The fourth instalment in my series about restaurant gripes is long overdue.
Part three, which appeared back in November 2014, inspired lively comments from readers. Some people agreed with my annoyances. Some people suggested fresh ones. One person wrote: "[Y]ou sound like a whining housewife". Another said that my "gripes are pretty toffee nosed".
I must confess that I have been well served in Auckland's restaurants over the last eighteen months. Try as I might, I've found little to complain about. In the past two weeks, however, my delicate sensibilities have been affronted anew. Here is a fresh lot of pretty toffee-nosed gripes from a whining housewife.
1. When the wine dries up
The other night my dinner companion and I had empty wine glasses for roughly twelve minutes. (We were drinking different wines by the glass.) Twelve minutes! That's a long time in a restaurant.
What were we supposed to do? Twiddle our thumbs? Talk? Drink the tap water we'd previously declared was acceptable? (What we'd really meant was that we planned to be too busy with the wine drinking to worry about the provenance of the water.)
I'd always considered the presence of empty gIasses on a table to be the international code for "need more wine". It wasn't on this occasion. We tried to attract the attention of passing wait-staff to no avail.
Sure enough our main meals arrived in the midst of the alcohol drought. While the waiter lovingly described each ingredient, we were just thinking: "Need. More. Wine".
2. The oversized pepper grinder
One reader expressed this annoyance well: "Over-priced restaurants that can only afford one pepper grinder to be shared amongst all its tables by a highly-trained pepper grinder operator."
I was never especially bothered by the pepper grinder situation but, having spent the last two Sunday evenings at the same city restaurant, I'm now bugged by inconsistent delivery.
On the first night, the ceviche was served and I already had a mouthful of it by the time the man with the pepper grinder turned up. Awkward! Then, after pepper had been ground onto our main meals, another wait-person offered still more of the condiment.
On the second occasion, no pepper was offered for the ceviche but it appeared for the main meals. If this piece of theatre is to be performed, it needs to be done: a) promptly, b) always and c) just once per course.
3. Commando raids on empty plates
My companion ate two of the cream-filled brandy snaps. The other one sat there for quite a while. It was lonely. It was small. It was mine. I ate half of it. By now it was on the verge of simply evaporating on contact. It was delicious. I put the rest of it in my mouth. A wait-person instantly swooped in to take away the empty plate.
That's right: on the same evening we'd been unable to secure wine for a full twelve minutes, the immediate removal of the brandy snap plate was of such high priority that a crack team of commando raiders had been deployed to ensure the mission was never in jeopardy.
Seriously, this happened so fast we couldn't even tell which wait-person was involved. The rest of the night we were like "Maybe it was that one" every time someone passed by.
If we'd been at a fast food place, this might be considered efficient. But at an upmarket restaurant headed by a celebrity chef, it was awkward, uncomfortable and unnecessary. (We'd been told the table was ours for the night so there was no sense they needed to move us on.)
4. Food served too quickly
This week the ceviche was served maybe just two minutes after we'd ordered. This might have been okay at a burger bar or for a pre-theatre dinner but not when we'd ventured out for a leisurely meal at a proper restaurant. At this rate, we'd have been back home with a much thinner wallet within forty minutes.
And, considering the brasserie's brand values, I'd have thought they'd have preferred to give the impression that this dish had been laboured over by a skilled chef rather than dolloped up from a huge vat out the back. Such lightning fast delivery detracts from the romance and theatre of the experience.
5. Seats with no backs
Along with built-in upholstered bench seating (which I love), seats with no backs (aka stools) are the latest furniture craze in restaurants. They look cool and informal. Space optimisation is probably a factor, too. And stools definitely add less visual clutter than a regular chair.
But what else is this particular trend saying? It's saying the target market is twenty-something-year-olds without a penchant for back support. It's saying this eatery wants to rush diners through so comfort is not a factor.
It's saying if you have trouble with the notion of perching like a chicken while dining out you should take your custom elsewhere. Message received and understood.
• What are your biggest pet peeves at restaurants? Tell us in the comments below:
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