The most irritating things about going to a restaurant
Yes, everything is alright with my food thanks
The friend shamelessly using their phone at the table
You’re enthralled by your moribund Whatsapp group from sixth form, your Instagram of your second Mojito, the baby daughter of the girl who dropped out of your A-Level Sociology class playing with a cardboard box 110 seconds into a Snapchat story you’ve already watched, a Vine of Jamie Vardy – but not your lukewarm main and the people at your table watching you play on your phone and ignoring their well-meaning questions. They think you’re an idiot.
Trying to survive without your phone and picking at stuff on the table like a big stupid magpie
You’re old enough not to pass the tests for the Civil Service Fast Stream yet not old enough to leave that candle alone, leave that beermat alone, and stop licking salt off your fingers.
The confusing and robotic dialect of ‘restaurant English’ everyone speaks in
Where once we were individual people, now sit the “guys”: amorphous blobs referred to solely as a collective.
“Are you okay there, guys?” asks the waiter, the request less of a question and more of an existential howl. “Would you like any drinks at all?”
The interrogation continues. Do you? Do you want them at all? Are you really committed to this pointless charade? Why are you here? Yeah it’s your mum’s 50th, but do you care? Do you want that big bottle of Peroni at all? Who knows. But could I possibly have some parmesan please?
The tension when you’ve not decided what you want
Plato, Nietzsche, Kant, Sartre: none of these philosophers knew the psyche-shattering uncertainty of being alone and indecisive at a table full of people who know what they want to eat. Every passing second beats you further into the solitary cell of your mind – but eventually you remember the answer to the life, the universe, and everything. Carbonara.
The one person who always asks if they do chips
Can I have some ketchup as well please mate? It’s good this Vietnamese food, isn’t it?
How people react when you ask for the restaurant’s WiFi password
“Do you not have unlimited data, mate?” asks your cousin’s new boyfriend, his head tilted like a Cocker Spaniel. You prepare yourself for the sort of pious, monologue only GiffGaff customers and Jehovah’s Witnesses can deliver. Yes, Toby, we had this same conversation at my nan’s wake. I’m sorry I’m still locked into a punitively expensive 36-month contract for an iPhone 5 that now won’t charge unless I hang it from a lampshade.
Ordering a portion of chips you know is too expensive to justify
Listen. Do you hear that whirring sound? That’s the sound of Jamie Oliver – dead to this decade – spinning in his grave as you pay £4.50 for an oversized thimble creaking under the weight of nine chips. You only really ordered them because you’re too scared to find out what an aubergine tastes like, find cutlery bewildering and are locked into a lasagne habit which doesn’t seem like a problem now but will when your metabolism changes.
The pathetic Mexican stand-off with the waiter who refuses to accept everything is alright with your meal
What ought to be a polite, perfunctory request – a good-natured interruption amid the blissful silence of an agreeable main – turns into a post-Paxman interrogation session and a probing question of ethics.
Yes, everything’s alright with my meal, lovely mate, cheers. We’re alright for drinks, thanks. Honestly, the food is great. Please don’t come back a third time. Oh, again? I’m really enjoying myself, I swear. The steak’s really good. Well, as good as an eight ounce steak from Café Rouge could be, really. Is everything alright with my meal? I don’t know. I just don’t know any more.
The friends who can’t read the vibe and order dessert
There are few things as repellent as the inelegance of a twenty-something man picking at a sad wedge of fortnight-old industrial fridge cheesecake with his fingers as the clock strikes half past ten on a weeknight. As he eats, his friends stare at the doughy, shapeless mess that was once his face and wish they were in bed.
Exercise some self-control and don’t do it. Don’t fall for the waiter’s aggressively matey Head Boy intonation when he asks if you want a look at the dessert menu. You’re paying to make yourself look like an idiot.
The agony of splitting the bill
What’s £126.35 divided by 11? One person at the table is a maths graduate and chartered accountant, but that won’t stop the rest of you taking ten minutes to come up with several different entirely wrong methods.
Everyone leaving a derisory tip
You can’t even buy a print copy of the Independent with a quid.
The one sassy friend who refuses to leave a tip
With meals eaten, bill painstakingly split, card machine hovering expectantly and everyone ready to go home, Lawrence decides it’s time to launch a one man Truth and Reconciliation Commission. No tip for Lawrence, thanks. Lawrence used to work in the East Grinstead branch of Chiquito – before uni, of course – and is unhappy with the service.
Can Lawrence speak to the manager? Lawrence asked for a peshwari naan and was given garlic. Lawrence thinks leaving the candles on the table unlit flies in the face of everything he knows about customer service. Lawrence doesn’t like your tone, sir. Lawrence had heard good things about this suburban Indian restaurant but now he won’t be recommending it to anyone.
This would never happen at Chiquito. Lawrence thinks the waiter wouldn’t have lasted five minutes at Chiquito. It’s not the money Lawrence is bothered about, it’s the basic lack of courtesy. You’re not surprised that Lawrence isn’t bothered about the money. Lawrence is arguing over a two quid tip. A long half hour of spittle-flecked argument drags its heels across the mangled remains of your once-warm rapport with the staff and customers of Bengal Tandoori. Lawrence leaves, never to return again.