For me personally it has been a long time, maybe never, that I experienced such brazen condescension and worse from the staff at a Parisian restaurant. My experience at the one star Michelin Nicholas Flamel, touted as the oldest (but certainly not the wisest) restaurant in Paris, was quite possibly the worst restaurant experience I have ever had.
Not only was the food seriously blah (and really expensive for what it was), but the treatment by the waitstaff and sommelier was both xenophobic and misogynistic. My French guest and I were walked through the main dining room with several open tables for two and marched upstairs where the heat was oppressive and the clientele was American. I knew I was not being paranoid when we were both given English menus, not a French word on them (we asked for the French menu).
Further we had great difficulty ordering a bottle of wine in this restaurant. I noticed other tables in this upstairs archipelago were receiving wine pairings, so perhaps the sommelier hadn’t had the unusual task of selling a bottle of wine in a while that wasn’t on his little list (we were not given the wine list to peruse with the menu, but had to ask for it twice before we received it). And before bringing it, the sommelier came to our table to confirm again(!) that we wanted to see the list that my French friend commented had very few older, like before 2020, wines.
Indeed, after we had chosen a wine, the sommelier came back to say that the year listed in the wine list was incorrect, and that that he only had a 2020, not 2017 as had been printed. Glad he at least asked before he poured, and we ordered a different bottle of wine.
Then the sommelier came back to say that bottle was not cold, so it would take 6? 8? minutes to cool, so he had a different bottle in hand that he insisted we try. Well, he insisted my guest try, anyway. I asked for a taste also, and it was clear that neither me, nor my guest, cared for the wine, so he brought (finally) the one we had ordered and stuck it in a wine bucket full of ice. It didn’t take long to cool, but once again, he refused, almost ostentatiously, to pour me a taste until I asked. Come to think of it, this is particularly weird to me since he had give me a taste for the glass of Champagne we had ordered to begin the meal. He did not give my friend to taste. (I commented to my friend at that time that I had never been given a taste of a glass of Champagne before having thought that if it had bubbles, it was going to be potable.) Anyway, all very weird behavior I thought, and just not pleasant.
At the end of the meal, I paid with my card, and the waiter asked if I wanted to add a tip. Again, another experience I have not had in a French restaurant (certainly not in a fine French restaurant) where it is my understanding that service is included. I said I would leave cash on the table (as is my habit) and asked him, as he ran my card, if service was included, and he stated clearly that it was not. When I looked at my receipt, however, it said in print “service compris.” I asked my guest if this did not mean that the service was indeed included, and he said that it was. So I showed the receipt to the waiter and asked if this did not mean that service was included, and he agreed that service is included, but that a tip/pourboire was not. I didn’t say anything to this, but quietly reduced the amount I left on the table.
It was, from beginning to end, a thoroughly unpleasant experience. As we descended to leave, it was clear that none of the tables for two that were waiting for customers could possibly have been used (we had asked when we were marched upstairs if we could sit downstairs and were told we could not as they were full). We saw as we left that there was not a single diner left downstairs when we departed, and one table still set for dinner, though unlikely to have a customer, as it was already late.
I would say “beware,” and would be interested if someone has a different experience (any restaurant can have an off night), but the experiences I had didn’t seem like those of an “off” night, and they certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.