Living as a student in Paris certainly has its perks, with many activities and necessities steeply discounted or even free. However, it can be a nightmare for a gourmand such as myself when it, comes to food. Désolé, no such luck there. However, I do manage quite well if I do say so myself; one simply needs the know-how. Nonetheless, every once in a while, you do want to go all-out and really treat yourself to something classy. It's only natural, right?
I had decided even before arriving in Paris that I would visit Hôtel Le Meurice for their famous afternoon tea at their restaurant, Le Dali, at least once during my stay here. Now, this 5-star hotel and restaurant is no less than the talk of the town here-I've heard honestly nothing but people raving when it comes to Le Dali. Their tea-time formule includes, for 30 euros, a warm scone with clotted cream and jam, an assortment of finger sandwiches, 3 mini-pastries and either tea or hot chocolate-sounds like quite a bargain, no? So now, let me tell you about my not one, but two, visits to Le Dali-quite a funny story actually!
A couple of weeks ago, my mom came to visit me here, and I decided that it would be a perfect time to visit Le Dali (not only because it would be her treat! :) ). My sister, A.P., who was also here at the same time, paid them a visit a few days before and had thoroughly enjoyed her experience, with the staff whose sole concern was the happiness of the customers. Unfortunately, this was not at all the experience we had when we visited. For that price and location, one would expect nothing but the best in terms of both food and service. Well, we were disgusted by both! The staff downright ignored us the entire time we were there, and whenever they had to speak to us, they did so in the rudest manner possible. They went to every other table, asking to make sure everything was alright for the other customers. They did not bother to ask us even once. Nor did they give us any explanation when they brought the food to our table. The food was less than mediocre. The pastries were all incredibly dry and stale. I've had way better scones in Paris for half the price. When we asked for vegetarian finger sandwiches, they brought us the driest sliced possible bread with sliced carrots in-between. I was so incensed by this experience, that I wrote Le Meurice a letter the very next day, detailing our experience and how it was completely unacceptable for any establishment, but particularly one of its stature and with its reputation, to behave in such a fashion with paying customers, and demanding an explanation for what had happened. Truth be told, I did not expect any response; however, to my surprise, I received a phone call the very next day from the restaurant manager apologizing frantically for what had happened and insisting that the treatment we had received was entirely uncharacteristic of their establishment. Furthermore, she maintained that the hotel really wanted to preserve their positive reputation, and therefore, they were willing to offer me a free tea for two, for the date and time of my choosing, to make up for our awful experience the first time! Well now, I certainly wasn't about to say no to that, so one week later, my friend S. and I were standing in their doorway right when they opened for tea-time. They were waiting for us. Indeed, I will never forget this experience. The manager, who came and introduced herself, was there the whole time supervising the waiters, who, I will not hesitate to say, were actually intimidated by our presence. I have actually never seen French waiters react in such a way before, but the waiters that day(the same ones I had when I went with my mom) were completely different people.We just looked at them, and they literally came running over to us to find out what we wanted. They actually refilled our teapots, and the vegetarian sandwiches this time around included an assortment of sandwiches such as cucumber with cream cheese and emmental cheese with dijon mustard. The pastries were considerably better this time around-I particularly like the lemon-meringue tartelette, the fondant au chocolat(which had a molten center!) and the grapefruit-pistachio tartelette. I ordered the Marco Polo Noir(black tea), and S. ordered the Marco Polo Rouge(red fruit tea), both of which were excellent, of course. All in all, the second experience proved more than gratifying, not only because of the fawning waiters, but also because the restaurant/hotel itself is actually quite stunning-dark but elegant, with vibrant paintings covering the ceiling, the dining room has a very old-world, cozy feel to it, whilst the rest of the hotel is designed literally as though it were an ornate palace. Now after all this, would I return? Certainly not. For the price, the food was still nothing exceptional, and although I'm certain that if I were to return, I would receive the same level of service, I could not recommend it to anyone after my first experience there. If you do decide to go, it should be for the classy high-tea experience more than anything else. And if you are not at all satisfied with your experience, like me, you know the solution :)