The Casa del Mare it has to be said was a curious hotel; a bizarre mix of excellence, comic and incompetence. This had started the moment that we arrived when a paperwork mix-up (their description) had led to confusion about room allocation, which turned out well for us because we had to be upgraded to one of the best rooms in the small eight bedroom hotel which we didn’t mind at all.
The owners were friendly, in fact I would have to say too friendly because it was impossible to get past reception without being intercepted and bombarded with far too much advice to be taken in all in one go but this was something we had to get used to even though generally speaking I prefer to go straight to my room or the bar or the restaurant without unnecessary conversation.
The room was first class with deliciously cool air-conditioning, modern furniture and bright cheerful decoration and there was nothing there to fault at all except the safe wasn’t bolted down and if anyone was minded to steal our valuables they could simply have walked out with the whole thing under their arm! Still, we were confident that wasn’t going to happen so we just found it amusing.
The al fresco restaurant was good, set in manicured gardens with modern furniture and immaculately clean and on account of this we decided to eat there on the first night and selected a table on the terrace. The waiter brought the menus and we made our selections from a huge choice while children with a family on the next table ran around and made a nuisance of themselves. This wasn’t a problem in itself except it looked dangerous to me when they kept getting under the waiters feet as he delivered food from the kitchens.
Now, the menu was fine but there was far too much on it and this didn’t assist decision making but this wasn’t a real problem either because the poor waiter was so busy that he didn’t return to take our order for almost fifteen minutes. When he finally turned up we ordered a bottle of white wine, a starter to share and a main course each.
The white wine selection put him in a spin because he didn’t have any pre chilled so he farcically tried to cool a bottle down in an ice bucket and resisted our attempts to drink it before he had dropped the temperature a degree or two. I think I would have just stuck it in the freezer for a minute ten minutes or so. Anyway, we insisted on drinking it as it was and he had to concede.
Then we had to wait another fifteen minutes for the first course to arrive, which turned out to be an excellent plate of food that we polished off quickly but then had to wait another thirty minutes for the main course which was sadly disappointing. When we had finished he apologised for the delays and advised us that he could speed things up tomorrow if we could choose our meals some time in advance.
This seemed sensible but I did expect this to mean first thing in the morning and the next day when we sat down for breakfast he immediately started to pester us about tonight’s evening meal and quite honestly this was a bit too soon for me to think about tonight’s main course let alone select it!
Breakfast was excellent, certainly one of the best hotel buffet breakfasts that we have had but he would keep banging on about fish and lobster and mussels for later on and we weren’t ready to make this choice just yet. He had another weird quirk of making us sign for the tea and coffee, which I thought was odd because breakfast was included in the rate. I asked him why and he said not to worry it was just for his records! I cannot even begin to imagine what this was all about.
After we had been out for the day we returned to the hotel at about six o’clock and he immediately pounced – did we know what we wanted to eat yet? We didn’t really but indulged him and asked for mussels. ‘Black or white?’ he enquired and when I looked puzzled he took us to the kitchen to show us the white variety. They were scallops, so we said ok but we would like some ordinary (black) mussels as well and for main course we would choose from the menu and went to the room confident that this would speed things up.
We choose red wine tonight so we didn’t have the cooling down routine and although service should have been quicker we had drunk three quarters of it before the starter arrived – just four scallops and no mussels and they weren’t even cooked very well! I asked for the mussels and it was his turn to look puzzled and he explained that we hadn’t ordered them. I didn’t want to argue with him but I thought that was the whole point of ordering early! When he returned to clear the plates I told him that we hadn’t enjoyed the scallops that much and he went into shock and demanded an explanation. And then the receptionist came to make the same enquiry and then the owner and I was beginning to wish I had just done the decent British thing and kept my dissatisfaction to myself.
I knew it was going to take a long time again because thirty minutes after ordering the main course he came back and asked us to remind him what we had chosen. I asked for some beer and he asked why and I explained as best I could that it taken so long for the food to arrive that we had drunk all the wine! The kids ran about again until one of them crashed into a plate glass window which slowed him down a lot and we sat and waited. And we waited for another thirty minutes until the main course arrived by which time it had taken so long that we no longer had an appetite for it so we ate about half of it and left.
At breakfast the next morning he aplogised several times but was careful to point out that it really was our own fault because we clearly didn’t know the difference between black and white mussels and we should have ordered earlier. And here was the real problem with the menu – there was just too much on it, the chef was providing too many selections when he should have been concentrating on a manageable number and I gave this advice on my feedback form later. The waiter did seem genuinely concerned that we hadn’t enjoyed our meal and brought us something special to compensate – a bowl of luke-warm chocolate mousse! We were dumbfounded and speechless and I still am.
Overall we did like the hotel and mostly we were amused more than irritated but we were glad to be leaving and going back to Croatia. But even this wasn’t as straight forward as it should have been because when we checked out the credit card payment machine was broken down and so they wanted payment in cash. I didn’t have enough Euros in my wallet so had to drive to a cash point three kilometres away in nearby Bijela and then return with the money where everyone else who wanted to check out this morning was having exactly the same problem.
An interesting place the Casa del Mare hotel. I won’t be going back!