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Bad Experience at La Regalade Conservatoire

I had an odd and unpleasant experience at La Regalade Conservatoire last week.

I am a huge fan of La Regalade, both the original and St. Honore; the quality of the food, the complimentary communal pate, and the value make it one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. I wanted to try the new location, and I am very sorry I did so.

Firstly, after sitting for few minutes, I did not see the pate being passed around, but rather it appeared they were bringing small metal containers of something to each table; I assumed this was a twist on the way they served the pate here. After I ordered, I was brought a couple of pieces of bread, along with this metal container, which contained sardines. They served a store bought can of sardines instead of the pate; I thought this was a bit odd. I do not eat sardines, so this was not a good thing for me. More importantly, isn't the pate one of the main reasons one goes to La Regalade? It is for me. Additionally, since I was having the uber-rich risotto (as my main instead of as an entree), I ordered a very light dish of scallops as my entree (5 euro supplement), knowing I would want to enjoy the pate. Had I known that they were not serving the pate, I would have ordered differently. It might have been nice for them to tell me.

After receiving the sardines I asked about the pate, and the waitress said there was a problem with it on this day. Great. My scallops starter was a ceviche style of four scallops in the shell, very fresh, very light, but not nearly as enjoyable as the scallops served at the other locations. I then had the squid ink risotto, which was excellent, rich, and full of flavor and textures. Desert was a speculos custard with a visually unappealing purplish black currant chantilly; I did not enjoy this; simple and nothing special. No bread basket was ever brought to my table, and no madeleines were served after my meal.

But the strangest thing happened after my meal. After signing my credit card receipt, I noticed that I was charged In dollars, not euros. (Google DCC or Dynamic Currency Conversion if you are unfamiliar with this). They did not ask my permission to do so, even though they are required to. This has never happened to me before. I asked to speak to the manager to ask about it, and she referred me to the GM, who runs the Hotel in which La Regalade resides, and he indignantly said that this was a benefit to him as well as the the customer (I will spare you the lengthy details of this conversation). I told him I did not agree, but I had no desire to re-run the charge or for him to credit me the three or four dollar difference in the exchange rate. I just wanted to leave. Then things got bizarre; he got angry at me for questioning this, and then he made a scene, the kind of Parisian scene I have witnessed on a few occasions, but have never been a party to.

The restaurant I considered one of the best, and one of the best values, anywhere, provided one of the least enjoyable meals, and left me feeling ripped off.

Very unpleasant.

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  1. Possibly there's a conflict between the hotel management and the restaurant. That sort of thing can produce some regrettable irregularities, and it is not necessarily the restaurant's fault. Sorry you had such a bad experience.

    1. First of all, it was painful to read the above.

      As a former restaurant owner I have to wonder if your disappointment with the amuse-bouche did not color your experience at least a little bit.

      In any case if they had a problem with the paté, I can't imagine a good kitchen with so little imagination that they couldn't whip up an alternative. However, you were at the 2nd location perhaps only with a copycat kitchen.

      There is absolutely no excuse for the currency problem or the horrible way they handled it.

      I don't come to Paris often, and la Regalade is on my list. I'll be sure to bring my American Mastercard, I guess, and to go to the original. And I imagine you should return there too with this story.

      1. In what universe is a can of sardines the equivalent of pate?

        4 Replies
        1. re: therealdoctorlew

          Sardines are very big here in Catalonia. So are anchovies.

          But not from a can.

          1. re: collioure

            But there are very good canned sardines and anchovies in Spain.

            1. re: Maximilien

              Sardinillas are actually a luxury item, the higher octave of canned sardines. I see them served at restaurants right from the can and nobody disdains them.

              1. re: Ptipois

                Yes, better-grade canned seafood definitely a luxury product. Spanish supermarkets usually carry them in locked cases, including sardines, including in Barcelona (Catalonia).

        2. I am very sorry for your experience, and having only been to the original location, I can't comment on the other two... I understand all the stress you went through, especially with the grand finale you describe, however I do feel you make a bigger deal about the "paté affair" than it really is.

          Isn't the pate one of the main reasons one goes to La Regalade?
          It is for you apparently, but I can't say it is for me or anybody else I know. The paté is good, yes, but good paté is really not something one would go out for in Paris, as it is fairly easy to find good ones... So although it's always a pleasure when the kitchen serves something complimentary, and especially if it is a good paté, I don't see why they should have told you they didn't have it before hand... it's complimentary, a nice gesture, but it says nowhere "La Régalade, home of the best paté in Paris".
          The fact that they had a problem with it and decided not to serve it, shows their professionalism. And although I didn't taste the sardines, so I obviously can't comment on the quality of the substitution, some canned sardines from some producers are a delight much rarer than a good paté is (at least in France).

          Again, I'm sorry about your experience, and it's always a drag when things just keep adding up the way they did on this night...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Rio Yeti

            The pâté is better at Stéphane Jégo's anyway. And it's always on.
            Completely agree with you on the sardines topic.

          2. I guess the real question is, would you ever return here again? it sounds like you've eaten there a number of times and always enjoyed it, and then on one night things went off a bit. (The complimentary pate was not being served, the dessert was a bit disappointing and the total bill came to a few more dollars because of the currency differences. I get it.) So, balancing this one very disappointing evening with the many other pleasurable experiences that you've had, will you ever go back again?

            3 Replies
            1. re: bauskern

              I used to love La Régalade n°1 when Camdeborde was there. I loved the same La Régalade in Bruno Doucet's days but never was a fan of it. Then there was La Régalade Saint-Honoré (n°2) and after a couple of bad meals there I decided I wouldn't go again. I never bothered with n°3.

              Pâté is not complimentary anyway, it is not priced in the menu but you do pay for it all the same.

              1. re: Ptipois

                I will grinch this a step farther. I never loved original LR. I loathed the cattle call reception, the harried service, the impossible-to-hear-either-lover-or-server noise level. I was never seduced by the comped pate since I don't load up before the main meal and we usually have enjoyed much fab pate during many previous take out lunches. Worse, I found the food meh if very well priced meh. DH used to go for the scallops until salted butter became fad, then they became inedible. So we moved on.

                Open LRSR. Give it another chance. And we did. Three if not four times as I remember. Still avoided the pate, but once it never even appeared at our table. Never again.

                I have enormous respect and reverence for Camdeborde for the extraordinary influence he has had on food in France and indeed the world. But I'll spend my bucks elsewhere, thanks.

                1. re: mangeur

                  Camdeborde did sell the original quite some time ago - around 2005? - so not share it's fair to still associate his name with it nearly ten years after he moved on.

            2. Agree with many of the other comments. In addition in I would say that Sardines/Anchovies out of a tin a very much on trend at the moment with lots of fashionable places serving them like this as an amuse bouche. Agree it a bit hard in people who don't generally like them, but the quality is so good they are usually far better than many have eaten before so are wort trying.

              Should one count on the pate being served? I always think if as a bonus, it's an amuse bouche again and I never assume it's going to be offered as it's a "gift" from the house, and isn't really intended to be a substantial part of the meal. A few restaurants always seem to serve it, but IIRC I wasn't served it at the original LR on one visit, and remember a few meals at CLJ many years ago without it.

              The credit card thing is annoying and I see this more and more often (it's becoming standard on both Visa and MasterCard). I always check the rate if I can (not easy as most conversion sites give blended buy/sell rates) and have yet to be convinced it gives me a better rate to pay in my home country. Like you I had a pretty heated argument over it once in a hotel when they did it automatically. So definitely something to watch - although bank charges for foreign purchases are also far from equitable and seem to be getting worse.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PhilD

                Many of us who travel a lot have cc's that do not add a service charge to convert the currency to that at home.
                The charge runs @ 3% and is the reason l use one card for US and one card for Foreign.
                l ,for one, would not have accepted the conversion.

              2. I am very sorry for your experience, and having only been to the original location, I can't comment on the other two..."
                I have no hesitation.
                I think No's 1 & 2 remain good but I will not back to No 3 because as I said in summary "don't expect a gutsy repetition of the old original in the 14th or somewhat more refined St Honore version, to my taste-buds he's gone a bit over the top with #3."

                1 Reply
                1. re: John Talbott

                  "having only been to the original location, I can't comment on the other two..."
                  ?
                  http://johntalbottsparis.typepad.com/...

                2. Almost every restaurant is guilty of a bad performance every now and then. All we can do is shrug our shoulders and hope that this one single experience at a favourite resto is an aberration rather than an indication of a trend. If it is a new and permanent reality, "next!" ... there are literally hundreds of other restaurants in Paris that are as good or better. No restaurant is irreplaceable.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Parnassien

                    I totally agree. And to be clear, this was not a horrible meal, more like an off day; as I said, the risotto was incredible. But the DCC without asking, and the subsequent bad behavior that followed was a huge turnoff, and I suspect, only relevant to this location.

                    I would not hesitate to go to either of the other locations.

                    1. re: fishskis

                      Now that I think about it, maybe the restaurant-boutique hotel formula is prone to difficulty. I've had similarly high-handed treatment at another resto in a small and very trendy hotel in the 7th as well as in San Francisco and Rome. Hotel managers are, I think, the wrong people to manage restaurants open to non-guests. For them, your "value" as a one-off restaurant customer is minimal, I suppose... and after a day of kowtowing to hotel guests, the opportunity to take out all his frustrations on you was probably relished.