Old Vines Restaurant, Quails’ Gate Winery, Kelowna

We recently came back from a tour of wineries in the Okanagan. If you haven’t been wine tasting before, the Kelowna area has a plethora of amazing wineries for you to indulge in some of the finest wines in North America, and possibly the world.

Most wineries include a restaurant, with outdoor seating areas for you to enjoy the views of Okanagan Lake–which is one of the most relaxing experiences during the summer. For dinner, we decided upon Old Vines Restaurant at Quails’ Gate Winery. This winery has one of the most prestigious locations and has incredible views of the lake, and the design and architecture of the location will take your breath away. It felt like we were in Southern California, and not in BC!

Old Vines Restaurant has a two page menu–one side for appetizers and the other for mains. Prices are more on the higher end of the scale, reaching fine dining prices for mains. Upon arriving at Quails’ Gate, we found their hostess to be…unwelcoming. I’m not sure if she was overwhelmed because the restaurant was busy, but she had a slight air of “snootiness” with her demeanor. No friendliness or even a smile. Regardless, reservations are recommended and shortly after arriving we were seated at our table.

We received water service immediately from a junior server, and had to wait much longer than expected for our server, Pierre. He greeted us, and was envious that “we got to have wine before he did because he had to wait until the end of his shift to drink.” Since he took so long to get to our table, we ordered wine, appetizers, and mains all at the same time. We would’ve liked to have had some wine while perusing the menu–as in other fine dining establishments. It seemed as though our server was having a difficult time keeping up with his section and our table seemed to be last on his priority list

Since we didn’t make it for wine tasting earlier in the day, we opted for the $9 Aromatic Flight. This included 2oz samplings of the following wines from Quails’ Gate: 2009 Dry Riesling, 2009 Gewurztraminer, and their 2009 Chenin Blanc. This was a great way to sample some fabulous wines and start our evening.

Now, here’s when things started to take a very sour turn. After we requested the Aromatic Flight, we decided to share the Thiessen Farm Quail “Caesar” appetizer. This consisted of grilled quail, baby romaine, local wild boar bacon, Gort’s smoked Gouda, vinaigrette Caesar dressing. Now, imagine the ingredients I just mentioned. Does this sound like a Caesar salad to you? Would it appear as though it was impossible to share this appetizer with someone? Sure, the name “Caesar” is in quotes…but obviously we all know what it implies.

When my wife informed the server that we were going to share an appetizer to start, and requested the “Caesar salad”, our waiter rudely raised his voice and with anger, yelled: “if you had actually read the menu, you would know the Caesar is not a real Caesar salad and CANNOT be shared.”

We were flabbergasted at his response to us. And we are still unsure what exactly his problem was. Servers can’t control how fast the kitchen prepares meals. Servers can’t control wine stocks when the Chardonnay runs out. They can’t control the weather. They CAN, however, control how they interact with customers. For Pierre to respond to my wife in such a condescending and belittling manner startled the entire table.

Usually, in an ‘actual’ fine dining establishment, servers ask if we have any questions about the menu. Our server offered no such assistance.  Although, we had no questions, nor did we even request separate plates – we just wanted to order the Caesar as listed on the menu!

We decided to opt for the Qualicum Beach Scallops ($16) instead because our server had such a problem with us ordering the Caesar! I ordered the Angus Beef Ribeye ($34) and my wife ordered the Queen Charlotte Islands Halibut ($29). The night had taken a very awkward and sour turn with the rudeness of our server, and his inability to take his time to provide professional service.

Anyways, here are the dishes as they arrived…our amuse bouche:

Our server then proceeded to try and rush my wife and tried to take away her amuse bouche before she even had a chance to taste it.  I had to almost take the plate back out of Pierre’s hands! I politely informed him that we were still working on it. Why the sudden rush to get things moving along?

Next up, we have the Qualicum Beach Scallops, with Fraser Valley pulled pork ravioli, smoked organic onion puree, Agassiz hazelnut pistou, micro salad. This appetizer was $16. We expected more than just two small scallops (I guess they come small from Qualicum Beach?!) and one tiny ravioli. Is it fair to even include the “micro salad” as a salad? It was a garnish more than anything. This was just way too small.

After our appetizers were finished, we waited a very long time for our mains to arrive. Longer than usual, and there was no follow up service to see how our appetizers were. After the wait, here arrived my wife’s main course: Queen Charlotte Islands Halibut, with a cranberry almond crust, citrus potatoes, braised leeks, blood orange butter.

This halibut was an excellent sized portion for the price ($29), and the fish was moist throughout and not dry at all. The cranberry almond crust added a nice crunchy texture to the meaty halibut, which tasted fresh and was cooked through. A very nice main and highly recommended.

One thing, was the portion of the halibut did seem a bit large. As you can see from the photo the size of the halibut overpowers the harmony it should have with the potatoes and braised leeks. You can’t even see them.

Here is my main course, the Angus Beef Ribeye ($34). It was a dry aged 10oz steak, with Suncatcher sieglende potatoes, king oyster mushrooms, Colbert compound butter. The steak was cooked medium rare exactly as requested, and it was very, very tender!

As with a typical ribeye cut, there was lots of marbling and about 1/3 of the steak was inedible fat though. The butter was nice, but the dollop was a bit too much for my liking so I only melted part of the generous slab. The potatoes were delicious, well roasted and the king oyster mushroom (singular) was grilled to perfection.

By the time we all finished our mains, once again the theme of the night came into play–waiting for service. There was no quality check halfway into our main, or even afterwards. We were just sitting there waiting for service. We did not opt for dessert, and requested the bill from Pierre. Unfortunately, he must have forgotten our bill because we had to physically leave our table to search for him and remind him to bring the bill. The cheque was not split into two for each couple, but one bill. Not a problem, but it would’ve been nice if he had inquired about this extra touch.

Our night at Quails’ Gate started out quite well–upon arriving at the winery because the scenery and the location stuns you. It’s a magnificent restaurant and winery that has been designed and decorated beautifully.

Our table was quite miffed at the rude, condescending behaviour of Pierre. I wondered if others had experienced such service from this server? A quick Google search revealed someone on Open Table also complaining about his “unfavorable” service.

After reading this review below, I was shocked to imagine just how many more people had experienced such unfortunate service at such an esteemed location. Clearly, Quails’ Gate needs to work on their training of staff. If you want to be regarded as a fine dining restaurant and charge fine dining prices, you better act like one.

I also sent out a tweet on twitter, and received the following response:

So that makes at least two other people who have experienced sub-par and downright unsatisfactory service from Pierre. Quite frankly, we received far superior service at a White Spot a few days later. Quails’ Gate needs to seriously re-evaluate how they do their hiring. For the prices they charge (up to $49 for Wild Nunavut Caribou) they really need to step up their game for service. The price is not an issue for us, it’s being treated with respect–something you’d expect from a “fine dining” establishment.

We don’t normally contact restaurants after poor experiences. We just speak with our wallets and never go back. This time around, we did send an email to Quails’ Gate documenting our experience with the horrendous service. They were, as expected, very apologetic and offered gift certificates and even went as far to offer to mail us a couple bottles of wine.

That’s nice, but we’re not in this to be bribed to come back and re-experience the restaurant. The restaurant industry is a cutthroat world and there are thousands of other establishments that are fighting for your dollars.  We’ll just move on to another restaurant that can actually handle volume with consistent service (and not downright snooty and condescending behaviour).

It really is unfortunate that we had such a terrible experience with the service. The restaurant and the winery’s location is truly stunning. The food was great, (minus the minuscule appetizer portions) but the poor service just takes away all of the positives Quails’ Gate has to offer. For that, we will consider this to be one gate we’ll never, ever, enter again.

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About Taya & Gary

Gary and Taya Ng are the Founders of Eating In Vancouver & the World. This husband and wife team search for the best dining experiences - including restaurant launches, new menu tastings and culinary events. Learn more about the couple here and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook.

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