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Readers revolt against Les Fines Gueules

In a city with hundreds of new restaurants to explore every year, we food writers rarely get a chance to revisit our old favorites. Take, for example, Les Fines Gueules. I visited four times between 2007-2010. I loved the veal carpaccio, the hand-cut tartare, and the burrata with toasted almonds. I praised it here and in several guides, then I floated away. The same is true for many others who wrote early and positive reviews.

In the meantime, our readers have continued going, and they are increasingly and vocally disgruntled. A flurry of comments within the last month highlight worsening service and segregation of English speakers. We’re posting them here as a caution, and also as an invitation to add your own comments about Les Fines Gueules or any other place in Our Guide to Paris Restaurants. Your words of praise and criticism are incredibly important in helping us to understand how these restaurants are performing year-round, not just during the press-heavy months after opening.

Recent Criticism of Les Fines Gueules
(comments in July & August 2012)

  • “I’ve been here three times: the first two times were great (back in 2011) but this past time was just awful. Having been seated in the “American ghetto” in the back of the restaurant (which is stuffy and hot), I was pretty adamant this time that we wanted to sit by the windows in the front. I speak good French and politely inquired, only to be made to wait for 10 minutes and then be led into the stuffy back room anyways; I protested and then we were finally seated in the front of the resto, which was full of French speakers… Bad service, bad food; will not be returning.”
  • “I have to say, I was extremely unimpressed with my meal tonight… The room was hot and stuffy and we felt very ignored and treated as detested August tourists. All the french speakers were downstairs in the lovely windows and street and all the Japanese and Americans were up by the toilet with the incompetent waitress who couldn’t even tell us if they had dessert wines. I don’t know if it was because we were Americans, if it was because its August and they just don’t care but I won’t go back. Last year I was treated well, this year was horrible.”
  • “It was suggested to me that things have slipped here because the owners opened a higher-end place and perhaps weren’t paying attention here anymore… I’ve been back a few times since I initially wrote my post about the place and found them less-attentive than in the past as well, and the food fine, but not necessarily as exceptional as it once was… It’s too bad that people are experiencing less-than-favorable welcome at the restaurant, since it was good in the past.”
  • “I went on Saturday evening, mostly because every other option in the city was shut and I can’t say I was overly impressed with the food or the service. While I wasn’t relegated to the ‘American Ghetto’ of the resto and I spoke to the staff in French, they treated my friends and I with barely concealed disdain. The service was slow and the food passable. I will not be recommending this to anyone.”


17 Replies to “Readers revolt against Les Fines Gueules”

  1. My wife and I came across Les Fines Gueules while out walking during our October 2015 visit to Paris. We went in for lunch with no pre knowledge of the place, but were intrigued by the appearance of the entry bar space. We loved the place and returned for a second lunch a few days later. On both occasion we were given a choice of tables. Food, service and ambiance were all at the highest level. The lasting impression for me is the appearance of the bar and lovely charcuterie slicing machine, the very comfortable corner window table, the interesting plaster ceiling, the stair up to the kitchen and beyond to the upper dining room and the delicate hall to the tiny bathroom with it’s little sink in a wall cabinet. I recommend this place without reservation.

  2. We’ve read the reviews,both pro and con. We will be in Paris June 11, 2014 . On Sunday June 15 our family of 6 will be having dinner at Les Fine Gueules. Hope to meet the owner.

  3. We ate at Les Fine Gueles last Sunday night, end of November, 6 of us Brits. It was quiet when we got there, so early strategy clearly paid. Drank in the bar downstairs first and sat upstairs with two other tables, but from USA. Service was good it has to be said and we enjoyed the food. We are used to one and two Michelin star restaurants, weren’t expecting that, didn’t want it. But as it is was it was fine. I would recommend it for Sunday evenings anyway.

  4. I know Arnaud and worked with him for 10 years and i can tell he s totally dedicated and professional. Les Fines Gueules is a MASSIVE success and a consistant good experience. Now, using the word “ghetto” for a 16th century parisian building is quite funny i admit. And last, try to get the best table in a busy NYC trendy resto without beeing a “usual” and let me know.

  5. And how about chinese?? My friends and i had a great wine-food experience at “les fines gueules” lately. No descrimination, lots of fun, good table, all good. D u think that s a sign that americans lost their mojo? :))) No, seriously, it s hard to be on top every night with every clients, and they are doing fine i think.

  6. To writers & readers
    owner of ‘Les Fines Gueules” since 2007, I just can’t believe what I’ve been reading. Since 2 years indeed, we do receive bookings from all over the world and not especially from the US. AND I’M JUST PROUND OF IT, like my team by the way : should i refuse english speaking clients ?! i don t think so. Should i decline the trust of more than 50 hotels in Paris… i hear ‘revolt’, ‘ghetto’ : do these people know about ghetto, revolt, why not war . Are we talking about a humble restaurant, opened 7 days a week (not easy, believe me). Are these comments real or do they come from a same person, or group. i really feel interessed but sad as i just start my day. In the other hand, these comments are not the first neither the last, so… where are your good comments ? Perhaps should you have a look at ‘trip advisor”, where people often post 5 stars, where french people complain about ‘too many foreign people’ at the Fines Gueules. Anybody pleased ?
    As an end, i don t need any translation but i apologize for my poor english. As i also say, I DO MY BEST everyday .
    regards to all of you

  7. Ate there in July, they surely heard us speaking English. Seated us well despite a rush, food and service were terrific. Just thought I should say. Same trip had great meals at Philou and Le Timbre.

  8. Thanks for this very informative update. Someone should translate this article into French and get it posted visibly where its useful lessons will be read and discussed by French restaurant-owners and francophone critics too. The Anglo-ghetto problem is increasingly a nightmare even for those who are bilingual and residents. You give a non-French name and you’re immediately led into some uncomfortable corner where you can be ‘dealt with’ by a sullen waiter who speaks hardly better French than my houseplants. In one restaurant recently, I was speaking French with a dinner companion who is ‘francais de souche’ and the waiter kept talking to me in English. I eventually told him that I preferred to speak French, please. His response? “Ah, madame, but I need to prac-tees my Engleessh!” I explained that I was not an English instructor and that if he wanted English lessons, he could pay someone for their labor. This resulted in more sullen behavior. Restaurants need to stop expecting those who were not born in France to indulge this kind of behavior. I hope you’ll post this review in French so that a discussion of these problems can be engaged among francophones and anglophones alike.

  9. about a year ago i had dinner here with other american friends who all speak french fluently and we don’t act like obnoxious americans tourists. they sat us the ghetto and the serveur was not very sympa.

  10. That is completely unacceptable for a restaurant to treat customers who do not speak their language in a less than pleasing area. They are paying customers and should be treated with the same respect that French customers receive.

  11. I’ve been to Les Fines Gueules many times, but didn’t revisit again recently. Honestly, I like place, the ambiance, and the impeccable wine collection in the cave, especially natural wine. However, the food is quite unstable, because they keep changing the chefs. Besides, the food is over-charged. Once, my French friends who run a gastronomic restaurant in Paris told me that they were kinda food poisoned after having dinner there in last year. What a shame.

  12. Definitely disappointing. I had 2 excellent meals there and thought my 3rd visit reflected merely an off night – dishes were uninspired, service uneven, servers blasé if not outright rude. Prime location won’t get them very far if this continues!

  13. Interesting phenomenon; I too loved it early on and indeed even found it good in 2010 with the new chef. Sad, but as Meg implies, there’s a million new places so let’s move on.

  14. Last night was sunday, I recommended to some friends (americans) they were seated outside and were being treated well, at least when I had stopped by. The simple well prepared plates arrived veloute petit pois, carpaccio de veau, cooked as request faux filet et puree. Many gems in the cave, requested a producer of interest received the bottle proper temperature etc. What are people expecting here? .. Fine Gueules is essentially a winebar with simple well enough sourced decently prepared plates and minimal staff. On sunday not many options in town, and most parsians are home having dinner… It is what is and expecting such have not been that disappointed and usually quite satisfied given these expectations.

  15. Funny and sad. Last time I had lunch there was last fall/winter, with my wife and my daughter in a pushchair. We are French and hardly look like Americans.
    We were seated on the Ground floor, behind a window, and were treated very nicely. Food was fine.

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