternoon sunlight streaming in through the palms that dot the premises. Fountains glittered in the centre, the sound of water lulled you into a serene calmness. The ambience of the place made you forget where you were. Instead the mind hallucinated images of reclining Romans and regal Mugals engaged in idle pleasures. The low tables and chairs were ideal for hours of laid-back lounging and shisha smoking, but certainly not suited for upright eating.
I could sit for hours gazing across the water features and on to the Red Sea, entranced by the trickling water and drugged by the second-hand shisha smoke that occasionally drifted towards me. But my taste-bud’s demanded that they too be indulged. As I walked up to the indoor chocolate buffet table, I anticipated giving in completely to the sinfully sweet temptation on offer, and gorging till my heart’s desire was finally satisfied. My friend, had purer aspirations, and was content to subsist on a wholesome salad and a purifying floral Jasmine tea- her body was to be treated like a temple.
The first shock of the evening came when I saw the size of the buffet. I had expected more. As I took a plate a started to browse among the various types of chocolate on offe I was disappointed to find there were no placards, describing or naming the various items. Instead a chef attempted to enlightened you by whispering to you in Arabic what you were trying to eat. I also spotted a few flies resting on a chocolate cake, which I decided to stay away from. I tried out various chococlates, pure chocolate, white chocolate buttons, and milk-chocolate buttons. Chocolate with pistachios, and other nuts, dark chocolate and coffee flavoured chocolate and a brownie. I also ordered a cold chocolate drink. I found the chocolate brownie was the best- sweet and dense with a bit of nutty crunch. I’m allergic to coffee and once I had the coffee chocolate to say that it was strong would be an understatement- it was overpowering and left me feeling nauseous.
I tried to wash away the taste with the chocolate drink, which tasted pretty normal, and was sadly free of whip cream.
I got sugared out early and had to skip on the fruits/ marshmallow dipped in chocolate fondue, I also skipped the macaroons which are a local favourite but I find them sickeningly sweet; I had tasted most of what was on offer and felt a bit disappointed both at my lack of stamina and I’d expected more variety. As always a complimentary glass of water, or something to clear the pallete in between would n’t have been amiss, even if it was only to wash away the taste of a sweet mistake .
The first impression of my friend’s Park salad was that it was very large indeed. But once you delved into it, you felt that there was a bit of deception at work, because the salad was comprised of mainly greens and they had not really been cut into bite size pieces. Instead, you were left to cut a mini park to size. The salad was quite dry and there wasn’t enough dressing either. The floral jasmine tea however pleased my friend, and was pleasantly fragrant.
As the sun started to dip marking the end of the day, we decided to take its cue and ask for the bill.
We had a good idea of what the cost would be so we had change at hand. The bill arrived, and both of stared at it perplexed, as if it was written in Greek.
I had made it quite clear from the beginning that I would be ordering the ‘chocolate buffet’ for SR60 and my friend’s salad and tea came to SR75, now you don’t need to be a mathematical genius to deduce that adds up to SR135. As service charges in Saudi have been abolished (Yeah!), that is what the total should have amounted to. So you can understand our confusion at a certain -198 minimum charge +63 balance entries. That gave us a total of 198. We asked the waiter to explain to us what was going on, he then decided to inform us there was SR99 minimum charge for dining in The Lounge!
My guilty pleasure trip had turned into all guilt and little pleasure so I was in no mood to argue, I was disappointed and now I was annoyed but I hate confrontations. I don’t mind paying high prices/charges as long as establishments are up front about it; but I despise being tricked. Resigned, I started taking out the extra money to pay off the offending charge, but my friend boldly intervened.
Firstly, she argued that we weren’t informed about the minimum charge when we ordered; secondly we were clearly told the chocolate buffet was SR60 and that is how it was being advertised, so Park Hyatt was purposely deceiving and lying on its website, and in person. The waiter continued to shake his head and keep a very annoying smile plastered on his face while he insisted, that’s the rule like a broken record. My friend retorted that we will pay if you take it off your website that the chocolate delight buffet is for SR 60 and put that it is actually for SR100, because you have been lying. The waiter decided things were getting way beyond his authority and suggested that we speak with the manager. We agreed. The waiter came back shortly, and handed us a new bill in which the minimum charge had been removed. We paid and left, unable to spot the manager who had made the right call.
In summary, a great location and atmosphere marred by poor service, waiters struggled to serve cutlery and napkins, and you had to hail a new waiter standing in the distance every time you required assistance. With proper management, a bit of common sense, and more variety and taste they could be easily offer an unforgettable experience- for the right reasons.