Mr 10 Per Cent and the art of the gratuity

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The Independent Online
The Earl of Bradford's restaurant in Covent Garden still has the atmosphere of a discreet gentleman's club and, given the strength of his lordship's views, it seems the ideal place to learn the correct etiquette of tipping, writes Glenda Cooper.

Porters prides itself on English cooking including steak and kidney pie, chicken casserole, and spotted dick.

It conforms to the earl's ideals, the manager, Neil Wornham, insists. "There are no cover charges and credit card slips are filled in so the customer knows exactly what they're paying for," he said.

On the first page of the menu a square notice tells the customer that for parties of four and under service is not included. For larger parties a discretionary charge of 10 per cent is put on the bill. Tips are not pooled but retained by individual waiters, whose weekly wage is about pounds 100.

"I'd always tip 10 per cent - or 12.5 per cent if I'm feeling especially generous," recommended a portly gentleman on the next table, tucking into chicken and broccoli pie. "But I feel it's rather an anachronism now. It doesn't mean service is excellent, it's just a habit. I think the whole system is nonsense."

"Yes, but you feel that waiters are probably paid so badly that if you don't you're punishing them unfairly," said Helen, 54, leaning across the apple and blackberry crumble. "If you didn't leave a tip because you feel the food's bad, well that's nothing to do with them."

As the portly gentleman asked for his bill he turned back: "If you want advice on how to tip correctly you should always remember whatever you tip it is never enough for the waiter. And if you're not satisfied don't leave a tip - but only if you can run very fast."

He turned to sign the bill, leaving, of course, a 10 per cent tip.