People no longer know how to use restaurants. Maybe they’ve lost the knack. Is it because Australians can’t afford to eat in restaurants anymore because restaurants can’t afford their own staffing costs? Or are restaurants just too intimidating now that waiters are not kids studying at uni but are fully professionalised master sommeliers with a Cert. 4 in Stemware Psychology from the Institute of Holistic Wine Identity and Diversity? Is it because more and more people are watching cooking shows and other soft food porn on their toy phones? Thus inspired to cook and eat more at home they eat out less and lose a more natural understanding of how to use a restaurant? Whatever the case, if you’ve got a friend or loved one or a same or different sex partner who can’t drive a waiter, a wine list, or a menu anymore, get them to ROTE learn the following:
Tip on the way in. As soon as you walk in the door, as soon as the waiter approaches you. A tenner. Folding. Cash. ‘This is for you. A nice table for two please.’ This is called ‘going in hot’, and as any contract or property lawyer reading this knows, it means you’ve effectively hired the restaurant for three hours.
If you like to book a restaurant table then always use a leading restaurant critic’s surname, or full name if you like. Yes, this is very undergraduate, but one must remember what one is actually doing – paying good money and wasting valuable time out of the home, eating someone else’s food. Only a half-drunk undergraduate would do that.
Once seated refuse any offer of the menu and ask for the wine list. Order a pre-dinner drink if you like, but please be cognisant of the fact this drink will cost more than the main course. Restaurateurs have to make money somehow. Oh, and at this stage make sure you hang on to the wine list. They will try to take it away, as if you are in rehab or something. Keep the wine list; stick it under your chair. Just tell them: ‘No, I’m hanging on to this…’ Goodness me, surely they must have more than one wine list.
Once you’ve had a drink, ask for the menu. Do not choose what you rather ridiculously imagine you might like to eat, but instead employ a process of elimination. To find what is safe.
Unless you are in Italy, do not order antipasto. Whether in Italy or not, do not order risotto. Risotto can only be cooked at home. (The claim that risotto should not be cooked at all I can understand, but I think that’s taking things one step too far.)
Never order anything deep-fried; that is what fish and chip shops are for. Do not order anything ‘inspired’: Thai-inspired mussels, Japanese-inspired chicken, Spanish-inspired ox tongue. No. Do not order ‘signature’ dishes. Never ask a waiter or waitress what they think is best. Never order a ‘tasting plate’, and degustation menus are for self-important and pompous lifestyle warriors – who are the people one most observes in restaurants. Do not order wagyu as it is awful and wrong; and if you see the acronym ‘GF’ next to a menu listing it doesn’t mean that it is a dish your girlfriend should order.
Ignore the main course dishes and if the restaurant offers ‘shared plates’, get up and walk out. Stick to the entrees. Order a light one for the first course and a richer one for main. When in doubt order the $12 ‘sides’, such as a plate of polenta wedges or a bowl of brussel sprouts with almond slivers and lardons. One for entree, one for main. Your niece may order a dessert course, but no matter what your gender or relationship, do not order cheese. It is always too cold, unlike the beer a restaurant might sell. Speaking of drink, order a bottle of pinot noir, or burgundy as it was once called. Wines ordered by the glass are an admission of failure and a sign of general moral decrepitude. Pay by cash and add another ten or twenty dollar bill tip to the leatherette cheque folder. Lunch is preferable; dinner brings out the amateurs.
And one final absolute: never go to a restaurant you haven’t been to before.
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