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Dec 30, 2008 07:20 AM

Auberge Nicholas Flamel

I had one of the most disappointing and bizarre dining experiences of my entire life last night at Auberge Nicholas Flamel. The restaurant had come as a recommendation from a friend in Paris, so I have to assume that we hit it on an "off" night, but would be interested in hear what others think.

We arrived right on time for our 8 p.m. reservation and were seated upstairs. Although we were one of the first tables to be seated (they were still lighting the candles when we arrived), the room quickly filled. We waited and waited...but no menus, and no service. Finally, after about 20 minutes, a waitress quite literally threw 1 menu at us (we were a table of 4) while racing by on her way to another table. We shrugged and took a look...some very reasonable 3 course menu options, as well as a 5 course chef's tasting, with or without pairings. We quickly made our selections, and waited for the waitress to return.

To our amazement, it was a total of 45 minutes before anyone came to take our order. Another 15 before our carafe of water arrived. Another 15 before our first course showed up. And I had to flag down the coat check girl in order to find our wine, which never appeared. Oddly enough, roll after roll appeared on our bread plates, seemingly from nowhere.

This was all quite a shame, because the food itself was definitely above average. My friends raved over their escargot tucked into puff pastry, and my grilled prawns and winter vegetables were delicious. However, as it was now an hour and a half since we'd been seated, we inhaled our entrees rather than lingering over them.

Our plats were also quite good, although was waited another 30 minutes for them to arrive. The pan fried duck was nicely crispy, and my friends enjoyed their veal, although the escargot was still the clear winner of the night.

After another long wait, our dessert arrived. Sadly, the truly excellent violet sorbet was ruined by the continued poor service. First, the waitress gave another table our desserts, and then, just as the other guests picked up their forks, she whisked them away again, and with an obvious grimace, dropped them on our table. With no apologies to either table, she turned on her heel and raced back downstairs.

By the time the check arrived, our little group had moved beyond disbelief to something closer to rage. We reluctantly paid the bill, and when there was no one to help with coat check, we went in search of our coats ourselves before making a fast exit out onto the street.

As a frequent traveler, I have eaten in many restaurants across the US and Europe. I can honestly say that I've never had worse service in all my life. It's a real shame, because the chef at Auberge Nicholas Flamel is clearly talented, and the kitchen was sending out some interesting dishes. Proof positive of how poor service can ruin an otherwise pleasant meal. I'd be tempted to chalk it up to us being a group of Americans, but not only do I speak French, our little group was incredibly polite in spite of the abysmal service.

I'm curious...has anyone else had a similar experience at this restaurant?

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  1. I am a long time lurker but had to register today to reply to this topic.
    My daughter & I were recently in Paris for a week. Many thanks to this board for the wonderful dining recs for our trip!

    We had a 9pm reservation at Auberge Nicholas Flamel on Monday, 12/22, party of 2. We arrived on time and were also seated upstairs (the small table to the right of the top of the stairs).
    Our waitress was a young girl, who did not speak English, with long dark hair.
    Our service was very prompt and timely. . . . one of the best of our trip!

    Our candle was lit, menus were handed out as we were seated. She returned to take our orders in a few minutes. Carafe d'eau with ice and hot tea arrived promptly.
    Croustillant de noix de Saint-Jacques sur lit de poireaux confits au Chardonnay, râpée de truffe noire was a wonderful starter.
    Next came the 7-Hour Lamb and the Porterhouse Steak with Morels and Gratin Dauphinois. Both were delicious, the Lamb being one of the most tasty lamb dishes ever!
    Our plates were cleared, desserts were promptly served and couldn't have been better. My daughter had the Chocolate Lingot d’or and I had the Chef's Tasting of 5 selections, including an Amaretto Sorbet and Baba au Vieux Rhum that was exquisite!
    Our water had been refilled during the meal, as well as a second pot of hot water was brought out for my daughter.
    Our check was brought out in a treasure chest type box.

    Then Chef Alan came to our table, thanked us for coming. We talked about our trading emails several times to get the confirmed reservation that we did. He was very gracious and we thanked him for such a delightlful evening. He talked to my daughter, who is 11 years old, about the treasure chest that the check came in and gave us a tip on where to find one for her.

    We were downstairs at about 10:30pm. Our coats were handed to us from the rack behind the front door and we were on our way by 10:40pm.

    The cadence of our meal was perfectly timed for a French dinner and we had none of the service issues like you did.

    It seems like we had eaten in two different restaurants! I don't know if "an off night" is enough to describe how abysmal your service was. I do know that they can get it right and certainly did so when we were there last week.

    1. We had a marvelous dinner there in June and found everything lived up to our high expectations. We sat downstairs (the restaurant was not crowded) and had delightful service and excellent food. I can't imagine an experience as bad as yours in this restaurant as they seemed to be very anxious to please and the chef obviously has talent. Our amuse bouche was endive with mushrooms & asparagus in a delightful vinagrette and I had the salmon tartare as my entree with veal medallions with fois gras & brandy sauce for the plat. Dessert was pear poached in red wine with chantilly and a gingerbread shortbread. The restaurant itself is very interesting and very pretty. All in all one of our best dinners in Paris.

      1 Reply
      1. re: charlewest

        Well, I never read this thread before going today. Three of us went, two of us bloggers and the third the spouse of. The service we received was first-rate (we were downstairs), the food not remarkable but decent enough but the Auberge experience one I think Americans would find terrific (M. Flamel, an alchemist, and his rich wife started this place in 1407 and it's got charm up the wazoo.)
        As I said about going, "If you're staying in the Marais, are watching your wallet and have American friends visiting who want the "genuine Paris bistro experience" without those pesky fellow Yankees - yes.