As the noise level in restaurants ratchets upward, downward goes the sense of an enjoyable night out, says Nici Wickes

He leaned in closer so that he could hear me. I repeated myself but, even then, he couldn't quite catch what I was saying. He asked again, in his silky French accent, what it was I wanted.

"He" was our waiter and what I wanted was to order food, but the too-loud music and general clatter in the restaurant was making it near impossible to communicate!

Have you noticed it - the increasing din that goes with dinner in so many of our restaurants?

It makes me feel like an old fogey to say it, but when lively turns into loud and I find myself shouting at my dining pals, I do wonder if the grace has gone out of eating out altogether.


We've moved from restaurants adorned with curtains, soft furnishings, textured wallpapers and carpets to a more minimal, industrial design - brittle floors, exposed walls, bare tables. Add in a hissing coffee machine and an open kitchen and you've got a recipe for rising decibels bouncing around the place, interrupting our conversation.

Smart operators spend money getting the noise level pitch-perfect by installing sound-deadening panels, hiring specialists to sort out the playlist and the rest, but many are leaving us to fight it out over dinner. No longer is it the passive smoking that's leaving us hoarse at the end of a night out!

Mind you, a hushed dining room, quiet as a temple, doesn't thrill either, does it? You may just be able to hear yourself think.