For current information, see St. Barthelemy.
As an example of the poor service, we compare here the show called La Banane, formerly at the hotel of that name, now at the Sereno Beach Hotel.
This show was formerly presented at La Banane by Jean-Marie Rivière. M Rivière has passed away, and the show is now presented at the Sereno Beach Hotel. We made reservations a day or two early, asking for reservations at 7:30 for the meal prior to the show beginning at 9:00. The waiter taking our reservations suggested 8:00, so we did. We were literally the last to arrive on a night where we had torrential rain and gusts of wind. The restaurant is in a sort of beach hut on a grand scale, with clear plastic sheets that roll down for just such weather as we experienced. Of course, they do not keep out all the wind and rain, and our table was adjacent to the outer edge of the hut, making for a damp, chilling evening which was an act of nature beyond the control even of the Sereno Hotel.
We have our bill from the evening listing what we had, but without that aid, we cannot remember the food. We do, unfortunately, remember the service. We waited many long minutes for someone to bring us menus. We considered whether we had been forgotten, but eventually a waiter rushed up with our menu and asked if we wanted aperitifs. Other tables we could see were getting this same rush, so we settled back and accepted the situation. We ordered and received our meals with considerable delay. We ate. We were asked if we wanted desert. It was nearing 9:00 pm.
Let us take a moment here to describe our previous visits to La Banane under the management of M Rivière. M Rivière owned a small hotel with restaurant in Lorient. He put on a show, using his waiters and more nearly professional performers. We attended twice during his tenure, and the shows were similar. There were men who dressed very badly as women with bad eye makeup and lipstick. To call it cross dressing would be too kind. There were scantily clad women who danced and lip- synced to recorded music. He might have an actual singer. When you arrived for dinner, the waiters knew exactly how long till show time and directed your meal accordingly. Once when we were running a little late, the waiter suggested ordering immediately, as nothing was served during the show. M Rivière selected a good mix of songs; some were American, some were old French standards that the audience sang along with in wonderful spirits. The cast was enthusiastic, the waiters joined in with an enthusiasm that we have not seen since college performances. We learned that the audience was expected to exhibit the same enthusiasm when a female performer swatted your male Civilized Explorer on the back of his head for not being turned in his chair to give her his undivided attention. It is true that the level of performance was amateur, that the humor was heavy handed, but M Rivière ended every performance with a heartfelt performance of "New York, New York," and a good time was had by all. The food was excellent, and the service was very good, with attentive waiters who kept things moving without appearing rushed.
But now back to the present.
Our desert was brought to us in the dark after the show had begun. Everyone had a noisemaker, and the waiters walked among the tables shaking their noisemakers in time to the music, exhorting the audience to do likewise. However, it was clearly break time for most of the staff. From our table, we could see the many of the staff standing in the back smoking cigarettes and drinking soft drinks as they shook the noisemakers. The show lacked enthusiasm as well. All but two of the performers had no expressions at all on their faces as they lip- synced through the show; they were clearly going through the motions. The two that did seem to enjoy themselves stood out in stark contrast. The mix of music failed to get the audience singing along. We had spoken with a photographer the day before, and he had said he saw no one smiling. "They don't seem to know how to enjoy themselves," he said, about the audience. We disagree -- the audience did know how to enjoy themselves -- this show just was not it.
After the show, the next song played was "String of Pearls," and that got the whole joint jumping. After that song ended, the music continued, but the place cleared as soon as people could get their checks. At a nearby table we heard a man complaining about being charged for dessert and not receiving it. He was offered the dessert, but he firmly stated that it was too late. Remove the charge, and bring the check back.
All in all, a depressing evening. Although the audience we were in smiled and appeared to enjoy themselves (unlike the photographer's evening there), the level of enthusiasm was definitely lower than in years past. While we hesitated to recommend the show during M Rivière's time because of the curious humor and the amateur level of performance, we have no hesitation now in recommending that you not go. The food was not memorable, and the service, unfortunately, was. The dinner was prix fixe, with the menus at 180 francs each. We had a half bottle of wine and bottled water, along with coffee. Our total bill for the evening was 505 francs, US$97.
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