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Unbelievable rudeness at L'Express

I just got back from a trip to Montreal and had lots of good dining experiences (Bleu Raisin, Au Pied du Cochon among others), but had an absolutely horrendous experience with the host at L'Express. We arrived 5 minutes early for an 8:00 reservation and were kept waiting at the bar until about 20 after before getting seated -- no big deal, we used the time to look over the menu and were perfectly pleasant about it. We finished our main courses by around 9:15 or so and were thinking about desert when we noticed a group of women at the bar who kept looking in our direction. The host approached and asked whether we were planning on ordering anything else, since those women were waiting for our table -- he said if we wanted to order desert and coffee we should do it at the bar! Frankly, I was not inclined to move, but my companion felt sorry for the other party (who were not responsible for the poor floor management of the host) so we complied. The host did not help us relocate, apologize or offer us coffee or anything else for the inconvenience -- not that that would have made up for it, but it would have been gracious. The bartender was horrified and extremely apologetic, but I'll never go back there again. There are plenty of really good restaurants in Montreal and there is no reason to put up with that kind of inexcusable treatment.

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  1. ahah,sorry but it's a classic one at l'Express

    1 Reply
    1. re: wizpers

      yup...happened to almost all of us! ;-)

    2. I think they continue to do it because people expect them to! I went once and never went back because of that. Just a street away is Le continental. The service is not super, but at least they are not rude. It is just that they are not professional waiters and it shows, however the food is really good.

      1. I live in Vermont and go to L'Express everytime I'm in Montreal and have never had a problem with service or rudeness. The last time I showed up with my daughter on the wrong night so I didn't have a reservation, ugh! Right? No, they seated us anyway and served us very quickly. We vacated the table for the next couple and had our dessert at the bar. All in all they were great and the food was delicious. Sorry you had a bad experience, and there certainly plenty of other places to eat.

        1. That's shocking treatment. My experience with Montreal restaurants in general is that service is much higher than the American standard ... and I can't remember EVER feeling rushed to leave a table. In fact in a lot of the little restos there are only two seatings a night and they basically expect you to sit there for hours. I haven't eaten in L'Express in years, it's a place "see and be seen" but if I were treated like that, I would storm out and never go back!

          1. We also had a bad experience at L'Express a few months back. We were there early evening and the place was nearly empty but that didn't stop the waiter and staff from rushing us out of the place. They proceeded to clean everything off our table while I was still eating. The food was disappointing as well so I gladly let them take my last bites.

            1. It's the sort of place where speaking to the waiters/host in French, even if it's your long-forgotten pidgin high school version, will take you a long way. We've never been asked to move for coffee and dessert, and we've only been on very busy nights. Mind you we do speak to the staff in (medium-level) French, we do order multiple apps (steak tartare and foie gras etc...) and several bottles of wine. If anyone asked us to move, I would simply smile and say "Non, nous preferons rester ici, merci." That said, the rudeness you encountered was unforgivable. Also, it is not the sort of place I would choose to linger long over coffee anyway (if we were not ordering dessert that night).

              1. I went there for dinner a while ago, had to wait for our reserved table, not a big deal because you have to in most other places. The service was polite but our server was forgetful and seemed to be elsewhere with his head. I found the food mediocre at best and would not go back. Nice looking place though.

                1. Never been. Not likely to go now. Any place that can't plan their meal service isn't worth going to. If they had said "oh, you only get two hours" in the very beginning (and then began with you ON TIME), you could have decided to accept that as a condition of patronage. But to spring it on you after the fact is unforgivable.


                  1. It's a good timing to see where you can get more for your money...I've worked 2 years and a half as a Barman at l'Express and I can tell you it's not a inside politic, I guess some of the staff after more than 20 years of service still think that L'Express is THE only bistro in Montreal...Everything that goes up, goes down. Stil a huge classic but you better be 'A' regular... Recently I saw a lot of new faces, maybe positive changes

                    1. Although I sensed this and did not want to say it, I think Bigtigger is correct regarding the language issue. Maybe they should post something at the door so this type of unpleasantness can be avoided. I do wish that I had the capability of communicating in French, but I don't. Still no excuse to cop this attitude; barely ok food to boot. That said, Montreal is terrific and this situation is an anomaly. By stark contrast, we had dinner at Au Pied de Cochon the night before. We had reservations at the bar as we wanted to watch the kitchen activities. We were greeted by the very pleasant host and he explained that it would be a few minutes, he asked if he could bring us a drink and offered us a table to sit at so we could look over the menu. Our seats opened up at the bar and we enjoyed one of our greatest restaurant experiences ever. Food was fantastic, the vibe was great and the service was friendly and efficient. Maybe it was this contrast that made L'Express so disappointing.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: billfinn

                        tourist vs local maybe.

                        1. re: wizpers

                          Thanks for your insight Wizpers. Whatever the reason, the result is the same and it's unfortunate. Wish you the best.

                        2. re: billfinn

                          I wrote earlier on that I had a bad experience at L'Express, so have a lot of people I know, and I am french speaking. It is not a question of french versus english. They are rude with everyone...haha....