‘Disgraceful’: $152 for stale Coles cake
A Harry Potter fan who forked out more than $152 for an immersive, three-course wizard-themed dinner in Melbourne last month says guests were served "stale Coles cake".
Elise Carver, a Torquay-based surf trainer and fantasy author, said the October 26 dinner at Collingwood brewery Craft & Co was the "worst event I have ever been to".
Guests of last month's Halloween-themed Wizard's Brunch by events company Immersive Ventures were told to "expect a themed feast in a magnificent spooky and magical setting".
Ms Carver described it as "disgraceful", saying the marketing was "misleading" and did not resemble what was offered at all.
"I can't even explain how bad it was," the 33-year-old said.
Immersive Ventures has disputed this, with a spokesman saying "overall we had great feedback" and pointing to a positive review by The Plus Ones website.
"Clearly you can see they had a great time," he said.
But Craft & Co has apologised, saying Immersive Ventures only paid for $50 per head worth of food - and that the Coles cake was a last-minute attempt to "bulk up" the menu.
Ms Carver bought tickets with a friend after attending the Wizard's Brunch at Melbourne Town Hall in January, describing the earlier event as "fantastic" and "worth every penny" of the $189 she paid.
She opted for the cheaper non-beverage ticket this time around, which cost her $152.
Ms Carver said despite the "astronomical" ticket price, the decorations and entertainment were sub-par compared with the "much more elaborate" previous events.
In addition, there were "barely any wait staff at all", extra cocktails were $20 and there was no table service "except for the delivery of the very average food".
But it was the dessert that was the "nail in the coffin".
"That was so bad," she said. "They brought out a Coles cake on a share plate. Everyone looked at it and went, 'That's a f***ing Coles cake.' One girl picked it up and said, 'I think it's been pre-cut, it's stale.' It was pre-cut and refrigerated."
She added, "(We were) like, 'Are they for real?' It just blew my mind."
They were then served a "coconut panna cotta that looked deflated". "We had to share it between three people," she said.
Ms Carver later emailed Immersive Ventures to complain.
In response, a representative told her he was "naturally sorry to hear you didn't enjoy the event or the experience" but disputed her claims about the decorations and entertainment.
He placed responsibility for the food on Craft & Co, saying "this is something we will bring up with the venue" and that "as per all catered events we are at the mercy of the venues we work with".
The Immersive Ventures spokesman told news.com.au it was "disappointing" to see the complaints and "overall we had great feedback from customers who were at the event".
While the review by The Plus Ones was positive, the author noted that the set-up "differed from the photos of previous experiences".
"It wasn't as richly decorated - there were no floating candles or lights, which we later found out was due to venue restrictions," she wrote.
But she concluded that "the Wizard's Brunch promised entertainment and it was definitely delivered".
The Immersive Ventures spokesman said more than 500 people attended that weekend "and we had great feedback including a publicised press piece so it's a shame you damn an entire event based on that complaint entirely".
"We did not receive any other complaints regarding the food so it's hard for us to comment on this incident especially if it wasn't brought to the caterer's attention during the event - which we (are) sure could have been resolved," he said.
A spokeswoman for Craft & Co apologised if any customers had a bad time, saying the venue had raised concerns with Immersive Ventures about the $50 budget.
"We had expressed to them their budget wasn't enough, but they came back (saying) they had to put costs on top for entertainment and staffing," she said.
"(Customers) paid $150-160 for a ticket for food and entertainment and we gave them a $50 food package. I would be disappointed if I'm paying $150 and being served a $50 food package - obviously you can't meet that expectation."
She said the venue "bulked up their food to more than what they (Immersive Ventures) actually paid for, we almost doubled the amount of food they paid for and it still wasn't enough".
The spokeswoman said it was "very clear the customers were unhappy" the previous weekend and so Craft & Co staff wanted to do something extra, and the "only thing open on a Sunday that late was Coles".
"When the Coles cake came out, that was probably a mistake on our behalf," she said. "It was probably a terrible decision on our part."
She added, "We just feel terrible, we love our customers and we want everyone to have an amazing experience. That's heartbreaking for us. We won't be working with them again."
Ms Carver has since been offered a 45 per cent refund by Immersive Ventures.
Correction: The event was fully organised by The Wizard's Brunch and Immersive Ventures. It was promoted by Viral Ventures.