December 2 2012
Have you heard of this chain of restaurants? There are at least three in Paris and they're fairly well-known. I went to the one just opposite the Saint Germain church yesterday.
There is no menu. The only questions you get asked are what you would like to drink and how you would like your steak cooked. You start with a lettuce and walnut salad, heavy on the mustard vinaigarette dressing. It arrives immediately.
Shortly after that plate has been whisked away, another arrives with your steak-frites. The beauty of this restaurant is *spoiler alert!* that's only the first half! The other half of the steak, plus another large scooping of chips, is being kept warm for you and will appear once there's nothing remaining of the first offering.
It's standard classic French fare. The authentic brasserie experience. You get the feeling that nothing (apart from maybe the vintages on the wine list) have changed in at least fifty years. The steak was good. There's no getting away from that. Very good even. The "sauce authentique" and the chips, however, well, were both rather mediocre. Nothing I'd write home about. The small problem I often find with restaurants that haven't changed their recipes in a zillion years is that new-comers will enter stage left, and suddenly instead of occupying centre stage, they find themselves in a more minor role, too stubborn to adapt and re-train.
Abstract philosophising aside..... the very real problem that we encountered yesterday was that the customer service hasn't changed since the 1800s. We arrived just before the big lunch rush and had been seated at a table for two which was part of a line of four tables. Later on, after the couples on either side of us had finished, paid up and left, the waitress came over and demanded, mid-meal, that we move to another table so that they could seat a four-person-group where we were.
Now, the thing is, I'd actually finished my plate for the second time and my dining partner had just two mouthfuls to go. Why not simply wait 3 more seconds until he'd finished, ask if we would like anything else and then if we asked for pudding, inquire gently if we would mind moving over? Alternatively, seat two groups of two down either side of us and wait for a table of four to become free for the others?
Instead, we felt so affronted that we asked for the bill, downed our drinks and left. If we'd been paying 10 euros a head, maybe I would have slightly more understanding, but at 30 euros each as it worked out, I would rather not feel so much like cattle. Really disappointing.
"Nous vous y attendons ! Vous y reviendrez..." they claim - no, I don't think I will.
Psst! Go to the Beef Club instead. Click here.