Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me Eastern Europeans are eradicating Britain's class system. Not knowingly, of course, and not with any great passion, but it's happening. And you've only got to go out to eat to know that it's true.

Say it's 1987, and you're going to the best restaurant in town, which, given the year, is probably in the big hotel by the railway station. As soon as you walk in, the maître d', the head waiter and the sommelier can not only tell where you went to school, but probably what your father did for a living. And if, for some bizarre reason, the staff's collective antennae are having an off day, by the time you open your mouth, everyone in the kitchen will know exactly how much you earn, and consequently what sort of tip they can expect.

But ever since British restaurants began being taken over by Poles and Ukrainians and Romanians and Hungarians and Estonians and Latvians and Lithuanians and Croatians, so the boundaries between the classes have started to crumble. Now the waiting staff neither know nor care where you went to school. And consequently, bereft of prejudice, they may do a better job, too.

Of course, I understand that regardless of how good the waiting staff is, sometimes you just can't get served. And when that happens, you have to resort to desperate measures. Which is exactly what a friend of mine did a few years ago at a smart London restaurant.

Picture the scene:

A phone rings on the reception desk.

"Hello, *******!"

"Ah, good afternoon. Are you busy?"

"Yes sir, actually we are, it's lunchtime. How can I help you?"

"Well, I'd just like to ask a simple question."

"Go ahead sir, what can I do for you?"

"Do you sell red wine?"

"Yes, of course we do, sir. We have one of the largest cellars in London."

"Have you any Pichon-Longueville Baron?"

"I'll have to ask the sommelier, sir."

"You had a bottle about 20 minutes ago ..."

"Really? I'm slightly confused. Were you in the restaurant?"

"Yes, and I still am. Look, over by the window. Can you see me waving? When you find a bottle can you send it over? We've almost finished this one ...."

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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