At the French Embassy residence: the quiet clinks of ice against glass, the muffles of feet on carpet, the murmurs of elegant men and women mingling under the chandeliers. About 40 of the embassy's top counselors and their spouses gathered to watch on television the returns that would reveal the next inhabitant of La Maison Blanche.

Holding score cards labeled Pour Mieux Suivre L'Election Presidentielee, they watched CBS on a televison that sat in front of an ancient portrait of a bewigged man named Larguillieres, a gentleman in the court of Louis XV. NBC was on in the Empire Room which is named after the furniture, and ABChad the contemporary room, where the furnishings are tres chic white couches and gloss.

Apres cocktails, a modest buffet of oeufs soubise, galantine, Virginia ham, salad, cheese and pastries would be served at round tables in the dining room; tres informal. On previous Election Nights, L'Election Presidentielle was not settled so early; there was more suspense.

"In France you have not the right to announce results before all the votes are counted," said the press counselor, Patrick Gautrat. "That is the main difference."

"Brademas is out, I'm told," said Ambassador Francois de Laboulaye. "He had very great interest in foreign policy." He jumped up to greet a woman guest, kissing her hand quickly.

He was asked about possible changes in foreign policy under President Reagan. "There are a certain number of imperatives on any country, and the cooperation between the United States and Europe is one of them. We feel sure whatever the president, we are going to work together," he said ambassadorially.

And our campaigns? "I think it was very long this time!" he laughed. "It is astonishing for a foreigner to see such a great country burdened by a campaign that last more than one year of a four-year term!"

Sans blague.