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June 28, 2012

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E. Hirst

Thank you for the warning. After my experience some years ago at Flora in the 8th, there will be ice dancing competitions in Hell before I would go to any restaurant with which Flora is associated.

My encounter with her spectacularly rude staff happened when smoking was still permitted in Paris restaurants, but they were required to have non-smoking sections. When I made my reservation, I was assured there was a non-smoking section and that my husband and I would be seated in it. We arrived right on time and were shown to a table in the main dining room. The waitress seemed to be put out that she had to wait on us at all. We perused the wine list and asked for her advice, which she delivered in a strange, high-pitched sing-song voice, punctuated with much eye-rolling. Okay, so she's having a bad day, we thought. We ordered a bottle that she recommended, but even this did nothing to warm her.

Soon enough, other diners arrived. A party of six was seated right next to us and immediately lit up. A few minutes later, a man smoking a cigar was seated directly behind us. I said to the waitress that there must have been a misunderstanding and asked if we could be moved to the non-smoking section. She told me they had no non-smoking section. We had just been served our entrees and had consumed some of the wine, so leaving didn't seem like a reasonable thing to do. Besides, we figured something had just gone awry and could be fixed. So, I asked to speak to the maitre d'. I explained the situation and asked if we could be moved. His response? He berated me loudly, loudly enough to get the attention of the diners around us. He told me I was lying. He actually used that word. He said we had never made a reservation and had never been told there was a non-smoking section because anyone could see the restaurant didn't have room for one. At this point, I was honestly thinking maybe we had walked into the wrong restaurant and had a reservation at another place with a similar name, so I asked him to check the reservation book. There was our name, plain as day. This only made him angrier and more abusive.

We made an attempt to finish our meal, but we couldn't taste anything through the smoke. We asked for the check and it was slammed on the table with an audible thump. As we were leaving, believe it or not, my husband left the customary tip. I was nearly to the door when I saw the pile of coins on the table. I walked back and snatched it away. To my surprise, I was rewarded with a round of applause from the diners who had witnessed the scene. One of the women at the table of smokers tugged on my arm and apologized for the behavior of the waitress and maitre d'. She said she lived nearby and dined often at Flora. She said this was not the first time she had seen customers treated abusively.

My husband and I have been lucky enough to visit Paris at least once a year for three to six weeks at a time, so we have dined in a wide variety of restaurants. We have never experienced anything close to what happened to us at Flora. When I read glowing reviews like yours, Mr. Talbott, I have to think our surreal experience was an aberration. Otherwise, she wouldn't still be opening restaurants. All the same, I'll not test that theory. Flora may be the finest chef in all of France, but she should stick her head out the kitchen door once in a while and observe how her staff treats her customers.

Thanks again.

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