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Always reserve, unless you don’t.
Now, for years I’ve been furious, agitated, en colère about people reserving or not at Parisian restaurants. I’ve been convinced that one should always, always reserve. Why?
Because I’ve been sitting by the Canal St. Martin on a beautiful summer day and seen folks amble in and ask “got a table, no, I didn’t reserve” or in a Palace hotel resto when a non-hotel-staying-customer comes off the street expecting to be seated or in one of Paris’s “hot” small places, like Spring or Frenchie or Temps au Temps (the first and third no longer exist in their prior skins, so don’t try) and had dopes assume they could just snare a seat.
I’ve already given the reasons for reserving time after time. They are that:
1. You have a table guaranteed for 3 hours.
2. You get the primo table.
3. They know your name.
4. It’s just plain courtesy and good manners.
5. And, and, and, you won’t be turned away.
This has been my counsel for years, but… I have to pull back a bit because of an experience today.
I came back to Paris after a two-week forced absence and it was:
– a Sunday – first red flag
– it was for lunch – second warning
– my intended “date,” a woman I’d met here 50 (that’s right – 50) years ago couldn’t come (and thus neither of us called & reserved) – and
– when I called at 10 and 10h30 and 11, no answer – 4 strikes and you are definitely out.
So, ever the optimist—I mean, one of my food gods, Emmanuel Rubin, said it was open 7/7 for both meals (but he or his editors or minions have gotten the details wrong before)—I headed out. Dead, curtains closed, no sign of life.
OK. Since my mentor Paga taught me to never leave home without a back-up (both of us having shown up the day after the place was closed, taken-over, had a flood, electricity failure, rat-endemic, etc., in the past), I looked around for a telephone to call my back-up. No phones exist on the street anymore.
Luckily, Colette had pounded into my brain the necessity of carrying my cell phone (she started by scaring me with a Bonfire of the Vanities-type vision of getting lost in the South Bronx, which I’d been through three times running the NYC Marathon when I was certainly lost). Thus, I called from the Metro station.
They: “Sorry Sir, we’re full.”
Me: “Oh, no, that’s a shame.”
They: “Yes, perhaps next time (unspoken, “you schmuck, it’s Sunday lunch, it’s the 16th, you think this is a whore house?”).”
Me: “Ah, how about the bar?”
They: “OK, but no reservations and no guarantees.” Fair enuf!
Arrive – look needy but hip, shamed but hopeful, old but energetic.
Me: “Hummm, I called, you (actually she) said you were full, but…………………….”
He: “Lemme see.” He does these seemingly intricate things with the computer (I’m sure this is how we send drones to kill folk in Afghanistan or find tumors in the brain) but I’m impressed.
He, not regarding me (the supplicant) turns to one of the quite pretty young wait-things hovering and says – “Table 637” or some-such. And it indeed was Table 637 or some-such, way down, way over, and way back, but what did I care, because… I was in. Without a reservation. When they were full. Unheard of.
So maybe it’s like the airlines & hotels on the net, one can occasionally score at the 11th hour.
This event happened here (as Casey Stengel said, “You could look it up”):
19, Chaussée de la Muette in the 16th, (Metro: La Muette)
Weekday lunch formulas 19-24, others 33-38, à la carte 50-60€
©2010 John A. Talbott
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