New service: You can book restaurants here now

Jackie from Eating with Jack remembers when she first met me. She was front of house at Mrs Jones in Carlton maybe five or six years back and I wasn’t in the reservations book. Being a pro she managed to squeeze us in.

She later told me that’s often what happens when a chef or kitchen hand answers the phone.

It’s a problem, more common than you’d imagine. Luckily, I’ve mostly been accommodated when bookings have gone astray but it has also led me to question my sanity (a bit like writing this post where coding and old drafts have been going haywire).

I’m pretty sure that I’m capable of booking a restaurant and turning up on the right day. I mean I seem to be capable of booking holidays, flights and arriving at the correct time.

Most recently my booking went astray at Bistro Vue at the Heide Museum of Modern Art when I booked lunch for two on the same day that I phoned. My booking was even repeated back to me; there was no misunderstanding that it was that day and at Bistro Vue at Heide.

How the hell did my booking disappear?

Anyway this new service Dimmis takes human error out of the equation and you can book restaurants directly online here. Each week I’m thinking of offering a selection and this post is just to see how it all works. I’m going to try and ensure it doesn’t change my eating behaviour and I will review restaurants that are in the system and not. I’m also thinking of adding reservations tags to my archives.

Of course, I make a small amount for each booking and I hope readers would choose to support me over and above bigger more commercially motivated sites as apart from the odd freebee this site is completely self funded.

All you have to do is click on the booking links below. I’ve included two different types and I’d like feedback on which you prefer or if I should be doing this at all.

Gordon Ramsay
Apparently you can only book Gordon’s Ramsay’s two new Melbourne Restaurants through Dimmi, which basically were given a 14/20 (recalculating the score) in the Herald Sun:

Maze
The posh local Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

Maze Grill
The slightly cheaper local Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

The Palace, Port Melbourne
I guess if you like breakfast TV you might like Luke Mangan’s food. Like Ramsay you may not find him in the kitchen but he knows what he is up to. Early reports indicate the food is good and consistent and your mum or granny will love you for taking her here.

Bond St Bar and Grill, South Yarra
This is a great value Italian free of the usual clichés and one of my favourites in Melbourne. Nice good value wine list too. But it’s tiny and always packed so it is worth booking (and I’m not just saying that).

Bacash, South Yarra
On of the best fish restaurants in Melbourne.

Esposito’s, Carlton
Great fish for people who live north of the river. I and the woman known as my former landlady like it, anyway. The newsletter often has good offers.

Embrasse, Carlton
This is wonderful innovative produce driven food from chef Nicolas Poelaert, a Michel Bras disciple. I loved the food here but there again I like vegetables over large chunks of protein. Nic was The Age Good Food Guide chef of the year, Gourmet Traveller nominated best new talent. I’m looking forward to returning.

Mezzo Bar and Grill, Little Bourke St
Really flavour packed and fairly reasonable value Sicilian food, it had a rave review from John Lethlean in The Australian recently.

Anyway, this is just an experiment while I work out the best way to use this. I’d love your comments on this new feature and, as I mentioned, the two versions of booking buttons I’ve used here.

I’m also wondering whether I should great a separate booking page.

PS: Sorry to readers for the inconvenience caused by some teething problems in getting this post up that reverted to an old draft.

11 Comments

  1. I am using this service from last few months. Really they are good.

  2. This is awfully nice of you to promote their restaurants like this. But I like the idea of just one site and you can book all your meals in that one site. I also like the minimalist buttons. Makes things easier.

  3. Ange, funnily enough I had an email from the marketing peeps at VDM and they found my reservation – three months late!. it doesn’t bode well and perhaps is down to staff training.

    Anelise, I’m going to work on a separate page with a pure listing perhaps. Watch this space.

    Melissa, glad to hear it works. I guess eventually it will get rid a lot of answering the phone.

    Jackie, I bet the system will lose a few but it has to be more reliable than the old physical book. Doesn’t it? (until the system crashes).

    J, I wonder if they keep some bookings off the system for walk-ins and the unforeseen. I’ve heard the same about Maze but it will be interesting to se how it works here and in comments if there are any complaints.

    Anh, true i hate to queue. IF I’m going out I want to know where and when I will eat. Or maybe I’m just too uptight.

    Injera, thanks although it seems a shame to have to print. Maybe a pdf on the iphone?

  4. I love the idea of online booking. It always seems to be a meal time when I realise that I need to make a booking, and then I don’t want to call in the middle of service… and then I forget… Online makes it so much easier. (Plus I just have an aversion to phoning people.) Have used dimmi a couple of times with no problems, but I’m glad I’ve seen Jo’s comment so I’d know to double check by phone. The dimmi site does recommend printing off the confirmation and taking it to the restaurant, but I’d hate to be the person with a printout and no table…

    As for the aesthetics, I prefer the small icon.

  5. Also, the larget button catches the eyes a lot more, IMO.

  6. I’m not entirely sold either.
    But hey, an online booking system is better than the crap no booking policy which is so popular in Sydney. I grew sick of queuing for my food pretty quickly.

  7. Call me a cynic, but I am not sold on this – yet.

    I used the online system to try and book The Palace a few weeks ago. I was unsuccessful as they were “full”.

    So I rang and had a table confirmed within in 2 minutes with no suggestion that they might be full or struggle to accommodate me.

    I will try it again though, technology has its place.

  8. ha! Thanks for the link. 🙂
    Very true but no doubt the next complaint will be that the system lost it.
    And then there are the types that fib and say they have a booking but don’t… thats a good way to get yourself blacklisted. Luckily you cant try and lie to a computer program

    Jack

  9. As a restaurant we have been using the system since before Christmas and love it!!

  10. Hi Ed,
    Informative tip about a great new system – I prefer the minimalist button approach, myself.
    I particularly like the ability to read a review and then just click and book the damn thing (so I guess include a link if it’s available?) – but if it isn’t too much work, a separate page collating links to the reviews and to the dimmi booking for that restaurant would be helpful also. Maybe I’m greedy wanting it both ways!

  11. Sounds like a great idea. And speaking of Cafe Vue at Heide, I rang them today to ask about Mothers day lunch & got 3 different stories as to what was on offer for what price by 3 different people, they really dont seem to have it together do they?