Highlawn Pavilion Restaurant Review
History and Information
Situated at the top of the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, NJ, the structure was originally built in 1909 as an open air masonry shelter. It was acquired by the Knowles family in 1986 who restored it and created what is now known as Highlawn Pavilion, effectively saving it from vandalism and demolition. Eagle Rock Reservation has become a hot spot in New Jersey offering spectacular views of the New York City skyline. The restaurant boasts two levels of dining (main dining room and wedding reception area) with full length windows providing diners a breathtaking vision of the city while enjoying their meal.
Highlawn is not only decorative, having been voted Best Romantic Restaurant by the Montclair Magazine and the Suburban Essex Magazine, it is also eco-friendly. All produce is acquired by a local farm also owned by the Knowles family. What little scraps of food are left by diners are composted instead of thrown away, which helps the restaurant use less garbage bags and helps in reducing waste sent to already overfull landfills.
Highlawn is known for giving one of the best fine dining experiences. While not one of the most wallet friendly menus the food is always superb. My usual order is the filet mignon, which is always cooked to perfection. Some chefs use a diners cooking preference as a suggestion and will cook the meat however they think it should be cooked. I prefer a steak to be medium well and the chef at Highlawn always delivers it perfectly. Others at the table might like it more pink and they also get exactly what was ordered. The dessert menu is my favorite part of the experience and after sampling more than a few selections I can honestly say there isn't a bad item on the list.
With how wonderful Highlawn Pavilion is, it is truly unfortunate that I don't have completely positive things to say about the customer service. I believe the true measure of a business is not determined by how they handle things when everything is going well, but rather when things start to go wrong.
The last time I dined at the Highlawn Pavilion was to celebrate a birthday for a member of my family. We all sat down and ordered our drinks. Half the table ordered a glass of red wine and the waiter went on his way to retrieve them. He successfully deposited 4 of the drinks in front of the appropriate person, however the trouble happened when he was maneuvering around a chair to set down the fifth and final drink. It still seems like it was part of a dream moving in slow motion. The tray became unbalanced somehow and the full glass of dark red wine toppled over, all over my grandmothers completely white outfit. I am sure not a drop from the glass missed her. There are certain protocols one expects when your are dining and a waiter spills on you. From a restaurant as well renowned as Highlawn that expectation doubles. After providing a few napkins the waiter disappeared for a good five minutes. One would assume he went to inform the manager which was confirmed when he came back with the managers business card and a request to have the dry cleaning bill sent to him. My expectation at this point is that the manager himself should have come to the table to offer assistance. The second expectation is to have something from the bill comped. At the very least the glass of wine that was dumped. I have asked quite a few restaurant owners of lower caliber than Highlawn and they all agreed, in that situation you offer a round of drinks to the table or free coffee and dessert. Absolutely nothing was offered. This tells me that they don't care about the opinion of their guests and my family has decided to never dine there again.
Highlawn Pavilion is a beautiful restaurant with great views and a quiet romantic atmosphere. However, there are many fine dining restaurants available and for the price this reviewer would rather eat at one that actually seems to appreciate their customers. It is regrettable that after years of dining there it has to end with such a negative impression.