The Norman is a luxury boutique hotel on Nahmani st, just off Tel Aviv’s central and busy Rotchild blvd. They offer a few dining experiences, including The Norman, a French brasserie-style restaurant with mediterranean influences. The Norman website promises and fails to deliver on a “world class fine dining restaurant”. In our case it definitely delivered “an unforgettable experience in the heart of vibrant Tel Aviv”, only not in the way they intended.
On Saturday, the restaurant serves breakfast until 3PM. We reserved our table for 1PM, and the guy who took our order on the phone explicitly, and quite cheerfully stated that he’s registering us for a table indoors “so that we don’t sit outside in the summer heat”. So far so good! However, when we arrived at the location on time, we were requested to wait at the Library Bar until a table inside the restaurant becomes available. A few minutes later, we were told that no table was available for us inside. When we mentioned that when making the reservation, we were specifically told that our table was reserved inside, the hostess said she knows of no such policy to reserve indoor tables, and that we have the option of sitting at the Library Bar, outside of the actual restaurant or outdoors in the scalding heat. It was strange and disappointing, but we don’t let such matters get in the way of our breakfast – after all, they say that’s the most important meal of the day.
We took our seat at one of the tables in the Library Bar, received two complimentary Mimosas (48₪ \ $12.5) because of the reservation hiccup and felt quite optimistic. It was a nice gesture on their part and mistakes happen, right? The problem is when those mistakes keep happening.
Our waitress came to us and started setting our table, which was dirty and unkempt, so we politely asked whether it’s possible to clean it. She complied and went the extra mile by cleaning my leg as well on the way.
Not long after the first two dishes were served.
Tomato Salad (20₪ \ $5)
Calling this a salad is an overstatement. The small plate contained a few sliced cherry tomatoes and radish, drizzled with oil olive and some pepper. The tomatoes didn’t feel fresh, but tired and stale. The so-called salad was tasteless – definitely not worth the price.
Bread Basket, Jams & Honey (28₪ \ $7.5)
This was also a miss. When we received the bread basket, we were asked whether we want the butter with the bread(?). We know – we were puzzled by the question as well. One of the included bread types was tasty, the other types were dry and old. At the end of the meal we realized the jams and honey never made it to our table – but by that time it was too late.
Not long after the next two dishes came. We immediately began taking pictures, at which point our waitress came to us and commanded us “These dishes are best eaten hot so stop taking pictures and put the camera down”. Look, I know that for a bystander we might look like two hipsters snapping pictures of their food – and I get why someone might have criticism for that. I really do, but there’s a place, a time, and a right tone for that. We’re all adults, if our food gets cold because we chose to take pictures of it, that’s our choice to make. Being scolded by our waitress for doing what we love just felt wrong and weird.
Anyhow – back to the dishes
Eggs Benedict – Poached egg with ham and bacon (56₪ \ $14.5)
I love eggs benedict. It’s one of my favorite dishes. This one just felt off. The hollandaise sauce, which is usually sweet and savory was sour and way too salty.
French Toast – Braised nectarine and crème fraîche (42₪ \ $11)
This was one redeeming factor in this meal. The toast was very well… errm… toasted, to the point of caramelization which made it so soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Along with the crème fraîche every bite was fun and we quickly devoured the entire dish. The nectarines were also a nice touch.
We weren’t offered coffee, and at no point in the meal did the waitress ask us if we need anything, if the food is okay, or came to pick up used plates and utensils. We felt neglected, and a little threatened by her non-service oriented attitude. After some debate we decide not to leave a tip.
A little word about our thought process regarding tipping etiquette – because we feel it’s an important and a charged topic. The whole ecosystem of tips, in countries that have them it is skewed, creating injustice and putting both service givers and patrons in awkward situations. It’s a distorted social norm, but one that exists nonetheless and as patrons we can’t unilaterally abolish them. That’s why almost in every case we leave a tip. Even if the service is just okay, even if the service was mediocre – we always leave a tip. The only case where we don’t leave a tip, is if a service is either frustrating (“we feel cheated”) or offensive (“we feel offended”). Eating at the Norman restaurant was both of these cases combined, as the next paragraph will demonstrate.
As we left the restaurant, our server ran to us to confront us about not leaving a tip, publicly and in front of other patrons and staff. We truthfully, and calmly, told her that we felt like we received poor service. She was flabbergasted, “What are you talking about?! you received EXCELLENT service!”. Service is subjective, and if a patron feels like he has been wronged, the proper way to handle such a situation would be to calmly converse with him and understand how exactly did this gap in expectations occur, and how could this issue be avoided in the future. Confrontation and accusation only work to further antagonise both sides, and is definitely not the way to go.
Our breakfast at Norman was disappointing, we’re not sure if more because of the service or because of the food. We left with a bad taste in our mouth, figuratively and literally.
The Norman Online: