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Restaurants & Bars 35

Le Chantecler (Nice) - Worst Experience of Our Honeymoon

JohnTalbotWannabe | Dec 31, 201509:52 AM

My wife and I recently married and wanted one “blow out” dinner experience on our honeymoon with exceptional white-glove service. (A full trip report is forthcoming.) We had our sights set on Louis XV in Monaco. Louis was closed, however, for the duration of our visit. We instead decided to dine at Le Chantecler, in the Negresco hotel in Nice. Our evening there was remarkably amazing and memorable in ways we never imagined.

Our amazement and memory, however, are primarily marked by utter disappointment. We still cannot believe the remarkably rude service that we received.

The first third of our meal was barely noteworthy. We ordered the discovery menus (around 200 euro or so per person). We also each ordered a glass of wine. The service staff, save for the sommelier, was friendly and kind to us – even if their friendliness was transparently inauthentic and fake (in contrast to various other establishments, such as Le Calandre in Padua).

About a third of the way through the meal, our primary server, in attempting to clear my wife’s plate, knocked over her half-full wine glass, as well as my wine glass, the latter of which broke at the stem. So, my wine glass then tumbled over. The incident caused my wife to lose about half of her white wine, and for me to lose about 3/4 of my red. (Much of which now found itself on my dress shirt.) None of this is remarkable. But Le Chantecler’s service after this incident was.

The service staff’s initial reaction seemed appropriate. They immediately moved us to another table, providing us with fresh silverware and napkins.

From there, the service went steeply downhill.

You might be thinking that any reputable restaurant – after knocking over a patron’s wine – would replace the wine, right?

Not at Negresco.

They took what wine remained in our glasses – that they had knocked over – and poured the remnants of that wine into new glasses. Recall that at least the stem of my glass was cracked and broken. It would seem not merely bad service, but dangerous and negligent, to re-pour wine from a cracked and broken glass. We pushed our wine glasses to the end of our table – closest to the service staff’s path – and waited for someone to approach us and ask us why we were not drinking our wine and had it on the far edge of the table.

You might think any server half-competent at their job would ask about the visible rejection of our wines, right?

Not at Negresco.

We waited at least 10 minutes and no one approached. At a place such as Chantecler, with various staff, including two captains or head servers (or choose your terminology) whose main function appears to be observing the floor, you would think they might check on the table where a server had just spilled most of the patrons’ wine on their clothes, right?

Not at Negresco.

After about 15 minutes, we finally called over a floor captain. He asked what we needed. We explained that his (our?) waiter had knocked over our glasses of wine, causing us to lose much of our wine. You would think that at most reputable restaurants, the waiter and floor captain, might then be incredibly apologetic about spilling a patron’s wine, right?

Not at Negresco.

We did not hear a single apology. Instead, the floor captain looked at us in disbelief, as if he had no knowledge that the spill was the fault of Negresco’s wait staff, or even could be their fault. His previous smile turned into disdain and disgust, implying that he had been told that the spill was our fault. Nonetheless, being told that his wait staff caused the spill, you would think that nearly any restaurant floor captain would immediately offer (without prompting by the patron) to replace the patron’s wine, no?

Not at Negresco.

Instead, the floor captain stared blankly at us, and asked what we would like him to do, in a tone that implied we were criticizing his job performance. We explained that we thought that he and his staff should provide us wine that did not come from cracked and broken glasses that they had broken. (Having to explain something like this is embarrassing.) My wife was not asking for a new full glass of wine, as she had already consumed half her glass. But I explained that I had at least ¾ of my wine before the incident, with now only ¼ remaining. (Obviously, the exact amount of wine is besides the point. But at a Michelin-starred restaurant, you should not need to be counting how many sips of wine you had before your waiter spilled it.) At this point, you might imagine that any reputable restaurant would immediately and heartily accept the patron’s request, without delay, right?

Not at Negresco.

The floor captain explained coldly that he would be back – not promising anything. He then went and spoke to our waiter, within our eyesight, pointing to us, seemingly asking whether it was true that the waiter – rather than we – had broken the glass. After that visible discussion, the floor captain huddled with the other floor captain (who may have been his superior). They then disappeared for a few minutes. Finally, the sommelier brought us fresh wine.

The goal of our honeymoon dinner, as my wife and I envisioned, was to have a pleasant and enjoyable evening. (In fact, I would think this is the experience any fine dining establishment seeks to evoke.) One would think they could accomplish that goal at a Michelin-starred restaurant, right?

Not at Negresco.

The issue is not that our server knocked over our wine glasses. Rather, that evening represented the most uncomfortable and insulting time that we had on our entire honeymoon.

That is, we never expected that evening to be served wine from a broken glass that our waiter knocked over, to receive no apology, to be looked at as if we were liars, and then to be condescendingly asked what remedies we envisioned from the restaurant.

The food ranged from interesting (an amuse bouche) to the incredibly mediocre, including a boring interpretation on upside down pineapple cake that tasted of supermarket quality as well as a poorly-executed crab cannelloni that tasted primarily of ordinary cream cheese. Every single dish we consumed the night before at Flaveur was better than anything we consumed at Le Chantecler. But we did not go to Chantecler for the best food of our trip. We went for the service. And that service was worse than anything we have ever experienced in any restaurant in our lives.

It is remarkable that any reputable entity ever provided “two stars” to this mockery of a restaurant.

We doubt that this will impact the business of a long-standing institution such as Le Chantecler while various concierge send tourists here who are looking to dress up for an elaborate dining room at the last minute.

But for those who use these boards, hopefully our experience will provide a cautionary tale.

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