Humiliation with your meal, sir?
The 'Cool Britannia' hype is going to certain Londoners' heads, says James Sherwood
Sunday 27 July 1997
Haven't you heard? London is the heart of "Cool Britannia" and that gives maitre ds everywhere carte blanche to act like graduates from the Princess Pushy charm school. Every new restaurant, bar or boutique is greeted with more excitement than the second coming and the publicity has gone to their collective head. "It's the old British malaise," says modern etiquette doyenne Drusilla Beyfus. "We don't like serving other people. Having said that, we don't tolerate blatant rudeness either. What we are talking about here is more subtle: something in the tone of voice or general demeanour that suggests superiority or arrogance. It is difficult to complain because you can't quite pin down their bad manners."
"Complaining in a London restaurant is like pissing in your own soup," says restaurant critic AA Gill. "Like sex, restaurants are a seller's market. There are simply more people wanting to dine than there are tables in London. If you grandly proclaim, 'I'll never eat here again,' it is music to the maitre d's ears." This begs the question of why we even bother with restaurants when the River Cafe Cookbook is in our kitchens.
Sadly, we do believe the hype when another temple to gastronomy opens its starkly minimalist doors. The food is undoubtedly exquisite, but is it worth the ritual humiliation meted out by failed actors stuck in catering? "Unfortunately, the disease is spreading," says Ollie Daniaud, who owns Notting Hill watering hole The Westbourne. "Unlike many restaurants in Notting Hill, we are not asphyxiated by our own importance. We have no truck with liggers or wannabes, but we hire staff who enjoy the vibe and don't feel trapped or servile."
Great British envy may contribute to the rudeness of waiters to wannabe diners, but arrogance is somehow encouraged by media hype and popularity. In fact, it is obligatory. At Momo, the Moroccan restaurant we are told to patronise this month, service and food are exquisite at lunchtime. Come 9pm and you are practically hustled off a table to make way for the next party.
It seems that the more you spend, the more abuse you must endure. And not just in restaurants. It always took courage to brave the walk past the immaculate assistants in designer emporiums. Now some have introduced a door buzzer so they can give you the once over. Once inside, you need a copy of Hello! with you on the cover before being allowed to view the special stock. One regular customer of such a place changed her hairstyle for the day and didn't even get past the door.
Ironically, it is well established old favourite restaurants such as The Ivy and La Caprice that continue to buck this unpleasant trend. "They take customer relations so fantastically seriously and are famed for it, " adds Gill. "And once you get a table, you are treated equally, whether you are a regular like Ralph Fiennes or it is your first time there." Good manners are, after all, neither stuffy or intimidating. The art of good manners is to put someone at their ease.
"Those insulted at restaurants take heart," says Gill. "Mark my words: when the next recession comes, 70 per cent of those new places will go out of business. The restaurant business is the best economic indicator. They are the first to open in a boom and the first to close when it all falls down. When it happens, these restaurants will fall like ants in the sun."
Life & Style blogs
Holocaust Memorial Day: 70 years since Auschwitz liberation, these are the stories of survivors
Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Hershey's angers US chocolate purists by forcing company to stop importing 'yummy' Cadbury bars
Facebook, Instagram websites down — Lizard Squad hint at involvement, but Facebook claims it broke itself
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 1 Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Christian blogger says she will not wear leggings in public because they entice men and cause them to look at her 'lustfully'
- 5 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...
£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...
£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...