Editors Note: Since posting this review, the restaurant has contacted the host of the party and offered a him a dinner for two to make up for the lousy experience in the following review.
This week we stopped in at Matthew’s in San Marco for a friend’s birthday get together. Matthew’s is the sort of spot folks in town venture out to for special occasions. Matthew’s has gained a reputation as one of the nicest restaurants in Jax. Having dined at Matthew’s a few times over the years, I have nothing but fond memories of the creative food and stellar service. In my previous experiences Matthew’s exhibited an attention to detail in both food and service that was unmatched in the Jacksonville culinary scene. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve reposted a number of food photos from Matthew’s on instagram and gotten feedback from our followers that Matthew’s just isn’t what it used to be. I hadn’t been in years so today’s visit was a chance to find out if the rumors were true or if Matthew’s standards were still some of the highest in town.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 5pm-10pm
Address: 2107 Hendricks Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Matthew’s offers entrees that average around $30 each or a 6 course tasting menu for $75. On this visit the organizer of the dinner worked out options for a 4 course tasting menu with the chef in advance. After a round of drinks in the bar we were all seated and eagerly anticipating our first course. We waited and waited and waited some more. We waited an entire hour for the first course to arrive! That would obviously be unacceptable at any restaurant but at one of the most expensive restaurants in town? Really?
For the first course diners chose between a beef tartare with pickled jalapeño, mustard aioli, and herbed crisps or a hammock hollow mixed greens salad with seared cheese and an Asian pear miso vinaigrette. I went with the salad. It was decent. The Asian pears were a nice choice of fruit. The miso vinaigrette was light and interesting. The seared cheese would have been much better if it came out warm right after it had been seared but in this case it was room temp. Overall it was a decent salad but nothing better than a good much more affordably priced restaurant. Folks who ordered the beef tartare were brought the tartare without the herbed crisps(crostini’s) to eat it with. Everyone was so hungry they ended up having to eat it without the crostini’s since it took another 10 minutes before they arrived. Just shoveling raw beef into your mouth without the crunch of a nice crostini or chip is not exactly my idea of a nice fine dining course. For my second course I went with the espresso-smoked pork belly with sweet potato purée and huckleberry gastrique. This course was nice with each flavor building on the last. Smokey and salty pork belly contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the sweet potato which contrasted with the mildly tart huckleberry. For course #3 the main entree I chose the diver scallops in saffron shrimp broth and sautéed zucchini. The scallops looked pretty good. They were nice big scallops and they were cooked well. Unfortunately these weren’t any better than scallops you’d have at much more affordable restaurants. Additionally most of the folks who got the scallops found them to be gritty. This course was very forgettable either way. For dessert I got a chance to try both options on the tasting menu. The first dessert I tried was Strawberry and champagne entremet, sponge cake, champagne mousse, with white chocolate topped with a mini French macaron. The mini macaron on top was the highlight. The champagne flavor was very overwhelming and overpowered the other flavors within the dish. Those of us who tried it didn’t find it particularly enjoyable. The other dessert was a flourless chocolate torta with earl grey chantilly and blood orange. This dessert was divine. Each bite starts with a strong yet not overwhelming taste of chocolate laced with nice earl grey overtones chased with a taste of blood orange which seemed to give balance to the other flavors.
Now we come to service….. Everyone had drinks in the bar area then headed up to the private room that was prepared for our event. When we got up there one of the waiters explained to us that their computer system couldn’t handle separate drink checks for everyone so one person would need to take the check and then collect from everyone. Really? You’re supposed to be the nicest restaurant in town and you’ve got a computer system too old to handle 7 checks for drinks? Come on. Or possibly you have a waiter who just doesn’t want to deal with a bunch of checks for $12 cocktails? As the only non-drinker in the group I simply asked for a coke….. And then 5 minutes later had to ask again. Then after I drank the soda it sat empty for quite a while until I had to ask for a refill. Aside from struggling to get a coke at the beginning of the meal and an outdated computer system the servers were very good. These were the kind of charismatic servers that make dinner fun and help everyone have an even better time than they otherwise would. These guys were actually the bright spot in an otherwise very poor experience at Matthew’s.
When you go to a high end place you pay for amazing food and amazing service. In this case we got food we could have easily gotten elsewhere for 30% less and an absurdly long wait. If you’re planning a special occasion with friends or a special event Matthew’s probably isn’t the best choice. If you do still decide to go there expect overpriced food and that you wait a very long time to get.