I first got introduced to Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine when I worked at Sketch and ever since then have always wanted to go to what he calls ‘ma coeur’ at Rue Balzac, Paris. He’s also probably one of the only chefs to have published a cookbook with no recipes, just surreal works of art that just happen to be edible. 8 years later I finally made the call! They only accept reservations 1 month in advance so I was there, on the dot, looking up the website, calling the number and booking the table.
I could not wait! Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, here I come. Along with my parents, my chef friend MS was also joining. This was going to be good. The day before we were supposed to dine, I called the restaurant to confirm the booking. My heart sank when they said that couldn’t find the booking. I protested and protested that I had made the booking 1 month ago and it had been confirmed and then remembered the name of the person, Alexander, who had taken the booking. A quick connect call later and I was speaking to Alex himself who clicked a few keys and was able to pull up the booking and confirmed it. Phew. I took a deep breath. That was close! Panic over.
So, the grand day, September 21, 2011! MS arrived from London, my parents and I arrived from Bordeaux, via Spain, all set for a meal I had waited so long for. Suited, booted and dressed to kill we made our way down to the luxurious Balzac Hotel, just off the Champs-Elysees and made our way to the reception for Pierre Gagnaire. When I gave them my name, it was a flashback. “Sorry sir, we have no table in that name.” I tried all variations of my name, I tried everything. No luck. There was nothing and the restaurant was full.
“Alexander confirmed it”, I said. They looked puzzled. “Alexander!”
“Ah yes!” Click, click, click. I couldn’t hear what they said, but the man put the phone down and looked at me.
“We have confirmed your booking, Sir, but it is NOT here. It is at Gaya, another restaurant BY Pierre Gagnaire”.
He explained it to me again as I wasn’t quite sure I’d heard right. GAYA? Another restaurant by Gagnaire? But I didn’t want that. I wanted 3 Michelin Pierre Gagnaire, not Gaya that had 1 star and was quite interesting.
Our man then asked me if I had got the reservations number from the website to which I replied yes. He then said that both restaurant bookings were on the same site and that it was a COMMON mistake that people make.
I then said “But when I called, the receptionist said ‘Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire’ not ‘Gaya’ Restaurant’”
Silence. “I’m sorry sir. But we are fully booked”
So basically I rang the number I found on Gaganaire’s website, got connected, the receptionist answered ‘Restaurant Pierre Gagnaire’ when it wasn’t! And even when I confirmed the booking the night before, they never said that it was GAYA. And then I get told that a lot of people make this mistake – well smart people running fancy restaurants, has this not crossed your mind before? Fix it! People don’t want some 1 star restaurant that might be interesting when trying to book for a 3 star restaurant.
As it was too late to book anywhere else, we were lumped with Gaya. Gaya, a variation of Gaia, the Earth mother and a restaurant where there was 1 meat starter and 1 meat main course on the menu. The rest was all fish. Out of that fish menu, only 1 starter and 1 main course didn’t have shellfish in it. How clever is that? I had a carpaccio of sea bream which was bland, boring and ordinary. My main of roast turbot came with an severely citric and acrid sorrel puree that was neither green nor tasted of sorrel, and a few tempura green beans.
And to top it off, Chef Gagnaire was walking around shaking hands.
Pretentious, unprofessional, unhelpful front of house that cheat you, letting you book the wrong restaurant without telling you. I don’t really care how good Gagnaire’s food is – this experience has left enough of a bad taste to last a long long while. A waste on all counts.