Above, a detail from the sign outside the AC Hotel inviting guests to its rooftop Envio restaurant
Our restaurant reviewers were quite late in getting into the much-talked-about, two-year-old Envio rooftop restaurant at the AC Hotel in downtown Portsmouth, which only heightened the anticipation. We are always eager to compliment (and loathe to complain) about the restaurants we review, especially based on a single visit, because it is all too easy to nitpick about minor mistakes that may never recur, but we were quite disappointed with the Envio on several levels.
Our evening at the Envio started badly. We planned to arrive on a November evening with guests in a handicap-placarded vehicle, so called the front desk early in the day to make sure that designated handicapped parking places were available near the hotel. We were informed that yes, we could use any parking place in front of the hotel, but on arrival, there were no designated spaces at the hotel, so we pulled into one of four or five empty valet parking places (all of which were still vacant when we left after dinner several hours later).
Unfortunately, the valet parking attendant was not buying this, and would not allow us to use any of the unused spaces on his watch (without a stiff fee), so we opted to walk, learning after dinner that there was one occupied handicapped parking place in the neighborhood, about 75 yards from the street-level restaurant entrance.
The restaurant’s modern, airy ambiance was everything we expected (even though it was long after sunset in November, restricting the panoramic view), and there were several interesting plexiglass “igloos” on the exterior deck with seating for six or eight diners that looked like a lot of fun.
Our party of four was seated near a window, as requested, and then, though the restaurant was palpably not busy, we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, for around 15 minutes until our server greeted us at the table.
The dinner menu was astonishingly limited, with only two or three real dinner items, including braised short ribs (that were perfectly acceptable), but the mussels were utterly microscopic, literally no larger in circumference than a dime. We probably would have rejected them, except that we had waited so long to be served, and there were so few options available, that we did not complain. Finally, the cheesecake dessert was still half frozen, and also very, very, very small.
At one point during the meal, our server asked if she could bring another round of drinks, two glasses of Toa Hollow Chardonnay (very agreeable), an Arnold Palmer, and a glass of Cabernet. The white wine and the Arnold Palmer were served promptly, but somehow, the Cabernet was never brought to the table until we had finished dinner. We asked the server to take it back, because it was just too late, and she told us that she would be happy to, but said, “I can’t take it off the check because has already been poured”.
A lack of experience or training or both.
Overall, the service was slow, our server handled the late service of the wine inelegantly, the portion sizes bordered on insulting (we’re still wondering where they found mussels that small), and there is only one handicapped parking place in the entire neighborhood, though we wonder if this is properly a City of Portsmouth issue.
What a disappointment, in any case! We don’t like to write tepid reviews based on one visit, so we’ll check back in the summer.