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Etiquette for 3 star restaurants eg Ledoyen

My husband and I are going to have lunch at Ledoyen and Pierre Gagnaire. We have only eaten at American 3 star restaurants so I have some basic questions about sharing and tipping -
1. Is it customary to leave a tip in addition to the service that's already included? If so how much? For regular meals I've been told to leave some loose change, but for a 200 Euro+ meal, loose change seems too little; do we leave 5%? less? and can it be added to the credit card charge or do we leave cash on the table? Does everyone tip or is it rare at high end restaurants? I am completely at a loss.
2. At Ledoyen I heard they can do 1/2 dishes. Does that mean you can order 1/2 a dish at 1/2 the price or does it mean you order a whole dish and they can split it in 1/2 to 2 plates for 2 people?
3. If we each order the prix fixe lunch (4 courses each), can we have them split that? That would make it 8 courses minus the amuses etc.
4. We have in the past shared by each eating half the pate and then trading plates. Would that be considered impolite at a Paris 3 star?
Thanks so much for any advice! We are so much looking forward to eating in Paris in a month :o)

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  1. 1. Tip if you feel like it. More than 10% is too much, unless you have been comped a lot of stuff. Even then, the tip should stay clearly inferior to the amount you've been comped. You cannot put the tip on the credit card UNLESS you tell them BEFORE they take your card how much you'd like them to take.
    2. You can order smaller dishes that are more like 60% of the price of the whole dish. It is the case in most high end restaurants that you can order such half dishes. Not at Gagnaire since everything is already made of bite-sized stuff. You can ALSO ask to split one dish between two persons. Note that you can also make it yourself by swapping plates halfway.
    3. No. Prix fixe lunch is made of small portions already.
    4. No, see 2. Some restaurants will try to make it themselves when they see you do it. But the assumption is that you should not HAVE TO work, not that you may not do some heavy lifting of half-full plates.

    5 Replies
    1. re: souphie

      Most of our Parisian friends leave no additional tips. Often I am told, "You Americans, you make things difficult for us". As souphie says, if ordering prix-fixe, not not ask them to split dishes; if ordering off the Carte, splitting dishes should be appropriate.

      1. re: souphie

        I understand Ledoyen has a "specialty" menu of E199, with the chef's classic signature dishes. I assume it cannot be split either. Can one of us order the specialty menu, and the other order prix fixe lunch (if we go for lunch)? The number of courses will not match.

          1. re: foggy_town

            I don't recommend the specialty menu. I think it's a case of a chef who does not know what he does well.

            1. re: souphie

              "I don't recommend the specialty menu. I think it's a case of a chef who does not know what he does well."

              This is interesting. Could you souphie or anyone elaborate on this?

        1. What they said. Also consider ATM instead of CC, you will save @ 5%. l plate swapped at Taillevent when Vrinat was there. He said good, otherwise if the staff does it, the food gets cold.

          16 Replies
          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            ".....if the staff does it, the food gets cold." - don't most restaurants split the dish when it is plated in the kitchen? Thus both people get fresh hot food. IMO it is far more elegant to ask for a plate split rather than swopping plates - if the restaurant can't split the dish they will either tell you or place it in the centre of the table and give you two clean plates to eat from.

            Re: tipping, I am with Oakglen, no tipping required. I am also interested in where you will have a 3 star meal for only €200 remember wine, water and coffee add to the bill.

            1. re: PhilD

              In America some restaurants charge extra to split a dish and it's printed on the menu, but maybe that's only at low-end restaurants. That's a nice idea to ask for for another one or two plates. We have done that before but it had not occurred to me to to do that at high end restaurants. We've gotten into the habit of swapping plates but you are right, it is more elegant to not have to split the food yourself, especially when it's beautifully plated. So it's good to know when to ask and when not to. Thanks for all the input everyone!

              Admittedly the meal will cost over €200 (I said 200 Euros+ with the "+" meaning shorthand for "over €200"). However we don't drink wine at all, nor coffee. Maybe we will each order an non-alcoholic beverage and then some tap water. I don't believe in paying a fortune for water in countries that have safe tap water. I think if you are dressed nicely enough it should not be a problem.

              Now I have to figure out what to wear. It's so much easier for men; all you need is a nice suit ;o) Women have a lot more to figure out - how dressed up to get, traditional or modern, business-wear or a dress, what shoes I can walk so far in, or wear walking shoes and bring heels to change into before entering, which requires bringing another bag etc. etc. At Ledoyen they give you a stool for your purse, so if I bring shoes to change into they have to be carried in a nice bag which I will have to buy...

              1. re: jtandjb

                Wear the kind of flat pumps called ballerines in French.
                Water does not cost a fortune.

                1. re: Parigi

                  Good idea! Water can be a lot if you are not careful and the waiter keeps refilling it. There was a post from a couple of years back where water cost €58 at Ledoyen so I'll be grateful for the advice and save my money for the food.

                  1. re: jtandjb

                    Ledoyen is an exception. I can't recall any other high-end restaurant in Paris that charges water by the bottle. They charge for the first bottle, usually 8 to 10euro, then the rest is on the house. For two people, we never go through two bottles, therefore, it is still profit. A new wardrobe just to go to a restaurant; now that can be expensive. And if you are carrying an Hermes handbag, might consider ordering bottled water. As for us men, a nice suit is always appropriate, but a pair of nice shoes even more so.
                    Splitting a course: high end restaurants in France will never place the food in the center of the table and give two empty plates for you to serve yourself. That is just not done. If the restaurant agrees to split a course, they will either plate the food for you in the kitchen or tableside.

            2. re: Delucacheesemonger

              "Also consider ATM instead of CC, you will save @ 5%." Maybe so or close to that with most CCs -- but CapitalOne CC does not charge "foreign currency transaction fees." That's how we paid at Leyoden last year. (By the way, what an incredible lunch -- we thank Souphie for making us do it.)

              1. re: Jake Dear

                AmEx only charges 1%, whereas VISA/MC charge ~3-5% depending on your bank.

                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                1. re: uhockey

                  Some years back, charged the same amount on the same day on an Amex and a MC, yes the Amex only charged 1 % extra fee, but the exchange rate was not as favorable so the net was almost identical.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    We had that exact situation a good many years ago.

                  2. re: uhockey

                    My AmEx gold card charges 3.7% for foreign transactions,and my VISA and MC charge 5% - so I will use the ATM.

                    1. re: jtandjb

                      If by any chance you are an HSBC Premier customer, it's good to know that both their credit card & ATM card convert euros at the daily rate of exchange with no mark-up.

                    2. re: uhockey

                      I use a Travelex preloaded debit card. Know the conversions up front when load the card, and the company removes the swipe fees the restaurants impose.

                    3. re: Jake Dear

                      Also no foreign currency transaction charge with Charles Schwab. We use this (debit) card for all charge purchases as well as ATM withdrawals.

                      1. re: mangeur

                        AMEX platinum and centurian card holders no longer ( as of 3/1/11) pay a foreign transaction fee, I am told.

                        1. re: mangeur

                          Charge on my Schwab card from ATM and some other ersatz American bank was identical on same day fosame amount.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            I was really referring to the exchange transaction charge applied by VISA. Just received my VISA bill: $29.55 charges from charges at Avis and SNCF. We pay our hotel bill with the Schwab debit card which has no such transaction charges. For a bill of sometimes thousands of euros, 3% adds up.

                    4. Just wanted to weigh in on the tip business. If the service is good (which it should be, considering where you're going), always tip. Not a lot, just a bit to show your appreciation (in other words, it's a real tip and not a required part of the bill, as in the States). Indeed, pocket change (a couple euros) for normal little cafes, etc. When you're spending the big bucks, leave a ten euro bill or if you're absolutely over the moon, 20.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: johnmarseille

                        And don't forget to tip the sommelier separately.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          We've returned from our dreamy trip to Paris and our lunches at Ledoyen and Gagnaire. Both were beautiful and far exceeding 3 star American restaurants in complexity, evolution, and harmony of flavors and experience. Thank you to all of you for the ordering, tipping, and paying advice. Knowing all this added to our enjoyment of the experience so much.

                          At Ledoyen we had one lunch prix fixe menu plus the turbot and the "Grand Dessert Ledoyen" which is all 5 desserts (for only 9 Euros more than one dessert - what a deal)!!! At Pierre Gagnaire we both had the lunch prix fixe menu. I'll share photos and detailed descriptions of the incredible food as soon as I've edited them :o)

                          1. re: jtandjb

                            jtandjb - did you ever post your photos etc? Also, what was *your* experience regarding ordering, tipping, and paying?