Le Saint Tropez was a disappointing experience, but there were a few redeeming features: the classic french onion soup; the french cab-merlot; the friendly manager standing outside Zazou/Marcel's/Le Saint Tropez who can speak several languages, including Bengali; and the warm decor. We were the guests of "regulars" who had just been there on Thursday and had experienced very attentive service from four different staff members that night.
The service on Saturday, however, was abysmal - take for instance, our surprise when our reservation for 7 people at 8:00 pm was actually set up as a table for five. After some hasty re-setting, we were tightly packed into a space designed for 4 people right beside the piano. I had to crawl over two people and squeeze past the piano in order to make it to the washroom (which hadn't been cleaned since Thursday). Our two square tables were unevenly matched in height; therefore, two of us had to balance our plates between the two tables. When we asked the server for extra napkins to place under the plates to even out the problem, she made it blatantly clear that she thought it was a poor idea as we might get "hurt by the hot food" if the napkins slipped. We decided to take our chances that the napkin solution was safer than eating off plates on a slant. She brought a stack of paper napkins instead of the cloth ones in general use.
Otherwise, the service was extremely slow and ridiculously unprofessional. I had to beg her to refill our water glasses, which remained empty most of the evening. Remnants of frites and an empty plastic butter tub remained on the table long past dessert and coffee service. She didn't bring the bill until several other servers noticed we were still sitting and waiting. A correct-looking main course was placed in front of my friend, and then hurriedly whisked back to the kitchen with no explanation. I could go on.
On to the food! The escargots arrived lukewarm (no chance of being "hurt by the hot food"!) and covered in what can only be described as gravy fit for poutine: obviously flour-thickenened and gloppy, instead of nicely reduced. There was a considerable lack of plastic butter tubs to accompany the copious amounts of average crusty bread - we all had to share the same butter. The french onion soup was the only saving grace - very flavourful broth - good, though not excellent.
We all ordered our main courses "as the chef recommends" (Medium-rare, "erring on the side of rare", we asked). The lamb chops came medium, but were also partially overcooked and quite chewy/gristly in sections. I couldn't taste any lavender jus in the sauce. The accompanying vegetables were fresh, crisp and delicious, and the potatoes were superb. The soft veal liver was decently cooked at medium, with a delicious classic provencal sauce, but the accompanying mashed potatoes were disappointing (I referred to this dish as the Geriatric Special). Our friends seemed to enjoy the steak frites and the tiger shrimp.
Dessert was tragic. The classic creme brulee was mysteriously gritty and lacked the telltale tiny black seeds from a real vanilla bean. The sugar crust was so thin as to be practically non-existent. The profiterole was a giant tower of one pastry filled with two scoops of Metropolitan vanilla ice cream and covered in bitter chocolate. Our friends rated it 7 out of 10. The crepes filled with crunchy fresh fruit were undercooked. The espresso was the only slightly redeeming feature of this course.
There must be much better casual French food in this city, and I intend to find it. So far, Le Select Bistro and Le Saint Tropez have failed to please. Le Saint Tropez merits a full 6 out of 10. Affordable, but not worth wasting your time or money.
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