A few years ago I started noticing new restaurants, cafes and bars popping up that had no signage. This apparently denoted ‘cool’. The premise was, if you needed to know its name and therefore its address, then you were decidedly out of the loop and deemed ‘uncool’. Hence the numerous cluster of people wandering the streets and lanes at night on the hunt for the latest place that they’d heard about, the increasingly loud grumblings of their stomachs, indicating that they had not yet stumbled upon their chosen destination. Urban legend has it that there is a group still wondering the streets of Melbourne looking for a particular hot spot.
Some places simply became known by their address whilst others appropriated esoteric and in-on-the-joke names that bore little if any indication to what the business actually was. Hence ‘Saliva-City’ might not be the haunt for swingers as imagined but in fact a new Macaron bar, go figure?
Then this notion of two or three dining ‘window’s emerged. No longer able to book a table for the whole evening, one must submit to the 6pm to 8pm, the 8pm to 10pm or the 10pm to midnight time slots allocated.
“But I would like a long leisurely dinner” you say
“We only have the 6pm to 8pm sir and you must vacate your table within this time frame” came the mantra from the host
“But I’m here for the 10 course Dego with matching wines?” says you, exasperated
“That’s OK sir we bring out each course every 18 minutes” cheerily says the host
“But what if we haven’t finished the course by then?”
“Doggie bags are available” he says dryly.
You get the picture.
In recent times the proprietors of these venues have also ratcheted up a notch the discomfort many diners were now experiencing. No longer was it enough not to have signage, an address or a phone number but all of a sudden we were being herded into communal seating bringing with it the discomfort that might for instance, have one sitting next to one’s Proctologist. Adding insult to injury we were also precluded from making a booking, overnight it seemed nobody was taking reservations?
We are now made to wait, sometimes for hours, in the corridors or outside in the elements for a table. This is of course if you don’t want to eat at 5.30pm and scramble for a table through the melee of Zimmer frames with the rest of the geriatrics.
And some places actively discriminate. No Bloggers, no photographs, no children, no lactose intolerances, no other food allergies and no breastfeeding mothers-whats next, no Low-talkers?
Oh and forget about using your credit or debit card. Cash ONLY! screams an unwavering rigidness from a comprehensive list of do's and don'ts at some particular venues.
Now the latest trend is to only take reservations online. Simple enough you say despite not everyone having access to the web. Wrong.
Now you must create an account, divest yourself of some personal information and finally you must prove you are not a Spambot by entering a code. Once you press ‘send’ you sit and wait.
There is a scene in the movie LA story which foresaw the future of making what is a relatively simple restaurant booking. In it Steve martins character is ‘interviewed’ by the Maitre’d and the Chef de cuisine. He is interrogated as to his profession and income and then firmly informed what he is able to order before being dismissed with a wave of their hands. Is this the future?
Is it just me or are restaurants making it more and more difficult for their customers?