It's been two months since my last visit to Margherita Mare. I liked the place but I can still remember their revolting paper menus. During this time I have received numerous calls of people complaining about the place while reading negative comments left on NGNO about the service, the food and some of the weird in-house rules imposed which are making guests feel uncomfortable... I wanted to go and see what was happening for myself, while trying their newly opened summer terrace.
Who by now doesn’t know Margherita? This famous pizzeria, which first opened its door along the Gemmayze district in 2008, brought Lebanon a whole new meaning and taste to Italian cuisine. Since then, Margherita has expanded, opening in various locations around Lebanon including ABC Achrafieh, Horsh Tabet, Jounieh’s old souk and Blueberry Square in Dbayeh. Was it a bad thing for them to expand that fast? Franchises are sometimes the beginning of the end.
We reached the door to be welcomed with a sign that says: "Kindly use the terrace door". Why is that? Not the best of first impressions. A couple of meters away is the wide dining terrace with a view of the sea. Two sections ready to welcome guests to enjoy summer. One section is covered with bamboo shoots, while the other is well lit under clear summer stars.
The place described:
- Up the two stairs is a wide terrace covered with long wood strips
- Dimmed lights decorate a simple space filled with wood, bamboo and greenery
- Real wood tables here and there surrounded by metallic chairs covered with red cushions
- A bamboo pergola covers the space adding a hint of freshness
- The two levels space, one around the bar and the other is closer to the seashores
- At the end, a large glass facade shows five chefs at work
- A long bar with a Pizzaiolo preparing beautiful pieces of art
Dinner started with two kinds of bread, olive oil salted baguette, soft in the middle and crunchy on the sides. I found them succulent. I tried tonight:
- The Gamberi and Rocket salads are fresh, generous and tasty. Nothing to be said about them
- Potato wedges: Homemade with no additives or garlic powder, they are just good. Could have been cooked a bit more
- Pizza Calzone Prosciutto: Beautifully presented, this Pizza is a must try. Not for those with a small appetite, this preparation filled with ingredients is heavy but delicious
The little details I liked:
- Victorinox knives are used, easily cutting all food items
- I love their branded plates
- The general ambiance is pleasant and soothing
- No music was playing keeping it calm and relaxing. The musical tunes created by the waves are enough to create a symphony
What I didn't understand:
- 5 chefs: Men. 7 waiters: Men. 1 Manager: Man: No female staff? Why?
- Are you imposing how people eat with your rules? No ketchup? No eggs? Other things are also not available. When a client asks, it should be available - keep them around!
- Why is all the menu translated from Italian to English except the desserts?
- When visited two months ago, I was told by the manager that the new menus are not ready yet but will be printed within days. It's been a year since this restaurant has opened and the menus have not been changed yet? Go to any printing shop and print yourselves some decent menus. These dirty little pieces of papers used are unacceptably repulsive and disgusting.
- I was clear: Do you put garlic with the Scaloppini? No! The waiter answered with confidence. I received a plate full of garlic that he didn't bother to change and I was charged for it as if nothing wrong had happened
- Waiters are clumsy and unorganized. Maybe the word "waiter" is too much to be used
- Imagine that we had to remove our appetizers plates, since the "waiter" came with the main platters without removing the previous ones
- Dirty cutlery after the appetizers were thrown on the table and not changed just to minimize on washing
- Wine! Served like water
- Get someone do provide some training on some basic things: You all need it!
Your questions answered:
- Management charges unresponsively: TRUE. Some people were charged 500L.L for an add-on of black olives and we were charged 7,500L.L to add one additional item to the salad and 4,500L.L to replace another item on a the pizza. Pathetic!
- One of Margherita's customs is to offer clients the chance to have their meal for free. When you order the bill, waiter comes jug filled with numbers. You say the number you think will be chose, the waiter shakes the jug and chooses a number. If the number is the same as the one you guessed your meal (the whole table) leaves without paying. Twice I have been here and no one approached us with the number game. Why?
- Customers are always asking for changes in their plates that are being refused: TRUE
- The menu printing and papers is disgusting: TRUE Everybody talks about it and nothing is being done to fix this point. Change it fast!
- It is fully loaded and waiters are overwhelmed. More staff should be recruited: TRUE. Waiters were running like headless chickens. You read expressions of stress on their faces
- The service is bad: TRUE. Very bad indeed
- The food is bad: WRONG. No, I disagree on this ones. Those who say the food quality is declining, I disagree.
- Margherita still serves one of the best pizzas in Lebanon: SURE. The dough, the ingredients, the perfect round shape, the crunchiness of the borders are all just great
Concluding this long review, I would invite the management to reconsider some important details to maintain the level of professionalism the restaurant has been known for, for sometime now.
PS: I can't but also mention a point that has intrigued me for some time now. Three comments from something called "The Customer Experience Department" asking clients to send their mobile number and nothing happens afterwards. Don't you think it's better for comments and replies to be done publicly unless you have something to hide? Don't you think its better to name the "Customer Experience Department "Margherita" for people to know who is replying?
I am planning on visiting the Blueberry Square branch soon and I will keep you posted.