Senderens last night
Meh... I won't be going back. I had reservations yesterday for Guy Savoy at lunch and Senderens for dinner. I gave the former to my parents who had a great time.
The room was very nice. Service was adequate, except for the insistence on speaking English to us when we are obviously fluent in French. An English menu was foisted on us upon arrival, and we never saw the French menu. I started off with a Bloody Mary which I guess infuriated the bartender because I got back a version I usually receive in coach class on American Airlines. No lime, no ice, light pour, chemical flavored mix. The wine pairings were good, but the food was average. The starters were not so good: the crusty crawfish and the fois gras fusion whatever. The former was no better than some big fried shrimp. The latter was a flat out waste of fois gras. I had the lamb which was good, but the aubergines were undercooked and I can do as well at home with a 10 euro piece of lamb from Monoprix. Wife had the scallops. Again it was no better than about 100 bistros in this town with a little foam added. I passed on dessert but wife got the apple pie with caramel. This was probably the best part and I really enjoyed the Doisey Daene Sauterne I ordered in lieu of their recommendation.
Anyway, if you need a great room, go for it. If you are interested in good French food, there's much better value in Paris.
I waited a day thinking you might be asking someone else as I haven't been to Senderens.
However, using the low bar Busk reports was set by Senderens...snarky waiter, a Bloody Mary you can get on American Airlines, and under / over cooked food prepared with not much imagination... I have eaten in at least fifty better places, not counting carry out and cafeterias, in Paris that would beat that. In fact a restaurant would have to be trying hard to be that bad. Maybe they have a labor problem.
When I get a smart ass waiter, I ask the maitre'd to re assign us or excuse us. If I get a bad drink. I send it back. If the food is poor, I tell the maitre'd and send the food back. And, I don't play show off games showing off my skills over really minor issues...I do these things when things are bad and need to be addressed. And, I do them quietly, privately, without a scene.
The head chef isn't there all the time and doesn't prepare every dish or drink when s/he is. S/he needs to know when the staff is poor so that things can be corrected.
The last thing I would do is sit quietly thru snarky service, a poor drink, underdone/overdone and unimaginatively prepared food and actually pay the bill.
The sad truth is, Senderens' current chef is just not up to the task, and there is a serious issue with quality of execution at Senderens since Frédéric Robert left. It looked like they had it figured out for a while, but now only desserts and their wine pairings are reflective of what Senderens can and should be.
Which is why the way I enjoy Senderens is by having dinner at nearby and excellent Tante Louise and then rallying to Senderens for one or several desserts.
It pains me to admit that because I had the best meals of my life at Lucas Carton, every one of them absolutely, consistently wonderful, and I think that Senderens is one of the few greatest chefs of the century.
Strange how it does not reflect my two dinners at Senderens.
I agree that the downstairs room is beautiful, but the restaurant gets noisy very quickly : it may not be a problem, but some might be surprised as it's not really the norm for that kind (ie. Michelin 2*) of restaurant.
I also agree with the fact that desserts are the best part of the meal. In fact, they're maybe the best dessert courses I had in high-end restaurants in Paris (with the Mont-Blanc at Stella Maris). On the 3 different I've tried, all were flawless.
Wine pairings are good, but it's too bad they don't offer an alternative between reasonably priced wines (ie. the current pairings) and more upscale ones. This probably would not be compatible with the low-cost approach of the restaurant, though.
However, I feel that the service is not particularly good. It was OK the first time I went, and just mediocre the second time. The waitstaff is nice, but they obviously lack experience.
I also must say the savory courses I tasted at Senderens always were (relatively speaking) average at worst, and very good to excellent at best. That said, I've read bad things about it lately, so quality may be slipping. Oh, and ordering carefully is advised, too.
I don't mean to say that you are wrong, by any means, I just want to offer another point of view so that people might still consider going there. I still think it's a great restaurant, but I haven't been since last September: maybe it got worse since then, who knows?
And by the way, I'm not sure it's very wise to order cocktails in French restaurants, maybe at the exception of hotel restaurants, where they can turn to the hotel bar for those orders. Not that I know anything about cocktails or that I ever ordered one in France, but I guess it's just not part of our culture to order anything else than wine (usually Champagne) before the meal, so restaurants probably don't put too much effort in being able to craft good cocktails.
Wow, that was a long post, I guess I feel chatty today.