Sarcasm is a dish not found on the menu.

On Saturday night my wife and I attended the Purple Reign tribute act at The Westgate in Las Vegas.  It was awesome and definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a Prince fan like me.

Anyway, beforehand we had booked a reservation at an Italian restaurant to make it a proper date night.

Upon arrival we were shown to our seats and handed the largest menus I think I’ve ever seen. These things were like windsurfing sails.  Looking around the restaurant I could see people struggling to keep their chairs in place as they fought against the air conditioning.

At one point I saw a crying child fly overhead.

After a few minutes the waitress came over to our table.

“Hi, my name is (I genuinely can’t remember); are you ready to order, or do you have any questions?”

I looked up at her with a wry grin and replied, “Yes actually, I do have a question; is it possible to get a larger menu?  This one isn’t quite big enough.”

She smiled back and said, “Yes, I know.  The print is just so small and difficult to read.  We really need to make the whole thing bigger, sorry about that.”

At last, someone that gets it!  She knew I was joking and ran with it, commenting on the size of the text on these huge, wobbling cardboard monstrosities.  At last I had found someone that picked up on the subtleties of my English humour and gave as good as she got.

I was so happy.

After she had left, my wife (seeing my smile of satisfaction) leaned in, and said “You realise she thought you were serious, right?”

Fuck.

HugeMenu

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Waiter minute!

I’m a fast eater.

eat-fast

I always have been.

I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve never remembered a time when I ate slowly. My brother is the same.  Maybe it was due to having Italian relatives (on my Father’s side) who loved to feed us whenever we visited, or maybe it was from our time spent in prison.

I’m joking of course. There’s no way my relatives are responsible.

I suppose I began noticing my accelerated eating pace when I became an adult and started dining with other adults. Whenever I go out to a restaurant with anyone I’m usually the first to empty my plate.

This isn’t an issue for me as I’m happy to sit there having a conversation as they painstakingly take an age to eat their meal that probably went cold an hour ago.

Really, it’s fine. I can always lick my plate if I get bored.

Or can I?

You see, my big issue with finishing first is the fact that the waiter/waitress inevitably comes to the table and does the unspeakable; they take away my plate.

Why?

Are they so bereft of crockery in their restaurant that they need to relieve me of mine as soon as possible?

They’re like sharks, circling the table and watching.

fight club waiter

What makes it worse is when they quietly ask “are you finished?” whilst reaching for my plate before I can answer “yes”.  And let’s be honest, the only answer I can possibly give is ‘yes’ because my plate is empty.  I can’t say no because, well, my plate is empty.

“Actually, I’m not finished yet.  There’s still a pattern on this plate” is not a well received answer.

And once I’ve been parted from my plate I’m left sitting there watching the others eat. I realise I was doing this beforehand, but somehow I now feel less involved.  I’ve now become an outside observer like a scientist with a room full of chimps.

I really hate this behaviour in restaurants (from the waiter/waitress, not my chimpy friends). I’m sure the waiting staff think they’re doing the right thing, but I find it intrusive, unwelcoming and a bit rude; and they don’t even have the decency to leave a copy of Watchtower magazine to keep me occupied.

To me it’s the same as saying:

“Wow, someone was hungry weren’t they Mr Piggy McOink? Look everyone! This guy has finished before anyone else at his table!  How Fatty-Boombatty is this jelly-belly?”

This is all made worse when it’s only two of us having a meal. Now they’re not only mocking me non-verbally with their smile, they’re piling the pressure on my fellow diner (usually my wife):

“One down, one to go. Come on slowcoach, you’re wasting everyone’s time.  Pay up and get lost; I need this table for another couple.”

A while back I went for a meal with a friend who is the slowest eater in the world. And when I say slow, I mean s-l-o-w.  Usually, by the time she approaches the end of her meal, the restaurant has become a bank and cobwebs have formed on her plate.

As frustrating as it could’ve been, I didn’t mind. We were so busy catching up on old times that it didn’t matter she took an additional 20 minutes to finish her food.

Seriously, 20 minutes.  Time it.  That’s a long time on a single plate of food.

eating-tortoise

The worst part was when the waiter unashamedly cleared my plate and cutlery after I was finished (5 minutes, tops).  My friend, who was now feeling the pressure, apologised to me.

It can’t be a good thing when the person you’re eating with feels the need to say sorry for being ‘too slow’.

I didn’t care. I was there for the company and the conversation…and dessert, but there was no way I was seeing that for at least 2 hours.

My point is, don’t take plates away until everyone has finished.

In America they get it right. And here’s why

  • They don’t usually take away your plate until everyone has finished.
  • If they DO take your plate away, they replace it with something else (free refills on soup in Olive Garden anyone?).
  • Usually the meal is so massive it’s almost impossible to finish it anyway.
  • Sometimes the meal comes with more than one plate of food (breakfast at Denny’s for example has one plate for your massive breakfast platter and one plate for your massive stack of buttermilk pancakes).

Sometimes a waiter/waitress will also attempt to take your plate after a period of inactivity, despite how much food is still on your plate. It’s like some kind of evil computer screensaver with a plan for world domination through malnutrition.

If you stop eating for a period of time (I estimate this to be about 2 minutes), it is assumed you’ve finished and they will attempt to wrestle your food away from you.

I will stab you.  Be warned.

This behaviour wouldn’t translate anywhere else would it?

For example, whilst writing this post I’ve stopped a few times to re-read paragraphs, check my splellnig and make coffee.  This means I’ve left the keyboard for small periods of time.  By their reckoning I’m finished with this post and they’ll simply attempt to take it away from me, even if I’m in the middle of a

Nothing fine about French dining

Last weekend my wife and I took a trip to Paris.  To many it is an opportunity to visit landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre, but for us it was all about visiting Jim Morrison’s grave as my wife is a massive fan of The Doors.

As a city, I’ve never really been a big fan of Paris. Years ago I worked for Eurostar which meant I had been to Paris a lot and the more exposure I had, the worse it got; a lot like toxic radiation.

Aside from the smelly sewers, unruly traffic, overpriced dining and poorly signposted Metro system; my main gripe with Paris is the people.

It’s no secret that the French and the English aren’t particularly fond of each other, but I’m not referring to the French in general; just the Parisians.  They can be summed up in words like Contemptuous, Unfriendly, Nasty, Terrible and Smug.

I’m sure I’ll think of an easy to remember acronym but one escapes me right now.

Let me tell you why I’m not particularly keen on these people.

Firstly, not a single one of them looks like this.

french clichefrench onion

That in itself just goes to show their lack of respect for tradition.

Secondly, the attitude they have towards anyone who isn’t French is abysmal, particularly if you’ve ever attempted to dine in Paris; it’s an experience that soon becomes a chore.

Forget a cute little café owned by a friendly fat Frenchman called Gustav; Paris is monopolised by McDonalds, Quick (France’s answer to McDonalds, even though the question was never asked), kebab shops, grills and bistros.

Lots and lots of fucking bloody bistros.

I think the word ‘Bistro’ means ‘to add 80% to the price’

 

Jacques – “François, ow can we put ze prices of our mediocre food up wizout upsetting all ze people?”

François – “Oh Jacques, zis is eezy peezy, just put ze word ‘Bistro’ on ze sign.

Jacques – “Oh François you are ze clever boy, no?”

 

Here is a dining experience my wife and I had on Sunday.

It was a summer’s day in Paris, so naturally it was freezing cold and pissing with rain.  My wife and I had decided to give up walking to Notre Dame and instead looked for somewhere to eat.

Eventually, amongst all the bistros, we found (oh look) another fucking bistro.

We walked in and were greeted by a smiling waiter, “Bonjour Monsieur”.

I replied with “Bonjour”.

His smile quickly dropped at the sound of my accent and he curtly replied, “Table for two?  Zis way please” with less enthusiasm than he started with.

He sat us down at the smallest table in existence, thrust menus at us and walked away.

After literally (and I mean literally) ten seconds he returned; “What would you like Monsieur?”

Holy shit, I hadn’t even found the drinks section of the menu yet!

I flipped through the menu frantically and then scanned the drinks in a panic, choosing the first beer I recognised.  It was 9 Euros for a pint. Nine Euros!  My wife ordered the cheapest red wine at 13 Euros for a glass.

Just a glass, NOT a bottle.

He wrote down the order, snatched away our menus and disappeared.

After thirty seconds he returned with our drinks on a tray and the bill which he placed face down on the table.  This was because he preferred us to look at it after he was gone so he didn’t have to deal with “Twenty two fucking Euros for two drinks??”

I asked, “We’d like to order some food please” which was met with a scowl that said, ‘why didn’t you order ze food with your drinks you stupid Eeenglish?’ followed by a very audible sigh.

I really felt sorry for this guy, having to go the whole 6 or 7 metres back to the entrance of the restaurant to retrieve our menus.

He ‘gently’ handed our menus back to us, rolled his eyes and disappeared for approximately eight seconds before returning with “What would you like Monsieur?”; standing right over us while we perused the menu at a pace he was clearly not happy with.

The word ‘Waiter’ suddenly made a lot more sense.

My wife indicated she wanted me to order for us so I asked for the Caesar salad in my best attempted broken French and pointed to the ‘Vienna’ club sandwich for myself.

I assumed he understood.

He nodded a bit.

Then, as he took the menus away for the second time, I said “Merci”.  This cheeky bastard – who resembled a shaved giraffe with bad hair – let out a small chuckle under his breath; his stupid French breath.

He then picked up our drinks bill, still face down, and disappeared again.

As we sat there sipping our life savings away and chatting, we admiring the view of the Seine river through the heavy traffic, beggars and tourists.

Ah, Paris; The city of romance and love.

Eventually the waiter returned with my wife’s salad and a ‘Vienna’ pizza.

A whole pizza.

A whole pizza that I hadn’t ordered and yet cost twice that of the 10 Euro sandwich I’d actually asked for.

Did I dispute this?

Did I fuck.

I wasn’t even going to attempt to take on this guy.  Besides, the pizza did look good.

“Thank you” I said, in English this time as he placed the original drinks bill face down on the table with the food bill now stapled to it.  I noticed he had crudely scrawled the total on the back in red pen, or blood.

Either way it looked angry. The paper was slightly torn along the ink lines.

(I have to say at this point that the food was very good).

(I also have to say at this point that, at those prices, a shit sandwich would have been very good).

Whilst we were eating I noticed our waiter walking back and forth behind us like a big cat stalking its prey.  It soon becomes evident he was checking to see if we’d paid yet.

Hold your horses Pierre, we hadn’t even finished eating yet!

Furthermore, what if we’d want to order more drinks?  I fear the stapler would have to come out again.

Eventually we finished eating and the waiter leapt like a…like a….hmm, I want to say ‘frog’ but I’m pushing my luck with this post as it is.

He leapt like a….like a toad.  Yes, like a toad; clearing our plates before we’d even finished chewing.

I picked up the only thing he’d coincidentally left on the table (other than our overpriced drinks) which was the two page bill.

The total came to 53.90 Euros.

Jesus. We’d only ‘popped in’ for a light lunch.

Aside from feeling like we were being mugged slowly and in comfort, this created a dilemma; I only had notes. No coins.

I could either pay 55 Euros and come across as a cheapskate, or pay 60 Euros and then risk not getting change.  I’m not a light tipper, but I will be damned if this pompous prick was getting over 6 Euros for his ‘service’. Also, in all honesty, I was a bit scared to ask him for change.

So I bit the bullet and went with the 60 Euro option.

The moment the notes touched the surface of the table at a microscopic level our toad was there, scooping up his loot, er, I mean the payment for lunch with a smug “Merci Monsieur”.

He disappeared for about four and a half seconds before returning to give us our change.

‘This will be interesting’, I thought.

He fumbled around in his pockets for a bit, jangling change and eventually dug out his wallet.  He opened it, peered inside, tutted loudly and then went back to rummaging around in his pockets.

After an eternity he pulled out a small selection of coins.

Ok, zere is one…two….

This performance of a poor and desolate waiter was worthy of an Academy Award as he picked through the pathetic collection of small coins held in his hand.

Any minute now I expected him to drag his elderly sick mother from the back of the restaurant or a homeless beggar from the street to help him pay the evil fat cat English pigs that were extorting money from him.

It was like watching a charity appeal advert on TV.

“Every day a poor Parisian waiter has to give change to tourists following an overpriced meal with underwhelming service. Please call or text to donate 5 Euros a month so we can provide these [insert acronym here] with the simple things in life like striped shirts, berets, bicycles and bad manners”.

Once he began crying I folded and waived him away.

“Keep the change”

Oh Merci Monsieur!”

Yes, Mercy indeed mate.  Be thankful I resisted my urge to slap you, you pompously arrogant twat.

We finished drinking up next month’s mortgage payment and left.  By the time we got outside and walked past the window we had been sat by, another Eeenglish couple were already sat in our seats having a drink, holding the bill in their hands and sobbing gently.

Ah, Paris.

Au Revoir.

french waiter