True gripes / Restaurant charges

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The Independent Online
Why is it that good restaurants feel the need to charge automatically - usually between 12 and 15 per cent for service? They say it's "optional" but very few customers delete the line, and if the service is good why don't they allow the customers to decide how much they want to add to the bill?

The Earl of Bradford has introduced a Private Member's bill to outlaw what he regards as a sneaky practice of automatic but optional service charges. According to our survey of some of the best London restaurants it's a practice which is spreading fast. If you have a horror story about a restaurant charging you for service, please write to the Feedback page at the Independent.

Belgo, 72 Chalk Farm Rd, NW1

A monastic eating hall.

Service charge: 15 per cent

Average bill: pounds 5 for lunch, pounds 15-20 in the evening.

The Blueprint Cafe, 28 Shad Thames, SE1

Part of the Conran group.

Service charge: 12.5 per cent Average bill: pounds 35

Stephen Bull, 5 Blandford Street, W1 Minimalist establishment offering a modern British menu.

Service charge: None

Average bill: pounds 25-30

Average tip: About 10 per cent.

Cafe Rouge, 390 King's Rd, SW3

Part of a nationwide chain.

Service charge: 12.5 per cent

Average bill: pounds 6-7 for lunch, pounds 15-20 for dinner.

Coast, 26b Albemarle St, W1

Minimalist, futuristic, techno, open-plan, glass-fronted.

Service charge: None

Average bill: pounds 35 at lunchtimes, pounds 45 for dinner.

Average tip: 12.5-15 per cent

Granita, 127 Upper Street, N1

The restaurant of New Labour.

Service charge: None

Average bill: pounds 20-25

Average tip: 8-10 per cent.

L'Escargot, 48 Greek Street, W1

One of Soho's more famous haunts.

Service charge: 12.5 per cent

Average bill: pounds 70 for a meal for two in the brasserie.

Average tip: Customers are "generous".

Mezzo, 100 Wardour Street, W1

Terence Conran's newest food hall.

Service charge: 12.5 per cent

Average bill: pounds 12-14 upstairs, pounds 35 for dinner.

Average tip: "Generous".

Orso, 27 Wellington St, WC2

Italian cuisine for the post-opera/theatre crowd

Service charge: None

Average bill: pounds 30

Average tip: 10-15 per cent.

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