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Max Frank

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Dined in Spring downstairs a couple of weeks back.

After the almost incessant brouhaha about Spring, perhaps our expectation was overly hyped. Perhaps the downstairs venue didn't help either. What a disappointment to say to least. Over-priced, cramped, disorganised, incoherent staff. Yeah yeah it's Paris... but what about the food? Read on.

A bad start I guess when we got an abrupt welcome in a non-existent welcome area insisting we speak in English when my French is rarely found offensive. Hey it's Paris so difficult to get offended at that. So downstairs we went. Let's be clear that the restaurant proper is upstairs and some sort of lesser restaurant is downstairs - tapas-style I believe - but we were were not overly hungry and we were promised the main entrée and plat du jour as upstairs would be available. Fine. And so proceedings started. A good old glass of champers to kick things off - all good. Then the food. So a menu was produced mainly of tapas-style dishes - lots looked good. We were also informed that the seafood starter and plat du jour from the main restaurant were also available. Scallops starter, and a Hare main course. Nice! Neither price was listed although we thought we heard 18eur for starter - waiter said '3 scallops'. He also said 27eur each for the Hare. Ooooh kkkay.... but we are in the basement... let's not argue with the masters....

And so, we saw our neighbours got a tiny dish of scallops - we thought we saw one or two - we enquired if they were the tapas versions and we were told yes. On asking the price (again not listed), we were told 8 to 12 euros. Fine. We ordered two of those. We ordered the hare also. The waitress said 'to share'? We hummed a bit, and then said yes! A huge and gorgeously smelly cheese board beckoned on the counter beside us!

And so to the wine. The sommelier/waiter eventually made his way to our table. I had picked out a bottle of mourvedre/syrah around the 35eur mark. He instantly dismissed it as too strong (for hare!?). Really? So what's your recommendation? "Lots of different glasses left to my choosing". Ok........ but hell it's Spring so that should be ok, right? He then left for 5 minutes and returned with 2 glasses and a magnum which he started to open without comment. On enquiring what it was and the price, he left again and came back saying 15 eur per glass. Now, I don't mind paying 10 times that price for wine, but if I have picked out a bottle for 35 eur, then I don't expect them to come back with a suggestion of 2 glasses for almost the same price. I kind of felt like I was in a tourist trap at this point. When we said do you have something for around 8-9 eur a glass, he slapped down the wine menu and said 'ok, you pick!' and walked away. Wow. And, errrr...by the way.... we already had! Look, I'm used to good old nonsense like this from French waiters. I live here, But this was above and beyond. And in a place like Spring. Ouch! So eventually he picked out two glasses of something very similar to the bottle I picked - when I asked what it was... he replied "something strong for the hare". I felt like we were going around in circles, but only to appease him.

And so to the food. A dainty starter of two scallops with delicate slivers of rich beetroot, and a tasty balsamic sauce. Nice. A wow? Hardly. Let's be honest, you can just serve scallops on their own to get a wow, so I don't really consider anything involving scallops as something to make special efforts to track down chefs for. So, nothing special.

So to the main course. It took one hour for this to arrive. Yeah we counted - but only because it got to the stage where we had to. But hey it's Spring, it's Paris etc. But we were going through our wine. More thoughts of tourist trap entered our mind. Both minds. Bad feeling at this stage. The waitress eventually said that cheese would be on the house. Ok, good recovery and we were now looking forward to the cheese and had forgotten the hour that had passed. The main course arrived. One round plate of mashed potato put in the middle with a bit of hare on top. Two spoons. We said could we have a couple of side plates just to dish it out. "Is it not better to share like this?" the response. Errrr.... why would we have asked if it was? But, hey it's Paris, it's the amazing Spring. So we digged in. Yes the hare was lovely, all 6 slivers of it. And the mashed potato that made up most of the dish? Err... nice mashed potato.

And so to dessert. I ordered cheese. And lovely it was. My other half ordered sweet. And lovely that was too. And so we munched. After we had finished, the waitress brought over a random slice of cheese, saying that this was 'on the house'. We looked at each other speechless. To say this took all pleasure away from the dessert/cheese course, if not the whole evening, is not understating matters. I actually don't even think tourist traps have the nerve to do stuff like that. We left the 'extra' cheese. I hope the house enjoyed it.

We eventually got to the end. And then the fun started. Yes 18eur each for the 2 scallops (each!). And an incredible 54eur for the mashed potato... or should I say the Hare. I assume at this stage any discussion of the bunker tapas-style venue wouldn't help. We didn't have the energy to argue that we were told 8-12eur, or 3 scallops (who cares at this stage), but we could not in any conscious state pay 54eur for the shared plate of mashed potato for which we were denied even two serving plates. The now idiotic sommelier said 'enormous' preparation had been put into the mashed potato/hare etc. I couldn't even muster a response that this was the minimum expected of a place like this. We were tired and emotional at that stage. In the end they agreed between themselves in front of us that the waiter/waitress didn't even know the prices themselves and it was agreed that we would paid 27eur for the plate - still too much in our mind but at least in line with what was said.

What a waste. A sorry amateur affair and I don't use those words lightly. I can't remember the last restaurant we were in that even the slightest thoughts of toursit trap entered my mind. But they did here. How awful. A dreadful evening, full of expectation etc. but ended up in a place with hopeless staff and overpriced food that was nothing more than someone trying something on with expensive produce. I hope the experience on nobody else. Spring may have its fans/adherents/fanatics, but I for one am not one of them. In fact the complete opposite - I wouldn't dream of going back. There is probably a law against saying anything against the Spring religion but count me out that's all I say. An enterprise that delivered to us what it did is trading on misguided principles and I can't see it surviving once the brouhaha/religious fervour has subsided. I had a meal in Bistro Volnay tonight that would knock the socks off this nonsense a hundred times over - for those who haven't been, think twice about somewhere that has a long line of people to get in and read my experience.

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As someone who has dined at Spring from its earliest days through several meals at its new space and incarnation, I urge you to discuss your recent experience with Daniel personally. There are always bugs in new operations that need to be addressed. I assure you that, while he is stretched thin as he continues to define the boutique, the upstairs and finally the wine bar, he is most interested in your experience and pleasure.

Drop in or write him. It is a service to him, to future diners and to yourself.

eGullet member #80.

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I agree with Margaret. We just returned from Paris, and unfortunately did not get to dine upstairs at Spring - completely booked, but such is life. We did, however, get to enjoy the wine bar downstairs for a brief bit. We sat at the bar (I will say the stools are quite uncomfortable), and both of the servers who helped us were extremely nice.

We had 2 glasses of wine each and an assortment of charcuterie - I believe we asked for and tried 3 types. Bread and delicious butter. Total for our hour and half was about 53 euros.

And as for the completely raved about Le Chateaubriand, I'll have more to say about that in another topic when I distill my notes and pics. Let's just say it wasn't my favorite.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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