The Symposium Cafe, Waterloo
I know we’re supposed to stick to the Toronto food base but this restaurant was so memorable that I had to put up a little post about it. Little did I know, before my Google research, that the Symposium Cafe is a chain of licensed cafes that spans from Mississauga to London (Ontario). Their website mentions that they pride themselves on having “a unique and exciting concept of upscale, casual dining” but unfortunately there’s nothing upscale about this entire place. If I had a rating system I would certainly give this restaurant 2 out of 10 for the simple fact that it didn’t give me food poisoning (which I somewhat expected after our meal) so we ate something my body recognized as grub.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of my meal at The Symposium Cafe, I’ll skim over the decor. The walls are littered with giant Renaissance paintings, fake painted tiles and a plethora of plastic plants draping from every elevated surface possible. You would almost expect the chairs and couches to be enveloped in a thick plastic protector and Nonna to emerge out of the kitchen to bring you your meal. It’s sad, not welcoming and a little bit overbearing if you ask me. However, take all of this with a grain of salt since the Symposium Cafe does have 14 locations so there are a lot of people that enjoy this level of excellence.
And then there was the service… We arrived in a big group (10 to be exact) so the expectation of a slower meal was already there but what we received was beyond belief. We actually served ourselves to menus after 20 minutes of waiting for a someone to acknowledge us. An hour later and after about 10 requests, we finally got some drinks on the table (not necessarily the right ones but something) in the dirtiest water stained glasses imaginable. About an hour and a half after sitting down, our breakfast began coming to the table one plate at a time! The servers all seemed highly inexperienced, lacking knowledge of their own products and just generally disorganised. If it wasn’t for the general fatigue (or hangover) at the table, we would have walked out within the first 10 minutes.
Of course I saved the best part of the visit for last: the food. Brunch as a meal in a restaurant can generally go one of two ways: good or horribly horribly bad! I’m sure you can imagine what we endured. The poached eggs were hard boiled, the Hollandaise sauce was out of a bucket (mostly mayo), the omelettes were dry and flavourless, the “breakfast potatoes” tasted like fish sticks and that’s just a quick recap. My favourite part of all of these dishes was the garnish that the kitchen decided to decorate our plates with: dead lettuce. The leaf was so far past it’s expiration date that it had already morphed through the limp stage of its life and began to crisp up along the edges. I’m sorry to have to pick on such a detail but I was shocked that someone would actually put that on a plate. Overall, the food was a direct translation of the Sysco (frozen food supplier) brunch catalogue with the added bonus of a careless group of talentless chefs in the kitchen. But, maybe I don’t know what a “classic gourmet meal” looks like since they do have 14 locations throughout Ontario.
As a quick recap, the food was below par, the service lacking and the decor imposing and somewhat intimidating. I promise to avoid the Symposium Cafes like the plague and I do apologize if I offended anyone with my review.