Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lacking ambiance at Sweet Revenge

Sweet Revenge Patisserie on Urbanspoon Everything here is made in-house, which usually means stricter quality control for better quality. If it's made in-house and still inferior to mass-produced shipped-in cakes, you're in trouble. So happily, Sweet Revenge Pâtisserie did not disappoint on this point.

We walked in probably shortly before 8pm on Saturday, which turned out very fortunately because maybe a half hour later, the place was full and the lineup was beginning outside (and, annoyingly, just inside the door, meaning outgoing patrons were sandwiched between people waiting).
The price for what you got was between okay to slightly expensive. My guess is that the neighbourhood doesn't have many options for a late-night café with pâtisserie offerings, which in turn means you get a clashing vibe for a café sort of place (yes, a café and a pâtisserie are not strictly the same, but if you run the latter like the former...). But that later.

We had just finished at The Acorn Restaurant where we did sample five desserts but were still excited by the prospect of even more dessert. I think there's something to that, but I'll skip the musings on psychology here.

I got to try...
  • Chocolate pudding cake ($7) Warm, moist and smooth, with real whipped cream. Optional scoop of ice cream to accompany.
    • Best of the lot for being a really good, rich, chocolate cake. Add equally rich, dark, chocolate sauce and this is a simple yet delicious dessert. Nothing fancy, just chocolate. Whipped cream and ice cream served on the side.
  • Zuccotto ($6) A domed cake covered with semi-sweet ganache, with layers of buttery white sponge, chocolate, & fresh berry mousse.
    • This was alright. Mostly you're eating cream and hardly any cake, so be prepared for it. Light cream on the inside, so despite the amount of chocolate and cream here, it's not a heavy-feeling dessert.
  • Tiramisu ($8) Mascarpone cheese with whipped cream layered over ladyfingers soaked in Kahlua & espresso, dusted with cocoa powder.
    • This came in a tumbler. I'm not really a fan of tiramisu-in-a-glass as they often seem more cream than tiramisu components. Still, the person who ordered it rated it highly.
Sweet Revenge is a safe choice for cake/dessert. Whether you feel the quality is a step above any other patisserie is debatable. Where it is severely lacking is ambiance. I can see reasons for it, but it doesn't really change your experience there.
For starters, this is a tiny, tiny place. It's so small that they have tables divided by a screen for two parties of two each. I'm not kidding. Nevermind that it's not exactly a classy set-up, but it also runs counter to having a particularly private time with whoever you came with. With them being so defensive about space, there's no telling what they'd do if you walked in alone.

This said, if we give them the benefit of the doubt, we can imagine that they are not trying to be uncouth and miserly, but instead trying to serve as many people as possible and minimize the line-up -- And essentially run a café in a space with too few seats to be a proper café. (Starbucks doesn't have this issue because it's a take-out place, rather than really being a dine-in -- do you see people waiting for seats in Starbucks?).
People walk into a café expecting a relaxed time, and the stated peak-hour time limit of 90 minutes is generous for your typical very small party of about two persons. Where cafés (and pretty much every establishment) can run into trouble is when people hog seats for a very long time. Yes, even when others are waiting patiently for their turn.
I remember an incident many years ago at Diva At The Met, during Dine Out Vancouver. The hostesses were flustered dealing with a line-up of patrons who had promptly showed up for their reservations, because a couple of ladies had lingered well over an hour after finishing dinner, and that (plus possibly others) threw off the night's reservations. We could be kind and imagine the diners were oblivious to time; and the restaurant was too polite to move them along. But that doesn't change the fact that everyone after them was now late. I offered to release my reservation, but the hostess I spoke with was mortified at that concession as I had patiently waited over an hour myself.

It comes down to establishments trying to balance hospitality and people being upset at having to wait too long. Various places have various techniques. Some lay down the law with minimum orders per hour (like Calhoun's Bakery, if I remember correctly). Others (like Vij's) try customer retention by giving out snacks to those waiting in line.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and thoughtful review. Just a further comment about the cafe/Starbucks references: Sweet Revenge can't really be called a cafe, in the beverage-principal sense. It's a first and foremost a dessert shop that sells beverages to complement those desserts. Starbucks sells a few sweets, but only as a compliment to coffee.

    Also, it's true that you don't see people waiting specifically for seats at Starbucks, but I often see people standing in long lines to buy a coffee, whether to go or to drink-in. More would probably sit down after buying a coffee if there were more seats (or if Starbucks provided table service).

    I've only been to Sweet Revenge twice, as I don't stand in line to spend money, generally, but I have a couple of friends that love the place.