Service No Man’s Land: Sutton Place Hotel

I’ve written positively before about the Christmas buffet offered at the Sutton Place Hotel (10235 101 Street), so count me as surprised when a recent visit to their twice-weekly Chocoholics Buffet turned out to be a less-than-stellar experience.

Janice wanted to check out the dessert event as part of her birthday night out, and May, Annie and myself were more than happy to oblige. $16 per person seemed a small amount to pay for the right to gorge out on a variety of chocolate sweets, especially when the price included an alcoholic beverage.

We knew from the website that the buffet was open from 5-10pm, so we had a relatively large window to make it down there. After a bite to eat at Lazia, we walked over to Sutton Place and headed straight for the main floor lounge, where the buffet was supposed to be set up.

There is apparently live jazz to accompany the buffet on the last Thursday of every month. That really would seem to be the best time to visit, as the ambiance was lacking that night – the only music we could hear drifted down from the restaurant proper a floor above us, just barely overshadowing the natural buzz of a hotel lobby. The lounge itself was also extremely dim – there were a few peripheral lamps that did their best to make up for a lack of overhead lights, but we found ourselves wishing for a tabletop candle or two.

We hoped the food would make up for the aesthetics of the lounge, and the spread looked quite promising. There were over ten varieties of desserts, including cheesecake, creme puffs, chocolate shooters, a brownie pizza, and a mousse cake. A silver vessel also contained warm chocolate to drizzle over fruit, but best of all, they had a staff member available to make crepes. And like vegetarian entrees on steakhouse menus, they did have a few non-chocolate desserts, including a plain vanilla cake.

Chocoholics Buffet spread

We found a table and waited a few minutes for one of the two waitresses to acknowledge our presence, but our patience waned. At some point, we decided to be proactive and simply load up our table with plates, hoping that might alert the staff that we needed some assistance.

Crepes were up first for all of us. Kim, the chef on hand, provided a nice personal touch to the experience. We asked her about how busy the buffet was on a typical evening, as there was only one other customer dining alongside our group, and she said that during a busy period (such as CFR week), around 7-10 patrons would frequent the buffet. That seemed to me like an awfully low number (particularly if such busy swings were few and far between) for the Sutton Place to continue to offer such a spread twice weekly. She assured me that the food didn’t go to waste, and as employees were given a three-course meal after every shift, that all of the leftovers would be consumed by staff.

Kim busy behind her station

Back to the crepes – once she folded over the crepe, we were able to choose from a variety of sweet and savoury toppings. I decided to add strawberries, chocolate, and sliced almonds to my chewy crepe. It was quite good, and knowing we could go back for seconds and thirds was a reassuring thought.

My personalized crepe

We tackled the main dessert table next, and I attempted to taste a little piece of everything. After careful deliberation (and three plates), I decided I liked the flourless chocolate cake the best. It was moist, the texture was just right, and though it was fairly rich, I appreciated the dense chocolate flavour. The chocolate-dipped strawberries came in a close second.

Plate #2

After we had returned to our table with our first “courses”, the waitress did come to take our drink order. When asked if they had any dessert wine, she told us that we should be drinking a less sweet wine so as to not take away from the desserts. I would be the first to admit that I am by no means a wine snob, but all of us at the table knew that she was wrong. She poured us all a white wine, which ended up being quite nice, but we were off-put by her initial error.

The service didn’t improve over the evening, as by the end of our stay, just one waitress was left in the area. We actually felt really bad for her – I’m sure the short staffing was a product of the boom – but it made our experience less noteworthy on a positive level.

While the buffet is a good deal, and those who like chocolate should definitely look into it, don’t expect to get more out of it than a meal to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Us, ten pounds heavier

Sutton Place Hotel
10235 – 101 Street
(780) 428-7111 
Chocoholics Buffet every Thursday and Friday, 5-10pm

6 thoughts on “Service No Man’s Land: Sutton Place Hotel

  1. I find it amazing that a “busy” night for them is 7-10 patrons. How on Earth can that be profitable?

    However, having lived literally across the street from the Sutton for a year, I walked through the hotel lobby to get to City Centre mall quite often, and I can attest to the fact that the lobby dining area (as well as the restaurant upstairs) is nearly always empty. At best, there tend to be no more than 3 or 4 people on any giving night.

    It really makes me wonder why the hotel even bothers having a bar and restaurant when their guests clearly don’t make use of them.

  2. …which pretty much explains the lack of staff. No revenue, cut down on staffing. One waitress seems like overstaffing for that much trade.
    And so the eternal see-saw battle goes. Business drops. Cut down on staff to salvage what little profits could be gained. (Plus, available serving staff are at a premium; if word gets out that your restaurant is less busy, servers won’t line up to work there–fewer tips are available). Less staff means a lower level of service. Lower level of service off-puts the few customers left. The downhill slide continues.

    The crepes looked great, though!

    What a goofy business.

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