How would you describe your preferred/perfect Paris service?
- mangeur May 3, 2014 07:09 AM
It occurs to me that many of the super popular places that we have not enjoyed are those that treat us like royalty from the moment we step in the door. Sounds nuts, huh? It just feels wrong to me to have someone envelop us in a ball of cotton wool love that we haven't in some way earned. IOW, it feels phony.
We like to be politely received and shown to a decent table, some kind of report established as we choose beverages and more as we discuss the carte. Finally, when we decide that the food is outstanding and convey our pleasure, we like the staff to enter in on our enjoyment. THEN, we have established a small relationship and they can love us to pieces.
Just our way. Yours?
I totally agree with you, Mangeur. I hate obsequiosity (a major sin in France, everybody hates that). "It just feels wrong to me to have someone envelop us in a ball of cotton wool love that we haven't in some way earned." = so true.
However, I think that royalty-type service can be an art form, and that Le George V has achieved that distinction.
I separate the stratospheric places and human places.
In human places, I like a staff that is warm, remembers my pet peeves and quirks, but low-key about it.
In stratospheric places, I like a staff that is warm, remembers my pet peeves and quirks, has enough expertise and polite assurance that it does not hesitate to exercise veto power (or strong suggestion) over any ordering mistake that I may make, yet low-key to the point of near invisible the rest of the time. You feel you are alone with your friends and there is no one else around, but the second you reach for the bottle, a hand appears out of nowhere, takes the bottle and pours for you.
As for the royalty treatment, once I arrived at the Paris Ritz in the rain. The staff came out forming a cascade of umbrellas so that not a drop of rain fell on me in my walk from the car to the door. That felt pretty good.
As others have said - it depends on context.
Paris does do grand dining very well, in fact it's one of the best cities in the world to experience the well oiled, choreographed service of a grande dame restaurant. And when I dine at these places I love being cosseted in this way.
The Paris also has the old school style, the stereotypical French waiter, often in a "museum" of a restaurant, a place stuck in a time warp. Slightly superior attitudes, slightly distant, faux formal. Again in the right context I love these, they are almost "Midnight in Paris" like.
But my favourite, again like others, is the slightly more laid back, a little more casual. Unlike others I am not a regular enough diner at any Paris restaurant to have my likes remembered, but I do like servers who suggest ideas or debate the wisdoms of ordering things. Sommeliers must do this or they are no good, but I also think waiters should as well.
However, across all these styles, the key is building a relationship, and humour goes a long way. We love building a relationship, we don't take ourselves or dining seriously, and if we can't inject any humour and warmth into the meal then the service doesn't work for us.
Wildly popular places that turn tables are the worst culprits - the staff have no time, the food is delivered rather than served and you feel you are on a production line. I am afraid a few board favourites fall into this category.