There are few nicer days to spend at the St. Julien than one that follows a cool winter storm that dusts the Flatirons. As the snowcapped peaks swim in fog, the warm interior to the hotel fills with a signature scent, and the spa soothes and refreshes. On our visit, I felt no reason to leave, considering Jill's came with a pretty enticing menu and a promising atmosphere. Knowing it was a cold weekend and that my wife would prefer to not gallivant around downtown Boulder finding food... we enjoyed both a post-spa happy hour, as well as a later dinner.
Needless to say, the tator tots were too good to not get twice. We're not talking elementary school lunch here folks, this is comfort food at its gourmet best. Kinda like you took some delectable homemade mashed potatoes, deep fried them to a golden crisp, then coated them with fine parmesan and a truffle aioli drizzle. Make sure you get an order.
But I would keep the dining experience to a Friday happy hour here. As we stopped by for an 8pm reservation, we eventually found our way to the front. A little confusing if you enter from the hotel side, as you have to head through the lounge. I was actually initially taken by the homeliness of the front pantry, with expansive tile and a Tuscan-style forno oven. With simple complimentary decor and warm colors, the main dining room is quite nice. However, for me the rest of the experience needs to come together.
When we sat down in somewhat uncomfortable chairs (that get your back in the wrong place), I still had the benefit of the doubt in my mind. Jill's boasts a decent wine list with good varietal, appelation and vintage contrast. I looked forward to my spicy Zin to warm up our cool spring night. Though I normally order my wine after I figure out my meal, I certainly don't expect it to show up almost as late as the entree itself. I hate it when I am pre-occupied by the wine that never was, and I'm certainly frustrated when I can't fully enjoy the company of my wife. What's that you say? High maintenance?
Nevertheless, the service was off point, and confusing. We had seen the same server only a few hours prior (give him credit, he recognized us and acknowledged us slightly), but this time it was in a different version. The previous server was attentive and swift, but the new one was flustered and confused. Like an expolosive dinner rush vaporized his brain. It took some time for him to come by, and my wine came after an appetizer that took 15 minutes on its own. Oh well, we carried on.
We enjoyed a salad course and an anticipated entree that was well sold by the nicely written menu. Mushroom ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce. Yes, yes, and yes please. I salivated after reading the menu, but was slightly unimpressed with the depth of the meal. Perhaps a texture element would have been nice. You can't go wrong with fried sage or some crispy pancetta. Next time.
Finally when it came down to it, Jill's recognized the ill balance of our experience. They were graceful and offered to send dessert up to the room with us. We begrudgingly accepted. I'm always a sucker for a dessert comp, it can often elevate me from even the worst of service experiences. However only if they remember it. I've been on the other side of things and I've had a bad night here and there, so I sympathize. But if I offered to comp an element of the meal because I was a doofus, I certainly wouldn't aggravate the waters by forgetting... again. Granted, I mentioned it and he took care of it.
All this to say that our meal would have passed with fine service. I know folks go out to eat, but service often makes or breaks the aftertaste that you leave with. I've known great service to accentuate a mediocre meal. On the contrast, I've known poor service to degrade an otherwise great meal. Sadly, this was the latter of the two.
I look forward to heading back to the St. Julien and enjoying a relaxing weekend in a wonderful hotel again. But next time, I might saunter along Pearl St. looking for a new place to dish it up at. Or maybe Jill's has since figured it out. I'm all about graceful second chances.