Restaurant Review: The Archive- Safa Park

I love the whole concept of the Archive. It's smack dab in the middle of Safa Park, full of books and long communal tables, they have an espresso bar, plenty of sun shades over outdoor cafe tables, close proximity to a playground for the kids... truly, it's practically ideal.

But then there's the service. We arrive and sit down at a table. There are less than 10 people (we were 5) in the restaurant and at the outside tables. We wait. After 10 minutes a waiter appears. He does not greet us, but rather unceremoniously hands us three copies of the menu. The waiter does not ask for a drink order, but promptly goes away. We look at the menu and wait, and wait, and wait...

We are sitting directly in front of the glass window where all six mostly unoccupied waiters can see us. They are clearly not going to come and take our order. So, I go in and inquire, just in case it's our fault, if there is table service outside. I am told that there is, but maybe I should order inside, just to get it over with.

After I pay, I return to our table. Drinks arrive promptly. For whatever reason, though, our new waiter thinks its a good idea to bring us 3 bottles of juice, 3 glasses for the juice, one latte, 5 glasses for water. So on three tables that cannot be more than 18" square each, we have 12 glasses. (We are eating with the children). Shockingly, one of the drinks is immediately spilled.

Lunch is served without event and then we never see the waiter again. No stopping by to see if we need anything, no clearing the empty dishes and glasses, nothing. And really, none of these things is that big a deal, but taken altogether, one gets the sense that the staff at the Archive simply could not care less about the dining experience.

The food is pretty good, my latte was delicious. For lunch, I had a beetroot arugula salad with goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts. The salad was fine, but with an indistinct dressing and three or four hazelnut halves, hardly inspired. My husband had a roasted vegetable sandwich. Last year, this sandwich was served piled high with delicious veggies and a generous smear of goat cheese on the bread. Now, not so much, the sandwich is thin and the vegetables and cheese feel like an afterthought. My son, who had the beef pastrami was the only person really excited about his food, although the sweet potatoes that came as a side were simply baked and completely unseasoned.

The little ones had pancakes which were tasty enough and they did finish them completely. There is something very nice about eating pancakes outside for lunch. I wished they had been a bit more generous with the maple syrup, though.  Again, it just felt like nobody in the kitchen is really paying attention.

The Archive is certainly good enough. I think my frustration comes from the fact that the food used to be sensational and the restaurant has the potential to be truly terrific. There was a time, when it first opened, that you went to the Archive for the amazing food and just lived with the service. I certainly expected the staff to mature and become more polished.  Unfortunately now, I guess you go for the ambiance of sitting in the park and try to not to expect too much of the service or the food.

$$ **

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