The craziest part about this visit is that upon check-in, Foursquare alerted me that I have not been to The Front Room since April 2012. Any time I find myself wandering into the East End, I always end up stopping short of walking the extra 200 feet to Harding Lee Smith’s cornerstone restaurant and dine at Blue Spoon instead. Historically, I’ve wanted to eat there multiple times but recall always having a long wait that my hunger couldn’t endure and also being deterred by the noise level. I’ve heard all of the horror stories of how Harding runs his operations and read plenty of reviews from dissatisfied diners, but it was all hearsay up until this point. My water never got a refill until my check was ready and the silverware wasn’t replaced after my salad course. The initial wait time was just shy of double the original estimate, though I can’t gripe too much about that as a walk-in on the weekend. I’ve never had to chime in with the negativity surrounding any of Harding’s restaurants before, but I have to say as delicious as my entrée was, service suffered and was worlds away from the counterpart Rooms.
As a solitary diner who doesn’t drink, I feel my needs are pretty minimal. Water and flatware should be a given for any customer, but I tend to be more aware of these things if I’m not accompanied by friends to socialize with and distract me. I don’t want this to come across that I’m condemning The Front Room and urging everyone to dine elsewhere. Again, I was tremendously pleased with my food, but I have never had a service issue before at any of Harding’s restaurants so it was both a surprise and disappointment.
On another note, I presented my LivingSocial coupon at the end of the meal as opposed to the beginning. I have heard from a couple of folks that as soon as they mention LivingSocial for their reservation (often a condition of redemption), it has negatively influenced the treatment by their servers. I have heard that businesses tend to lose money on Groupon and LivingSocial deals and it is more about exposure and getting your name out there and I don’t think Harding is necessarily hurting in that arena. I suppose the perception might be that such customers will tip poorly because coupon-hunting is a byproduct of frugality. I also only shelled out $3 for my LivingSocial coupon thanks to credit card rewards, so maybe I got what I paid for?