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Petit Robert Bistro South End Tonight

Went for an early dinner with four friends. We were seated right away and offered the wine list. Decided on and ordered a bottle of Louis Philippe Rose Champagne (we were celebrating!). Server came back and told us that the bar had just been stocked today and the bottle was not cold enough to serve. We were not going to order the other rose option as it was nearly twice the price so we ended up with a bottle of Duval-Leroy NV Brut which was good, but the whole experience was rather irritating. We realized actually that the very same thing happened to us on a prior visit. I won't go so far as to say bait and switch, but yet...it seems to me that I've rapidly chilled champagne in a bucket of ice and water and this option should have been presented.

On to the food - it was all delicious. Everyone was happy with what was ordered and eaten:
Green salad
Green salad with warm goat cheese
Onion soup gratinee
Trio of Pates
Steak frites bordelaise (substituted spinach for the frites)
Seared scallops with Rice Pilaf (substituted mushroom risotto from the special for the pilaf)

I cannot stress enough that the food was all delicious and excellently prepared. In that respect, and as far as our gathering of friends it was a perfect night.

The one dark spot on the evening was the service. It was indifferent and confused at best and accusatory and rude at worst. There are too many instances to detail, but highlights include:
A mix up (on their end) that resulted in one starter (green salad) arriving 10 minutes after other starters (and a reminder by us). Food runner apparently felt we were to blame for the mix up (truly not) and let us know it.
Every plate of food brought to the table was auctioned off, as in: "garden salad" - followed by harsh glares from the server who was apparently waiting for someone to raise their hand
Above-mentioned champagne issue
Entrees arriving (and being auctioned off) while our finished appetizers are still in front of us

I'm quite disappointed about the whole thing as the space is beautiful, the food delicious, and the prices truly reasonable. I just don't understand why the service is so poor and unapologetic. I'd really like to see this improve as the food is almost enough to bring me back again, but if I want this kind of service I'll go to Chicago and eat at Ed Debevic's.

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  1. Bistros are casual, neighbourhood places. PRB is one of the few of its kinds and it been able to keep tp its true image (good food at reasonable prices) then friendly , casual service should do it.
    I would prefer the auctioning off of the dishes versus paying unreasonably at other 'bistros' justified by white linen & iron-faced servers.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Zabelle

      I can accept casual service when it is friendly, but there was nothing friendly about the food service last night.

    2. I must agree with heathermb. Service is key, even in casual rests. Apps should be clear and the runner or whoever brings the food should have a clue.

      2 Replies
      1. re: trufflehound

        And more importantly, clear the freaking table before bringing the entrees. That's so annoying.

        1. re: Joanie

          The best part was they acted as though we were at fault for those plates still being there and just kind of waited for us to move them, with the glaring.

      2. I was there with Heather last night and her post is right on. The food was delicious and we had a lovely time but the service was mostly irritating. I do appreciate that a bistro is a more casual spot but I think their service kinks should be mostly ironed out by now.

        1. The food is delicious, but I've only ever eaten at the Kenmore location. The service there was fine - maybe it varies by location?

          1. i do agree that the food at PRB is excellent, especially for the price. HOwever, i too have found the service to be quite indifferent! everyone always seems to be in a rush and they always seem to just throw things on the table!

            1. Not to put it back on you or excuse having the food runner working instead of a waiter, but I've noticed there, and in places like that, building a rapport with your server really helps. I bet if you went more often instances like the food auction or the "you ordered wrong" would happen far less often.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sailormouth

                Perhaps you are right, but this was my first time there and what incentive do I have to go back again? It's the old saying - you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This was my first impression of the SE location. If I go again, it will be to Kenmore. So, yes, Chef Robert may get my dining dollars, but his SE staff will miss out on any tips, etc. from me.
                The food is delicious, yes, but not to the point that i'm willing to take substandard and rude service.

                One other thing I forgot to mention was the gentleman doing the valet parking; he was just that, a gentleman. It may have been a slow night for him, but when I went to ask him to get my car it was already waiting right in front of the restaurant!

                1. re: sailormouth

                  It should never happen in the first place. A guest should not have to "earn" decent service based on how frequently they visit the restaurant.

                  I do agree in some sense, with respect to building rapport and not treating your servers like servants, but by the same turn, a guest should be treated with equal respect by the staff. Most average, very casual pubs do far better on the hospitality meter than what is described here - "first time visitor" is no excuse for that kind of treatment.

                2. Maybe I lived too many years in New York, but when you are not happy with service in a restaurant, you speak to the manager, and complain. He will hopefully set things right, or send round some drinks to dull the pain.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: whs

                    And if the manager is one of the folks being difficult? Seriously, bad service all around! I am absolutely a 'speak to the manager right away' kind of person, believe me. Actually, at least 3 of us are of that ilk...

                  2. Sorry to hear about your experience. I am glad the food was at least good. Unfortunately, your service is par for the course at PRB. I have never tried the SE location after my experiences at the Kenmore original. However, I have not had such discustingly rude and indifferent service at any restaurant in the Boston area or beyond.

                    There are too many good spots for casual French fare in the area for anyone to patronize PRB. Try Salts, Sandrines or Sel de la Terre instead. As far as service is concerned, even Bouchee (gasp BRG!) puts PRB to shame.

                    On the subject of bait and switch, it might not be a stretch for this place. Of the two times we dined there, the waiter was visibly annoyed when we did not order wine one of those times and the service was straight downhill from there.

                    The valet was most likely an outsourced company and not affiliated with the restaurant,

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Gabatta

                      I LOVE Sandrines and Sel de la Terre. Need to try Salts!

                      1. re: Gabatta

                        "There are too many good spots for casual French fare in the area for anyone to patronize PRB. Try Salts, Sandrines or Sel de la Terre instead."

                        While those are all good restaurants, the prices are much higher than PRB. You may think it's a matter of you get what you pay for, but if entrees <$20 is key, PRB is the place.

                      2. There's a thin line between service that's "brisk" and "brusque". The evening that sold me on PRB was when the lady at the next table knocked over our bottle of red wine with her shoulder bag as she was leaving. It smashed on the floor, broken glass and red liquid everywhere--it looked like a crime scene. The waiters went into triage mode, threw tablecloths on the floor to soak up the mess, patted me down with napkins to make sure there were no stains, and had the table set up again with a replacement bottle within minutes. They were efficient and professional--reminded me of the waiters at La Coupole in Paris--not the friendliest, but they know how to move the process along.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: whs

                          I'm definitely with you on this, whs. I find PRB's service just fine: business-like and efficient at a place that goes at a hellacious clip all night long. At those prices in the South End, I don't need my butt smooched as long as they get my order right, and from the kitchen to the table tout de suite. It seems to suit the place, in my mind.

                        2. I'm sorry to hear that heathermb. i enjoy the SE PRB but it's mostly because of the quality of the food and the prices. Service has never been terrible but sometimes brusque. I've found it largely depends on the waiter you get (kind of a duh point) so the quality of the service can be all over the place - from okay to great. (Are you listening PRB??? You know which waiters are the good ones - make the others learn)

                          1. OMG.. have reservations at Comm Ave PRB for Sunday lunch. I sure hope someone there takes note of these posts and actually cares. I will let you know.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Zip

                              The Kenmore Square location is a much more leisurely affair. I've been there a bunch of times, and it never seems as hectic or crowded as the South End spot. It's a rare oasis of calm in the neighborhood before Sox games.

                              1. re: Zip

                                I've never had bad service at the Kenmore location. Wish I could say the same about the food though, it's been very hit or miss, to the point where my wife & I have taken it off our regular restaurant rota.

                              2. heathermb: thank you for relaying the experience. there is no excuse for the service described.

                                1. Okay.. the service at the Kenmore location was just fine. One caveat.... we were there on Sunday at 11:00 and not many others there yet. The food.... well, I had a delicious tomato and red pepper soup.. for which I was eternally grateful as we walked from the Marriot and it was FRIGID out. The crispy poached eggs were very good too. Husband had an omlet that was good also. Dessert was okay.. too heavy but maybe that was just us.
                                  Don't know as I would rush back but it worked for us while we were there.