This morning I received the following message from my friend and blogger extraordinaire David Lebovitz:
Last night, "I ate at Repaire de Cartouche and had astoundingly poor service. It was like they were trying to be juvenile and it wasn't just that they were rude; they were purposely being nasty. I never post on Chowhound but I did a search and this came up, which was pretty much my experience. And it pretty much was almost the same thing that happened to us. (Except when we were there, a French guy yelled at the waiter that he was contacting Michelin, and stormed out.)The waiter wouldn't even let us order our wine until we ordered our food, and stormed away when we said we needed a minute to look over the wine list."
I've had many similar messages lately, and I've had a lot of similar service experiences in Paris restaurants recently, too. Sometimes I think the poor service is a specific reaction to serving a table of Anglophones, i.e., these idiot tourists don't deserve anything better (reading both Le Figaro and the new Le Fooding guide today, I came across repeated nasty references to tourists, as though they're some sort of ghastly subspecies not deserving of proper service and hospitality). And other times, I think the bad service comes from poor casting, i.e., someone with a chip on their shoulder about being in a serving job takes it out on those they're serving.
One way or another, aggressively bad service is inexcusable, since even if the chef is hugely talented and the food memorably delicious, a meal is obviously ruined by jagged and/or unpleasant service.
Since HUNGRY FOR PARIS was published, I've had several complaints about the service at Le Repaire de Cartouche and also at Mon Vieil Ami, and so I'm putting both restaurants on a watch list. I've also had complaints about, and experienced, very snippy and pretentious service at La Pizzetta, where the waiter was so knowingly rude that I'd never dream of going back, and La Bigarrade and Jacques Decoret in Vichy. Service at two of my favorite recent restaurants could be better, too--Jadis and Frenchie, where the waiters are often bored and disengaged.
So what do you do when you've had really poor service in a Paris restaurant? You wait until the end of the meal and then you ask to speak to the host, hostess or owner and politely but firmly tell them that you've had a very disappointing experience.
And when you have particularly bad service experience in a Paris restaurant, please share it here so that I can put out a service alert. Thanks, Alec