I love eating out. There are so many new restaurants opening everywhere you look. New cuisines, concept restaurants and bars, experimental chefs, ever-expanding wine lists – there’s so much to look forward to. But there are also many things that go wrong. They may appear minor, but if one sees them recurring, they manage to ruin the entire experience of going out.
So, dear restaurateurs, here are my top pet peeves of eating out, in no particular order of annoyance:
- Not handing out enough menus – When you plan your restaurant, you know how many people it can accommodate, right. Why then, can’t you invest in getting the matching number of menus printed? Are you afraid a customer will walk out with a menu up his shirt? Don’t be stingy about handing out as many menus as there are diners on a table.
- Dull lighting – I understand ambient lighting and accent lighting and all that jazz. But I am sure there exists a miracle light combination that is Instagram-friendly, looks good and enables me to see what I am ordering or eating.
- Insufficient vegetarian options – If the media frenzy around me is to be believed, the world is going through a revived interest in vegetarianism. Famous chefs are putting more adding vegetables to their menus, the #meatfree movement is gaining traction world over, people are waking up to the benefits of ‘going green’ (or ‘vegan’ if you prefer) and so on. But most Delhi restaurants seem to have missed the memo. More often than not, veg food means potatoes, paneer, and more potatoes. It may be a revelation to you but that is not all we eat. Why must we be left to choose from half-hearted, insipid options?
- Puny food portions – Unless I have ordered a 10-course tasting menu, I do not want to be served minsicule portions of food. I do not want six uneven pieces of underwhelming paneer (cottage cheese) or chicken arranged on a bed of lettuce leaves and served with a smidgen of tandoori mayonnaise. If there is enough Thai curry for two in one portion, make sure the quantity of rice complements it. Don’t force me to order another, half of which I might end up doggy bagging or wasting.
- Serving food in objects that have no business being on a dining table – Please, please, please, stop already with the mason jars, trucks, wooden trees, chamber pots, test tubes, beakers and what not. Food plating is supposed to enhance the aesthetic appeal of food. There is no dearth of regular yet beautiful plates, bowls etc. in the market nowadays. In the name of innovation or creating Instagramable “amazing” food, you are spoiling my food experience. Keep it simple.
- Sauce, sauce everywhere – Look, I know that the average Indian’s penchant for excessive sauce/gravy/dressing is well known. But many a times I find that my pasta is gasping for breath under all that sauce and seasoning. Or, there is so much Caesar dressing in my salad (and never enough Parmesan, but that’s another matter) that I want to gag. A good dish should be well-balanced, but I don’t think I should have to tell you that. Le sigh.
- LOUD MUSIC – What if I started WRITING ALL MY STORIES LIKE THIS? If my primary objective at a restaurant is to eat and talk, and the music is too loud, it interferes with my taste buds (really). I want an enriching, uninterrupted food experience. I like to be able to converse with the person I am with. Unless I am going to a disco, it is not acceptable to play ear-splitting levels of music. Turn it down a notch. Or several.
- Uncomfortable seating – What’s the strategy behind having back-less or uncomfortable stools and sofas? That the diners should quickly eat, pay and leave, making room for the next set of paying customers? Might as well go to McDonald’s.
- Fungus-infested vs. grilled bread – This is best illustrated with an example. A friend and I recently visited a trendy watering hole in Delhi. As we chatted over beer and hummus-pita, I was horror-struck to note that some of the pita bread was mouldy. The pita bread was served in triangular pieces stacked on top of each other. The first few pieces were ok, but I noticed minuscule but distinct green spots on the remaining portion. When I pointed this to our server, he told me unabashedly that those are actually brown spots that appear due to grilling. REALLY? Am I colour-blind, or are you? You will lose points (and paying customers) if you resort to underhanded practices. Accept your mistake, apologise, offer a replacement and move on, no lasting harm done.
- Balls and bills – Finally, do not just place the bill in front of the person happens to have testicles (thank you, Jay Rayner, for putting this so succinctly). Why do you always assume that the man is going to pay? Please just put the bill in the middle of the table and leave. Leave. Do not hover. Readers, what do you get annoyed by?