30 December 2007

Pet dining peeves

Urban Dictionary.com

8. annoying

Doing something or experiencing something at such a level that it becomes annoying. (like listening to too much ska, or radiohead)

Dear sir/madam, Please desist said action because it's unbeleivably irritating. If this request is not met within an adequate amount of time, I will kill you with a rusty shovel

I'm forty one and grumpy. Mr Stickyfingers is older and grumpier, so it's inevitable that this blog is a place to vent. I love to dine out and when it comes together well I am elated for days - even weeks. But when it goes wrong I can be jaded for months.

I've worked in hospitality doing grunt work at the back of house and leg work at the pointy end. Each person has their role to fulfill and mostly it's straight forward compared to my life in the corporate world, but why is it that in restaurants, so often it doesn't come together well?

Here are my dining gripes for 2007. Feel free to chime in...

Pet hates in dining

Menus gone global, listing everything from pasta to nachos and oriental themed dishes, none of it executed well – too cheap to hire a chef, they fast tracked the apprentice and the short order guy?

Menus that are too wordy and list every thing every technique – I don’t need to know it all, I’ll taste it

Menus that read well, but don’t deliver in the execution – you got someone else to write it for you, spun some ideas to a consultant who doesn’t actually cook there, and your chef doesn't have the
skill to match it

Bad spelling on menus – you need the consultant to proof read your menu

Restaurant websites or PR that declares that there is a coeliac or vegetarian menu but they don’t actually deliver on that promise – ever seen a table for ten walk out without ordering?

Restaurant websites that are not updated with current information – get with the program people, it’s cheaper for most to surf online than buy food guides

Restaurants that don’t confirm reservations or return calls – we have no recollection of your booking – WTF!

Excessively elaborate combinations of flavours that overpower the produce – too cheap to hire a chef, they fast tracked the apprentice and the short order guy?

Fusion Cuisine where neither the Occidental nor Oriental has been mastered before splicing together ingredients from the opposite culture – too cheap to hire a chef, they fast tracked the apprentice and the short order guy?

Poor culinary technical skills – you want to be a celeb chef but couldn’t be bothered getting the basic training, so faked your resume

Celebrity Chefs who are rarely in their own venues – El Segundo syndrome, it may as well be your second’s restaurant, not yours

Paying for bread – it’s a basic thing

Clearing the bread before entrée arrives or even before the main – bread is not a course and I may want some more to mop up that excellent sauce

Frozen butter in foil – please explain

Tasteless olive oil for dipping – thanks, I’ll dunk it in my wine instead

Having to ask for table water – it’s a basic thing

Paying for still water – it’s a basic thing

Poor service – it’s fundamental to your view of a venue

Rude service – do you want to keep your clientele or do you think we’re masochists?

Argumentative service – you're an equal opportunity employer who hires bi-polars and people with advanced MS?

Arrogant waitstaff – no tip for you

Not writing down orders – we know you’re human, odds on you’ll mix up the order

Waitstaff asking who ordered which dish – didn’t anyone teach you about cover numbers?

Dirty Cutlery and lipstick stained glasses – thanks but did I hear you say that bacteria was today’s special?

Dirty toilets – my stomach turns at the thought

Torn and dirty staff uniforms – if the front of house looks crap, what’s going on behind the scenes?

Waitstaff leaning over you to reach something – approach from the side I have no desire to smell your armpit

Waitstaff lacking relevant knowledge to their vocation and the menu they’re serving – is Chef too inexperienced to brief front of house and hire trained people?

Clearing plates before everyone has finished the course – in a hurry to go on a break are we?

Being told that we have to leave a restaurant by a certain time - you’ve cut it fine on turning the tables and now you expect me to tip you?

Extortionate winelists – are you trying to get me to drink spirits?

Not having my wineglass topped up or having it over filled – too cheap to hire a sommelier or train the troops?

Loud music – what did you say, oh you’ve lost your voice from shouting

Interiors that amplify sound – what did you say, oh you’ve lost your voice from shouting

Too many seats for the size of the venue – no PG, I didn’t order a side of butt cheek in my face either

Intimate lighting that requires the aid of the light on my phone to read the menu – I’ll just have the steak bumface and pomfriteroles

Bad timing of courses – no order or discipline at the pass

Produce inferior to that which I can source myself – feel cheated and may as well stay home

Commercial processed ingredients – are you kidding, you can’t hide it by having good PR on your side

The innate flavour of the produce killed by seasoning – ok, so you have to be more intelligent to cook simply, but why smother a good thing anyway?

Paper napkins in expensive establishments – hire a laundry service, you can claim it

Expensive wine served in cheap, clunky stemware – what a waste

Low banquettes that leave me resting my chin on the table – I feel like a kid again

Seats so hard you get pins and needles in your posterior – if I wanted to eat like the homeless I’d sit outside on the pavement

Arctic airconditioning – if I wanted to eat like the homeless I’d sit outside on the pavement

Candle smoke from cheap candles – it blocks my nose and gives me asthma

Overpriced Grill restaurants serving cheap tasteless produce – some cheap Greeks ripped me off again

Pretentious venues that skimp on the portions – often the case of style over substance for a skeletal clientele

Portions so large that it takes three diners to consume one meal – next time we’ll order one dish and share

Giant pepper mills – The Chaser said it all

Flaked salt in mini bowls with no utensil provided - it’s a hygiene thing

Waiters who ask “Is everything is OK?” when you have a gob-full – splutter, spit, hmm, shake/nod head

Food that has sat under the heat lamps or Salamander too long and wilted or developed an unintentional skin or crust – if I wanted more skin I’d be dressed in mink, return to sender!

Hot serving plate, cold ingredients, equalling unintentionally wilted, melted or scorched results – wrong, wrong, wrong!

Steak not cooked to order – it’s a basic thing

Well done meat, tuna or salmon – I beg you, stop the massacre

Poor quality coffee and no decent Barista – I’ll have the peppermint tea

Sugar sachets in expensive venues – God is in the details

Guests who feel compelled to broadcast their lives to all others in the venue – put a sock in it and go eat at one of those noisy places

Mobile phone yellers – take it outside, better still get that stupid thing surgically attached, wanker

Passionate kissers – what are you doing here? Take it outside, better still get a room, I'm going to gag

Space invaders who feel the need to encroach on your seat or table – are you trying to bust a move or are you just oblivious to everyone else?

Eating outdoors surrounded by smokers – you may have no palate but don’t inflict it on me

Knives held like scalpels and not overhand as they should be – Mr Sticky, you included. Call Ms Manners! I'm a stickler for traditional dining etiquette

Parents who let their children roam unattended in venues – teach them the joys of dining and involve them in the theatre of the venue

People who need condiments, gravy or tomato sauce on everything – c'mon maaaate!

People who eat the bread as though it were a course – Troglodytes!

Diners who salt and pepper their food before tasting it – the chef does have taste buds

Diners who complain that the meal served is too salty, after doing the above – go figure?

Illegible bills – in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to have an itemised docket

Diners who split hairs over the bill when dining as part of a group – puh-lease! Too rude!

I’m sure I’ve left half of them out. What’s your beef?


thanh7580 said...

Thats a huge list Sticky. I think that covers peeves for all years, not just 2007.

How about one from diners. I don't like seeing other patrons not washing their hands after going to the toilet.

Anonymous said...

That is quite a list - many of which I share!

One of my pet peeves is bad language skills i.e. are youse guys ready to order or aew we ready to order. ARGH Run for the bloody hills.

Anonymous said...

Nice list sticky, I guess you'll be eating in more?

Grotty, unkempt, scruffy & feral looking kitchen staff-OK at the Forest Festival not OK cooking my din din.

Filthy bin areas out the back-Makes me wonder what the dark recesses of the coolroom contain?

Wafts of fetid & stale deep fryer aroma-Like I'm gonna order fish & chips now!

Chicken Caesar salad-the dark lord of mediocre restaurant dishes!

The earnest mission statement-WHAT-EVER!

The theme restaurant gimmick-Like when you order a 'Hawaiian burger' suddenly three bored waiters appear doing a conga of Hoola to pre-taped twangy-guitar muzak-Wow thats zany!

Ditto for the staff who are forced by the cynical owner to sing a grim version of 'Happy birthday' through gritted teeth to a slumped, wheelchair-bound Octogenerian with a tartan blanket over their lap-How spontaneous!

Servile, passive-aggressive & oily service-I want to get away as fast as I can.

Chefs taking liberties with classic dishes-I'll order a carbonara BECAUSE its got bacon in it, not shaved kagaroo proscuitto!

Being corralled by a restaurant to make my booking 1/2 hour later because they are staggering the bookings only to arrive as the first booking for the day!

Table Talkers-Mini ad boards spruiking the latest vin ordinaire that the wine reps have to shift.

'Look how good we are' self congratulatory favourable review newspaper clippings dotted on the front door-The fact that they are yellowing with age & apllied three chefs ago seems to be ignored.

Pigeon holed restaurants: here are a few:
Colonial pre-dictatorship African
Health Inspector-Indian
Big City-Big Pricey
Franken food-cuisine
Gway-Lo-Chop Suey
Japanese but owned by Chinese
Greek tragedy-esque
Bridey O’Reilly’s Irish
High table-hushed reverie
Pension-day popular

Sorry to hijack again Sticky!

stickyfingers said...

Thanh I guess we eat out a fair bit, so although it is a bumper, that list is current.

Jerry - sounds like you've been dining in the hills of red neck-ville LOL!

Gobbler - all valid. A most appreciated contribution, I especially love the pigeon holes.

Having vented I will wipe the slate clean again.

BTW I will return to something more cerebral soon. I have been researching the trends of 2008 and will give you a discourse on the Ethical Trading forecast once all the info is properly digested.

Duncan | Syrup&Tang said...

Oh no! You've said aloud so much I never wanted to read... I'll now feel encouraged to vent in restaurants, making me a pariah amongst my fellow diners:( Seriously, it is hard to find a decent restaurant that doesn't fail on one or two of these points (at least)... not excusing it, just expressing my profound frustration! :) good one Sticky.

Pat Churchill said...

I'm sure you've got most of it covered.
Overhead gas heating instead of ambient warmth.
Staff who squat beside you to take your order (unless the MUSIC IS SO LOUD YOU NEED TO SHOUT).
Upselling (old enough to make up my own mind, thanks).
Staff who ask "How are we doing?" (Currently we're rating you five out of 10...)