Are New Yorkers becoming Parisians?

It started in my friendly local bike shop, Bike Works on Ridge St.

Me: Hi there.

Me: Hi there.

Me: Excuse me.

Man: (Looks up.)

Me: I was wondering if you had any bike helmets.

Man: No.

Me: Oh, right. Well, do you have any ideas for where I should go to get


Man: Maybe in a couple of weeks.

Me: But if I wanted one now, where should I go?

Man: A bike shop.

But it only got worse with my arrival at Patria, hitherto my favourite

restaurant in New York. It seemed to me to exemplify the best of New World

cuisine — innovative fusions of Latin tastes with classic French techniques;

friendly, unhurried and not obsequious service; airy high ceilings; an

excellent cocktail bar; a fabulous wine list; etc., etc.

Then, however, I started hearing reports that it had moved to quite

a steep prix-fixe system, and that it was getting a bit full of itself.

They were right — the restaurant now seems much more interested in self-glorification

than in giving its diners the best possible experience.

It started well — the woman who took the reservations was very friendly.

When I later asked if I could put it back from 9 to 10, it took a while

but was done again in a very friendly way. But as soon as our party entered

the restaurant, it all started going downhill.

The maitre d’ first announced that I was not allowed into the restaurant

on the grounds that I was wearing shorts. Never mind that there was a

heatwave going on outside, never mind that I would be sitting at a table

all evening with my legs safely out of view, never mind that these were

very smart, below-the-knee corduroy long shorts — almost knickerbockers,

really. No, rules is rules, and I wasn’t allowed in. Now sometimes, especially

recently, I’ve been dressing it down. But not last night. I had Gucci

loafers on, a Prada top; I was certainly just as presentable as anyone


I wasn’t fussed, to be frank, but I think the very fact that I was so

good-natured about it helped sow the seeds of later snubs. I think most

New Yorkers would be expected to harrumph and walk out to one of the multitude

of other restaurants on Park Ave S, and I think with hindsight that the

restaurant was a bit pissed off at us that we didn’t. Rather, I took up

their offer of a pair of checkered chef’s trousers — they went rather

well with my top, actually — and went to enjoy my mate Matt’s final dinner

in New York.

And the food was stupendous, and the wine was mind-blowingly good, and

the busboys were very good at keeping our water glasses filled. (Although

this did involve running off to get a second bottle of water which they

then charged us for despite the fact that no one had ordered it — had

they asked if we wanted another, we would have said yes, but they didn’t


We didn’t really have a waiter, though, which was a bit disconcerting

— it seemed to be a different person every time. One person came along

and recited the specials; he seemed quite nice, but we never saw him again.

We asked someone else whether they might be able to come up with an alternative

to the prix fixe for Camilla — she never eats all that much at the best

of times, and had already had quite a large lunch, and only wanted an

appetizer — they’d go and ask the maitre d’, who of course came over

and told us that rules is rules, etc. The woman who took our order was

particularly dour, and seemed to spend most of her time inspecting the

corner of the table.

The appetizers were delicious, but they were quite large, and we certainly

could have done with more than three seconds to digest them before the

main courses appeared in front of us. We had a late booking, so they didn’t

need to rush us out to fit another party in after us; as it was, none

of us came close to finishing our entrees.

And when the entrees went, so did everything else — water glasses,

half-finished cocktails, everything — which again just gave the impression

of rushing us. By this point, all the people at the tables around us had

finished their meals and had left (there were others still eating on the

other side of the restaurant); could we have an ashtray? I’ll go ask the

maitre d’. Of course, we knew what was coming — rules is rules; no.

By this point, we were all convinced that they didn’t like us. Which

is stunning, really, in an American restaurant — I can’t recall ever

feeling that way in New York, although it’s much more common in Europe.

The deserts were amazing, it almost goes without saying, but there was

a sour taste in the air. We didn’t order coffee, we left a small tip,

I went to the bathroom to change back into my shorts, and we exited into

the hotter, more humid, more polluted, but definitely less stuffy atmosphere

of Park Avenue South.

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1 Response to Patria

  1. Jennifer says:

    Well, I really don’t like to be treated unfairly. If I were in your part where when I was not allowed to enter the restaurant because my my dress. For sure, I won’t waste another time to go back on that restaurant again. I am just being me. I always want to show it and I always want to be comfortable no matter what. Hate me or love me, ots up to you, I am just being me.


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