Phones & Cameras
It doesn't cease to amaze the number of ways phones and cameras can be annoying in a restaurant. We long for the days when people would sit down for a meal and just enjoy the food and the conversation. Now though it is customary for some people, when taking a seat at the table, to place a mobile phone to the left or right of their place setting so that any calls, texts, tweets, emails can be noticed and responded to immediately and the world will not have to be deprived of their attention for a couple of hours. A table of two or four can now grow exponentially as each diners telephone contacts take their place at the table. At a meal in Bon Appetit earlier this year a couple sat pawing away at their phones through the whole meal, not looking up once, even when the server was putting down their plate and explaining the dish. Taking phone calls at the table should be punishable with a surcharge on the bill – maybe called a ‘manners tariff’.
If using a phone during dinner isn't rude enough, it is now becoming fashionable to tweet a review of the food during the meal. It is no longer necessary to sit down to enjoy the food, savour it, engage in conversation and then, maybe after some reflection, write a fair critique of the dining experience. Now each moment of the meal can be shared with the world and even reviewed live from the table.
If all that isn't annoying enough it can be taken up a notch with the addition of the camera phone. Why settle for texting or tweeting every detail when a picture can be added? This is bad enough when you see diners taking pictures of every dish put under their nose, the cutlery, the glasses, the paintings on the walls, the menu, and occasionally even the restrooms. This of course is crucial to share as many people do base their next restaurant outing on the quality of the paintings and the colour of the bathroom door. But when they start bringing the waiting staff into their photo shoot it is hard to take. I have seen brilliant waiting staff asked to pose with food, pour sauces slowly or stand for a photo like they are performing seals. Soon dining rooms will just be full of people tweeting, emailing, texting, snapping and posing and occasionally maybe remembering to do some eating.
The Loud Expert
Everyone at some point has sat close to someone who not only thinks they are experts on all things food, but insists that the whole restaurant should hear their critique of not just every dish put in front of them, but spew out every food related thought they have ever had, adding as many culinary terms and clichés as they can remember from the previous nights viewing of Masterchef. Of course there are some people who do know about food, but as usual in life, it is generally the loudest people who have the least to say and it is quickly quite obvious to all around that the loud-mouthed expert really doesn't have a clue. On our last meal in Restaurant 41 two halfwits sitting at the next table not only loudly and laughably analysed each dish, but described in detail their own dishes that they cook at home. If that wasn't bad enough, they repeatedly called each dish they were served that night “de-constructed”, of course not one of them was. Then there is the wine expert who likes to impress his or her fellow diners with their exaggerated read of the wine menu, all the time just looking at the prices of course, maybe rolling out the one or two wine facts they have learned off, the long look at the bottle, the swirl of the glass and a wistful look of pondering and nodding after tasting a sip, all before turning back to the waiter and saying “Yes!”. These people seem to be often the most likely to try get the attention of the waiter while he or she is dealing with another guest.
The Attention & Freebie Seekers
“We have a food blog”. “We write reviews”. “We post on Tripadvisor”. These are phrases that front of house staff are hearing more and more often when greeting guests at their restaurant, uttered in the hope of some special attention or, even better, something free. It must be so tempting for the waiter or restaurant manager to respond with “good for you”, or “who doesn't?”. The irony is that if the person was serious about reviewing restaurants properly they would want to do so without seeking undue attention and certainly without getting free food or drink, so they can review impartially the dining experience of an average guest. It isn't just amateurs of course, as some professional critics will partake in this also. It seems now you don’t even need to go through the trouble of setting up a blog to get this level of service. No, simply send a tweet to the restaurant a few hours before your reservation to tell them how much you are looking forward to the meal and you never know, perhaps there will be a glass of bubbly waiting for you on arrival. And if this doesn't work try tweeting during the meal “in @Restaurant. Food is amazing blah blah”, maybe then the restaurant will finally acknowledge you!
The Fussy Eaters
Some people have the odd ingredient or texture they don’t like to eat and that is perfectly fine – just don’t order it. The gripe is with the people who are so fussy and so unadventurous that they try to create their own menu. They will usually order something like this, “I will have the chicken, but without the carrots and instead of a garlic sauce can I have a mustard sauce instead”. Or the old chestnut of ordering meat cooked “well done” and complaining that is overcooked. A menu isn't a suggestion or a rough guide of what the chef could make. If you want a bespoke dishes with exactly the ingredients you want, cooked exactly how you want it, then stay at home and cook it yourself!