A final resto review for Newport, RI...
Three names came up again and again in all of our lists of the best places to dine in Newport, RI: Castle Hill for brunch; The Mooring and 22 Bowen's for dinner. All three white tablecloth restos [read: expensive] are owned and operated by the Newport Hospitality Group a subsidiary of the Newport Harbor Corporation.
Whilst still in NYC, I had called all three restos – all said it would be no problem to accommodate my allergies. Ironically 22 Bowen's over the phone seemed most accommodating. More on that in a mo.
Castle Hill, located on the long and winding road of Ocean Drive in Newport is about as great a location as one resto can get. Overlooking the water, they seem to have it all: valet parking, bungalows for hire, hotel rooms, attentive staff, preppy patrons and that salty sea breeze I can’t get enough of. We went for brunch and I had a plain cheese omelet [again more cheese, sigh] with garlic roasted potatoes.
Overall, foodwise, I give them an B+ for effort and reservationist-manager-server-kitchen communication BECAUSE my dish arrived with a creamy potatoes au gratin complete with breadcrumb topping! Once I pointed out the error, it was rectified quickly. At least one can see obvious mistakes like breadcrumb topping; I just worry if there had been less obvious, less visible ones made. But my brunch was yummy and there were no problems. [Thanks Dave!]
The Mooring was our dinner destination last Sunday night. Sitting on the marina, our outside table overlooked the yachts. Wonderful. On the phone, they assured me allergen-free wouldn’t be a problem. Our charming Croatian waiter Darko knew about my allergies, said the Chef/kitchen was aware, and they were happy to make me something safe. I had another burger, made on a completely separate grill. Not a great burger [not much better than the one at Pineapples] but allergen-free.
I went into to talk with 22 Bowen's about a possible dinner reservation and if they could make me something safe. I had spoken to a reservationist the previous week from NYC and they were one of the places that seemed to understand best how to deal with an allergic diner as I said above.
Seems that was a fluke.
When I walked in, I spoke with a woman who identified herself as a “floor manager”. She said they would not be able to handle my request. What was my request? I asked if possible, when they grill my dinner could they grill using a clean pan? Pretty common practice, easily done as every resto that weekend had been able to do so. She told me that my request “was impossible”. "Impossible? Are you certain?" She assured me the kitchen wouldn’t do it.
I found her attitude odd especially as they have a note on their menu about food allergies and the reservationist was so clear and positive about being able to accommodate me when I asked the very same question. Also odd as my experiences with other restaurants in this same corporate group had been positive.
I’d like to return to Newport. I’d like to eat dinner in a nice restaurant. I’d like to feel safe and confident that the place where I’m eating understands the importance of food allergies and the attendant issues and maybe even accommodate them.
To that end, I wanted to hear what the NHC thought about this inconsistency. I emailed and called the Newport Harbor Corporation's restaurant group inquiring why 22 Bowen's had given me conflicting information. The reply from the director of marketing: I'll look into it and get back to you. I've received no further communication from their offices as of yet. I will post when/if I do.
So the final word about restos in Newport, RI:
--Ask, ask, ask about their allergen policies anytime you go anywhere. Confirm that they understand what you are talking about. If they don't move on.
--Remind the server/manager/everyone about your needs after each course. Be friendly but clear about your needs; reminders help especially when a resto's busy. Hey they're human!
--Bring your allergy card--seeing things in black and white really helps solidify how serious you are and what your needs are. Really.
--When the server/manager/chef/owner/restaurant group does a great job, let them know! Tip well, compliment the chef, smile at the server, say thank you to the manager on the way out. Go back when you're in town next!
--However, if there are problems, speak up, be clear and gracious but firm: this is your life, your body, your health i.e. precious stuff!
--The final reminder: Have fun!
590 Ocean Drive
Newport, RI 02840
The Mooring Restaurant
Newport, RI 02840