The Chocolate Room, a mini-cafe-chain that sells speciality chocolates and chocolate-related drinks and desserts in Brooklyn, opened on Court Street in Cobble Hill a couple years ago, and I still haven't been able to figure the place out.
The boutique cafe seems to have this bizarrely high-flown idea of itself, as if it's situated on some romantic side street in Saint-Germain and patronized by the chicest and most beautifully behaved of Parisian women. Instead, it sits between the toy store Pizzazz and Cobble Hill Cinemas and is (surprise!) a magnet for stroller moms and their sweets-craving children.
The reality of their true clientele doesn't stop the staff from behaving like Franklin Pangborn's pompous children. The layout of the store is like this: there is chocolate counter and small retail section at the front, then a long corridor past a kitchen that leads to a small dining area filled with sweet, precious little tables.
It's a cafe, so one would assume that casual is the word of the day. Not so. It's the only cafe I know in the area where you have to be seated (even though there is no sign indicating this formality). The natural instinct of everyone who enters is the walk straight to the back and take a seat. But before you can do that, some counter kid halts you in your tracks with a "Can I help you?" or "Would you like to be seated?" or "Would you like a table?" (The attitude is particularly ridiculous given that most of the tables are usually empty.)
These requests are almost always addressed a harried parent and their over-eager progeny. I have a friend who, accompanied by her son, was actually asked by a servant, "Will you be sitting at your usual table?" The kid wants candy; the parent wants espresso. There's no call or desire for etiquette. The superciliousness continues at the table, when menus are grandly proffered, specials recited and orders scrupulously taken. Kids run around, as they are prone to do, and the proud waiters act like its the grossest of impositions.
These event are not anomalies. I've been several times and the experience is always the same. What are the owners thinking? They are next to a movie house that frequently shows kiddie films. They are near a toy store. They are in a neighborhood lousy with offspring. They are going to get kids, and gobs and gobs of them. Miss Vanderbilt or Cholly Knickerbocker will not be paying a call anytime soon, no matter how exquisite the chocolates. Get off your high horse and start catering your service to the true nature of your patronage, not the fantasy customers you have in your head. Either that, or hire a maitre d'.