The French Laundry – I don’t think I need to write too much about it except that it is of course one of the most pleasurable dining experiences in the world, and if you only make it out to Napa/Sonoma once, to use every bit of means at your disposal in attempting to secure a reservation. Each day the 3 star Michelin restaurant serves two different 9 course tasting menus, all which use different ingredients (no ingredient is used more than once). The French Laundry is wonderful for a private dinner but can also be a wonderful setting for a smaller wedding (or very intimate one). Without further ado, my tips on securing a reservation at French Laundry – whether it be for an intimate table of 2, a private table of 8-10, or even the entire restaurant.
A reservation for 2-4:
Getting a reservation for 2-4 people is actually surprisingly one of the more difficult reservations to obtain at French Laundry. I’ve compiled a list of tips below for the best known methods, note that for parties which are not private dining, reservations open up exactly 2 months prior to the date:
a) Opentable opens up its 3 tables per day for French Laundry at 10:30 AM (estimated) PST. I’d recommend getting online at 10 AM and continually refreshing. There ere are 3 tables available every day: a table for 4 at 5:30pm, a table for 4 at 9:00pm, and a table for 2 at 9:00. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday there are three lunch tables available also: a table for 2 at 11:00 am, one at 11:15am and a table for 4 at 11:00am. Go here for the French Laundry Open Table page.
b) If you have a Centurion (Amex Black) or Platinum card, they may be able to swing you a reservation if you call more than 2 months in advance, let them know a few times which would work for you, and the details behind making a reservation. The concierge should be fairly experienced in making French Laundry reservations, I’ve found that Centurion are more experienced (the 2 cards have different concierge services).
c) Stay at Auberge or Carneros Inn, where their concierge may have connection/pull with The French Laundry and let them know well in advance that you’d like to have dinner there.
Private room, image via The French Laundry
A reservation for 8-10 (Private dining room):
I recently reserved a room for a group of friends so am very familiar with the process. Private rooms can be reserved a year in advance which makes them a good option for those who need a lot of planning time for a Napa/French Laundry trip. To reserve, call Amali at The French Laundry at 707.754.4175. The private room is a good option for a very small, intimate wedding party. A few notes:
a) The room has a minimum food and beverage minimum of around $2700, not inclusive of tax or tip, so it isn’t necessarily worth it for a group less than 8 (as the set menu for private dining is $350). That $350 number is without alcohol by the way.
b) Corkage is NOT an option – you will have to purchase wine from the menu, you will have a private sommelier
c) The room has a lovely private balcony which you can see in the picture above, which opens with patio doors, these doors can be left open all dinner long as the room does get quite hot especially in the summer.
d) A few extra courses are typically served – about 2-3, canape/amuse bouche sized
e) The privacy affords you to get a little louder than usual (which was perfect for us obnoxious grad students). French Laundry itself is pretty quiet if you’ve been and it can be a little awkward if you have any loud drunks in your party.
f) If it’s for a business dinner, private dining allows you to provide a specialized “goodbye” gift at the end of the meal which ranges from sea salt to macarons.
interior, image via French Laundry
Renting out the entire restaurant
The French Laundry can fit at its maximum 60 people in the restaurant, if you are thinking of renting it out for a wedding. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the necessary guest list cuts but if you can do it, the restaurant can be a beautiful setting for a private reception. The cost is going to average (with just food and service) about $1k a person though, so just be warned that a reception alone can cost $60k. (Without alcohol!! And without alcohol my guestlist may flay me alive so really it’s a non negotiable) Fortunately that does include the service, rentals, linens/chairs, and place settings. To do this. call Amali at The French Laundry at 707.754.4175.
I hope this was helpful, and enjoy your dinners out at The French Laundry! It is an experience not to be missed.