Having been to Audrey’s in The Johnson and Wales Inn in Seekonk Massachusetts many times my husband and I looked forward to a fresh seasonal menu, exemplary service, and pristine dinning conditions. Past highlights include scallops in white peppercorn sauce and lobster with asiago cream sauce in puff pastry. During fig season we thoroughly enjoyed three courses accented with the fruit. It was a far cry from a Fig Newton.
Johnson and Wales is one of the country’s leading culinary and hospitality colleges and the inn in Seekonk is a training ground for their students who comprise the bulk of the staff. It is important to remember your experience is part of their learning so comment cards are taken seriously. The website claims Audrey’s is one of the best-kept secrets in the area however it’s not so secret that you shouldn’t make reservations for peak hours or on a holiday. It is especially difficult to procure space for Mother’s Day brunch so be sure to call well in advance.
Our recent trip found the dining room soft with amber light setting the mood for a quiet late afternoon luncheon. A working lunch of 12 occupied one table and was a bit louder than the usual patronage. Despite every other table being available we were seated along the main pass for the kitchen only one table away from them. The wall beside our table was splattered with remnants of meals long passed and the table was not fully set for two but the waiter failed to notice either of these issues.
It didn’t seem two parties totaling fourteen patrons should be a hardship for a bartender and one waiter, however both seemed overwhelmed and disheveled. Fifteen minutes lapsed between seating and the waiter’s first appearance to take a drink order. Another ten minutes passed before he returned with drinks and took our meal order. During these lapses he was not present in the dining room.
A flurry of activity marked the working table receiving bread followed very closely by their meals. Fifteen minutes later the waiter finally arrived with our chowder starters and left before my husband could ask for silverware, which he finally pilfered from a table beside us. Pristinely presented white bowls with a white cream broth full of finely chopped seafood, potatoes, and a thin wedge of bread floating on top sat in front of us. The chowder was wonderfully flavorful but the bread wedge was impossible. It wouldn’t soften enough to be spooned and its strong oregano taste battled with the chowder instead of enhancing it.
A bread basket never arrived at our table and empty glasses sat at the edge with chowder bowls containing remnants of inedible oregano wedges only to be passed by the waiter several times. Finally the bartender took the bowls but failed to acknowledge the drained drinks. The waiter arrived with our sandwiches ten minutes after the bartender absconded with the bowls and continued to ignore the empty glasses.
My husband’s Cuban was slathered with an over abundance of Dijon mustard making it intolerable. My crab cake sandwich with lettuce tomato and spicy mayonnaise looked as if it had been steamed into submission. The barely 3″ round cake was dwarfed by the limp roll and garnish. Mayonnaise under the cake soaked through the roll making it impossible to pick up and the French fries on both plates were cold. Empty glasses remained at the edge of the table throughout the meal.
I still recommend Audrey’s. This particular day was the antithesis of their mission. I would not however go in the middle of a weekday again as it seems a difficult time for staffing, possibly due to class schedules. Prices are fairly high as it is considered casually fine dinning and a $50.00 check for this dismal lunch experience was hard to swallow.