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Oct 11, 2013 01:10 PM

Music in Restaurants

We're in a Parisian restaurant that is so quiet, I feel like I am at a Maya Angelu recital. It is owned by a young couple, but it is too damn stuffy! Is piped in music a faux pas in France? It seems that might add the requisite amount of impetus to the energy level.

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    1. re: felini

      Okay, I was going to wait for our return for a "public" review of our dining, but since you asked..........
      The restaurant was Auberge du 15. I love the fact that it served Classic French dishes in the 13th and wanted to give them my support. The food was very good and the portions huge. However, while good, nothing was memorable. What will stick in my wavering recall is the ambiance and atmosphere. This was a restaurant that belonged in the tony and established 7th arrondissement. Once the decision was made to put it in the 13th, a different concept was in order. The decor was conservatively pleasant, but in a restaurant where the server and kitchen staff dress like they are working in a bowling alley, an atmosphere of hushed reverence is incongruous. Hey, everybody was nice and accommodating, but why did I have to feel I was eating at Tallivent when Ronald Reagen was president. The place doesn't fit the 13th arrondissement. It needs a sound track, noisy patrons and a convivial atmosphere. The food was good, but boy were we bored and we're old and withered. I can't imagine how folks who are actually cool would feel.

      1. re: enofile

        Double post (don't know why it does that, second time today)

        1. re: enofile

          Could you develop on "the place doesn't fit the 13th arrondissement"? I have trouble understanding what you mean by that.

          1. re: enofile

            "It needs a sound track"
            No it doesn't. No restaurant does.
            Many of us enjoy our dining company.
            Thank you so much for pointing out this gem. Bowing deeply.

            1. re: Parigi

              L'Auberge du 15 had never been mentioned here? I doubt it. It is, by the way, one of my favorite addresses in Paris. And why it should be misplaced in the treizième fills me with wonder. Never heard of such a strange idea before.
              It's a bit like saying: "L'Auberge Bressane is okay but we wish it were more like Mama Shelter."

              But, you know, I'm so unhip. Not like John T. who is a hipster.

              1. re: Ptipois

                "It is, by the way, one of my favorite addresses in Paris."
                Also i've become so annoyed by the increasing decibel levels I now carry a meter, i got the idea from F. Simon, some register close to the noise of a lawn mower. Much as I loved Lazare, it was almost too noisy to talk & be heard at our table of four.

              2. re: Parigi

                Okay, before I am roasted over the coals on this issue, I will try to explain my point of view.
                1. I hate loud restaurants where you cannot hear your companions.
                2. I also can't stand boring restaurants which are so "hushed," that you feel like whispering.
                There is a happy medium, that provides a fun quotient even if you are dining by yourself. Dining is about having a good time and enjoying great food as part of the experience.
                Last night, the Auberge du XV, had many empty seats. With the spacing of the tables and the formality of the decor, an atmosphere of ecclesiastic reverence developed. We were dining as a couple, and well aware of the American propensity for vocal bombastic expression, the two of us almost resorted to hand signals rather then disturb the monastic ambiance. While our veal chop was delicious and my soufflé wonderfully presented, I can't say we had a particularly good time. The chef is young, and our server was a twenty something dressed very casually, but their personalities were swallowed within the restaurants somber ambiance. My point about the Auberge du XV being more apropos to the 7th rather then the 13th, is that I see the 13th as a young, emerging arrondissement with an eclectic population, while the 7th strikes me as rather staid, representing the political and diplomatic essence of the neighborhood. The tone of our dining experience would be perfect if I was entertaining the most honorable ambassador to the Principality of Lichtenstein. My wife and I wanted some external energy last night. We did not want to feel like the spinster librarian was about to come over and shush us. Appropriate background music, perhaps Hubert Laws or Chopin, would have helped.

          2. Actually Auberge de XV is a delight in Paris for me. The entertainment value there is from you and your companions. Very little interplay with staff and quiet is true but here it is a luxury to have space and quiet.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              --The entertainment value there is from you and your companions.--

              Isn't it anywhere?

              1. re: mangeur

                At Chez Denise, eg, there is a party, constant interplay between waiter, patron, and other patrons. You are not an isolated island where dishes are quietly put on table and little or no conversation exists between you and others.
                Granted this is a choice and if you want insularity l am sure all would leave you alone, but l love the interplay.

                1. re: mangeur

                  "--The entertainment value there is from you and your companions.--"

                  "Isn't it anywhere?"

                  That's what I thought. How unhip of me.
                  I was even taught, when I first came to Paris, always to thank the hostess of a dinner party: "thank you for the evening," and never "thank you for the food", because you should first and foremost accept the invitation for the enjoyment of the company. The food, which should always be good, is there to enhane your evening, not the other way around.
                  This concept that when I go out with friends and dear ones I need entertainment is astounding.
                  Except when I am in Vegas. The 13th is indeed no Vegas. -- Can't think of any arrondissement that is.

              2. Sorry enofile, but I'm with the crowd here... I am so sick and tired of restaurants with bad music blasting through my ears, I know you're not implying that that is what you wished for... but the idea of a nice quiet dinner with Mrs. Yeti or with a good friend is priceless to me, and your post just significantly upped l'Auberge du 15 in my wishlist for restaurants to try.

                1. To answer your question, yes I believe piped music is far rarer in France than in the US or UK.

                  I agree some places can seem to be temples of gastronomy with reverential hushed tones, and I think a few try to be like that. But, in my experience, it's the diners that create the atmosphere and I have been to places that are hushed some days, and quite raucous other days. I am afraid it's often just your luck on the day - one days is hushed and reverential, the next it's a bunch of drunken sports fans. It's those sorts of days you can't win.

                  My issue with music in restaurants is generally how bad it is and thus it puts me off - I find myself distracted from the food by the irritating music. The general approach seems to be middle of the road bland. In places were the music is part of the design it can be good - edgy burger places covered in graffiti playing the Alabama Shakes was a great recent experience, or years ago hearing Moby's play for the first time in a very on trend place.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PhilD

                    It's amazing to me how many new places play American music of the past (from Sinatra to Big Band.)