CHECK OTHER REVIEWS FOR THIS PLACE:
Lunch at Cocteau: A Beautiful Restaurant Serving Good Food!
Lebanon's Cocteau Wins Best Design Award: Go Lebanon!
Restaurant Meets Design: Cocteau, Beirut
Sometimes, I truly believe "if it's not broken, why fix it?" This is the problem we have in most places in this country. When a place, that's small, nice, tasty and cozy becomes popular, the owners decide to go bigger and more commercial in some way. With this, comes a lot of ups and downs and the reasons why the regulars liked it in the first place, don't exist.
But never the less, I wanted to go and try the new location of Cocteau. I called to make sure I would find a table this Wednesday to rediscover one of which has been my favorite restaurant while it was located in Sodeco, Achrafieh. Cocteau followed on the steps of “Le Vieux Quartier”, this restaurant that was the only fine dining place since the seventies.
Cocteau in Sodeco was known to be a very small place where the same people used to come enjoying their favorite dishes from the same menu year after year. In Downtown Beirut, Cocteau, the french brasserie serves again the same menu, with the same presentation that has been offered for the last thirty years.
As I walked into Cocteau, my first impression was a simple WOW! An appreciation for the great decoration and lighting, the high ceiling, the trendy long chandeliers decorated with books, the round and square tables, the long glass bar, the huge wine cellar and the warm welcoming which made me want to discover more. I was delighted by the general ambiance which made me think that I was going to enjoy a fine dining experience accompanied by a professional service.
But no such luck. As I always do and have been doing for the past two years, I start my reviews by taking pictures of the complete menu followed by some important notes on my smartphone and ending it by pictures of the dishes ordered. Tonight, that was not possible! As we were ready to order, Mr. Fadi (the unprofessional and arrogant waiter) comes to me and asks me not to take pictures of the menu. I accepted that and continued taking my notes, writing my appreciations and the items chosen. A couple of minutes later he comes back with a rude attitude and says: “Chou ra2yak tekhod el menu ma3ak 3al beit?” (How about you take the menu home.) Although I should have ignored him as he has no right telling me anything, since its my phone, my notes... and how does he know what I am writing or doing with my phone? But I kept my calm and replied with a gentle smile: I am only taking notes about our order. And here, Mr. Fady replied: “Mech cheyfak 3am tektob chou taleb, bass katabto kello 3al telephone” (From what I see, you wrote it all.)
Can you imagine? Someone sneaking on me, checking my phone? How rude and unprofessional that made us all uncomfortable, but we decided to stay. Here all the waiters gathered next to the stairs and started talking about us, making sure one of them is on the watch during the whole night for any additional picture taking or phone writing.
I would like to mention a point here: I have been to more than 260 restaurants all around the world, all the way from simple snacks to Michelin rated restaurants and Relais Et Chateaux. I have never encountered such problems in my life. They all made sure I took the best pictures and some of them even sent me their own menus and pictures signed with an appreciation. What are they trying to hide? the same old fashioned menu or the same old layout? As the first course was served, and as I was always used to do, I took my phone to take pictures of the dishes, and here Mr. Fady come out of the blue with an arrogant and impolite attitude forbids me to take my pictures as if I was committing a crime or stealing an Exceptional creation. I was wondering, who was in charge? If that matter was a national security issue, why doesn't the manager come out and deal with the crime himself?
We ordered: - Jamon Iberico Pata Negra and than changed to Salade de cigales fraiches (today’s specialty) that I really loved. - Salade Gourmande au Foie Gras that is up to the standard and very tasty. - Salade de chèvre Chaud aux Senteurs de Provence which had a burned black hot white cheese. - Chateaubriand Voronoff, with a thin layer of meat considering that the chateaubriand should be very thick and juicy, accompanied by a sauce that isn’t that tasty. - Escalope de Veau, very well presented, in a square shape but tastes oil more that meat. - Pasta Napolitana, was served undercooked and stuck to our teeth all night long.
Is that the standard of a fine dining place as they consider themselves? Unfortunately the quality is the same as any second class French brasserie available on every street in Paris.
As for the desserts: The Tarte Alcazar and the praline au Chocolat et Noisettes are average.
Is it normal that the menu doesn't have any chicken dish? No choice for the non meat and fish eaters? I chose to have the cote du Rhone 2009 wine hat I appreciated much and that was served at the adequate temperature.
What I didn't like about the place:
- It has nothing to do with the old Cocteau we know
- Bread plates on the table, with bread that was not served until we asked for it. I would have expected the bread to be offered individually and not in a basket.
- Over crowded and very noisy restaurant
- Lazy and unprofessional valet parking service
- Very expensive for nothing. An unjustified expensive 80$ per person
- And of course very unprofessional, rude and nosy waiters.
Check out some reviews I found on the net with pictures of Cocteau:
What a pity, what a mess. Unprofessional waiters who do not know who they are dealing with. Cocteau is a restaurant that didn't improve with time and unfortunately lost the good service it was renowned for.