We were recently in the fair city of Rouen in Normandy. On our meanderings through the town doing touristy things, we also kept an eye out for nice places for dinner. We came across the fantastic-looking five-star Hotel de Bourgtheroulde on Place de la Pucelle, thought the restaurant looked promising and booked dinner for later that evening.
We arrived at 8pm and were shown to a table for four that had been trimmed to two as all the proper tables for two had apparently already been booked. The table was also near the service area, which was not great but did offer some insights to subsequent events.
We were repeatedly asked whether we were ready to order when it was very clear that we were not. It would have been more appropriate to ask if we needed any help translating the menu, since French is not our mother tongue. Normally, closing the menus is a sign that one is ready to order. Service from the head waiter was brusque and unfriendly. After ordering the food and the wine, an amuse-bouche arrived. As we were seated near the service area I could see that our starters arrived before we had even finished our amuse-bouche. This was not so critical as both starters were cold dishes.
We were beginning to worry that dinner would be over much too quickly. To our horror, this was confirmed when we saw that our main courses arrived from the kitchen before we were finished eating our starters. Both main courses were hot dishes, which had cooled down by the time they were served and hence were not in peak condition.
There was absolutely no break between amuse-bouche, starter and main course. This would be bad at a cheap restaurant but it is unforgiveable at an expensive one.
We did not want dessert but rather were looking forward to the cheese course. I requested the wine list so that we could order a glass of red wine to accompany the cheese. The head waiter bluntly informed me that only bottles of red wine were available: no half bottles or glasses. I find this very strange. It is not acceptable that I should buy a complete bottle of wine when all I require is a glass with my cheese. Even if this is the case, the rude and unprofessional manner of the waiter was unacceptable. I would have expected some flexibility from a five star establishment: maybe a glass of wine could have been sourced from the brasserie or the bar. It is little things like this that make great restaurants.
When we declined to buy a whole bottle of red wine, the waiter seemed to go on “autopilot” and asked us whether we wanted cheese, dessert and coffee. It was like he was reading from a script. We declined all three and just asked for the bill. We left the restaurant one hour after we entered. That may be fine at lunchtime but it is just not good enough in the evening. We mentioned our dissatisfaction at the reception desk. While I could see their concern, all they offered was a business card with an e-mail address. This suggests a lack of training in dealing with complaints, which will occur from time to time even in the best-run business.
So to summarise, we unfortunately had a most negative experience in this restaurant. We felt rushed and unwelcome. The attitude of the head waiter was extremely rude and unprofessional. We have never been treated in such a manner anywhere before. Unfortnately I could not recommend this restaurant further, in fact I would have to advise that staying away would be the best course of action.
PS: Most of the text in this post was sent to the e-mail address supplied by reception. Surprise, surprise – absolutely no reaction.