The Finer Points of Dining


I have had occasion to eat out several times this week.  These were social events and the opportunity to share company and break bread with friends and family.  All good.  My waistline and purse are suffering a bit, but hopefully this is not a permanent state of affairs.

I had some wonderful food, served with attention to service and detail.  Good experiences. You can hear the BUT coming though can’t you and there is a bone of contention in all this.  There is a practice now in many restaurants of not providing vegetables with a meal (whether cooked or salad variety).  You are provided with a piece of meat or a piece of chicken or a stack of vegetarian equivalent, tastefully displayed with a sauce or jus or perhaps some cauliflower foam, and a decorative garnish.  If you want vegetables with that, then they are ordered and paid for separately.

The restaurant I dined at last night did not do combined vegetables, so it was another $10 for a plate of beans, lightly sauteed in butter and served with toasted slivered almonds, or another $10 for chunks or roasted potatoes, seasoned with sea salt and rosemary, and then there was the usual roast beetroot and rocket salad – probably another $10 but I forget how much exactly.  Admittedly, these dishes each provided enough vegetable to be shared between two people, but given the cost of my main dish, I would have expected that an array of vegetables would have accompanied it.

The preceding night, I dined at a fish restaurant – new and with very positive reviews.  The service again was wonderful, but a platter of fish and the ubiquitous chips only was supplied.  A Greek or Green Salad had to be ordered extra.  No bread was provided – that had to be ordered extra as well.  The owner of this restaurant spent many years assisting his parents to run a Fish Cafe – great and unpretentious food with lots of repeat customers.  Eventually the parents got tired and decided that it was time to retire and their son moved on to his own restaurant.  He must be focusing on a different clientele.

On a positive note though, we did not realise when booking at this restaurant that it was run by the son (who also cooks).  My father had become quite well-known at the Fish Cafe, as he was a regular patron and always ordered the same thing.  Battered Garfish, with one fillet on the plate and one in a bag to take home as he could never eat the two.  (His appetite has declined in recent years.) When they saw him come in the door, the staff anticipated his requirements.

At the restaurant, Dad again ordered battered Garfish.  When it arrived, it came with a take-away box and the waiter explained that there was an extra fillet provided and that we would understand what the box was for.  It was only then that we discovered whose restaurant it was and were tickled that not only did the owner recognise my father, but that he catered for him as he did.  We will probably only go back on special occasions, given the cost but the gesture in looking after my father (in his nineties) was much appreciated.  That as much as anything will draw us back.

Am I alone in feeling that restaurants are gouging in pricing their meals as separate components, or am I exhibiting a lack of understanding in how costs are rising for restaurant managers?

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