Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ye olden days of waiting

Restaurants have changed over the years and mostly for the better. The quality of food and wine available is almost beyond comparison to what was available when I was a lad. The range of choice has grown with every taste and style being catered for.

It's hard for most to remember the things we have left behind,
but not for me.

I remember them and I miss them too....

classy

Waiters wearing white shirts and bow ties. You just don't see that anymore unless you are in a provincial backwater such as Letterkenny or Lisburn maybe Portadown but I don't care what happens in Portadown. Uniforms are sponsored by the suppliers now meaning that the restaurants get their uniforms for free or at a hugely subsidised rate. So gone are white shirts and bow ties in come aprons with Stella on them and shirts like Grand Prix drivers. Where's the class gone people, where?

Chefs with tall hats. Not even head chefs wear tall hats anymore. No, now it's baseball caps with a thousand logos. And what ever happened to chefs whites and blue checked trousers? All gone whacky that's what happened! Chefs look like 1970's jazz musicians now. Even George Melly would balk at the outfits they wear to work now. Flashy cunts.

a chef

Tables set with hundreds of pieces of cutlery, glasses, and plates. Ah the magic of cutlery and how it confused people! You rarely get that anymore either unless you are dining with royalty. Fish knives, salad forks, soup spoons, multiple wine glasses were all set out to impress but mainly to bewilder and bedazzle. I still chortle to myself when I think back to those wonderful days and how people stuttered for an age when presented with their first course. They would lift a fork and then check the person to the left to see what they were using and then realise they were having soup and change again. Tremendous fun. But they took that joy away from us and now we bring cutlery as it is required. Spoil sports.


"Exotic" specials.
And by exotic I mean pineapple rings. Those were halcyon days my friends. No menu was complete without something being topped with a ring of tinned pineapple, mainly gammon it has to be said but there were other things too. A perfectly formed ring of sugary pineapple also found it's way onto summer salads too and alongside spicy chicken. Tinned pineapple was a luxury in pre-tiger Ireland/during the troubles with only the richest drug dealers and celebrity terrorists being able to afford the real deal. But it wasn't just pineapple rings, hell no, there were other exotic items to be found on menus in the 70's and 80's. Pure orange being just about the strangest. And by pure I mean from a can. How the fuckity fuck they got away with offering a small glass of canned OJ as a first course I will never know.

mmmmmmmm
not

The Sweet Trolley. Long before the Health and Safety people were good at their jobs the un-chilled sweet trolley was the main attraction at any restaurant. There it sat tempting you for hours whilst you chomped your way through your pineapple ring topped gammon and "pure" orange. Restaurants that couldn't afford a sweet trolley or didn't have the space for one just put pictures of the sweets on the menu. For what it's worth you should never eat at a restaurant with pictures of the food on the menu, never. The waitress, and it was always waitresses back then, dragged the rickety and heavily laden trolley over the carpet to your table. And having finished everything you got to pick what you wanted. Would it be the trifle with the cream going off in the heat? Would it be the melting strawberry mousses? Or would it be everyones favourite, the homemade Sara Lee Black Forest Gâteaux? It didn't really matter which it was, they were all good if a bit warm and probably full of nasty bacteria.

But just as the bow tie was replaced with the open collar shirt sponsored by Guinness the sweet trolley was replaced with a two tonne refrigerated behemoth that just didn't have the same magic and sparkle.

Food served in baskets, prawn cocktails served in wine glasses, gravy, spag bol, fondue, aspic jelly, meat n three veg all replaced with rocket salads, tagliatelle, and my least favourite thing stuff that ain't soup served in a bowl. I hanker after a simpler time when we, the waiters, had the control and you, the customer, didn't know the difference between a fish fork and a soup spoon...........

38 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Native Minnow said...

I'm one of the simple minded people who are easily confused by such things as fish forks. I can do salad forks, and spoons for soup and dessert, but that's about as complicated as I can manage. Please don't hate me.

Manuel said...

Minnow: I don't hate you......I look down on you, that's much more fun......[wink]

bendersbetterbrother said...

Good old days my arse. We had a choice of various over cooked roasts. All came with the same gravy which, left to set, would form bonds stronger than a weld. And we ate that!
Salads comprised of a flat lettuce (grit and caterpillars/slugs not optional), sliced tomato, beetroot and grated cheese. Don't forget the boiled egg sliced in half. If you were fancy you drowned it in salad cream.

I'm concerned that the new Spring menu has triggered something in your subconscious. Then again, maybe your arse is just crying out for some stodge.

upset waitress said...

Those were the days when they carried their own hankies instead of coughing up in your nice white table linens too. Pretty soon manuel, we will be experiencing our meals in pill form.

Medbh said...

Aspic is the devils's smegma, as Fat MammyCat would say. It's vegetable jello. Yack.

I had to wear a white tuxedo shirt and bow tie for 4 years at one restaurant and hated it.
Felt like I was in drag all the time.

yoyo said...

Thanks for bringing back hideous memories!
And I do mean the ones about the...sweets trolley.
*shudders*

Glad the fucking things are gone. I'd be almost out of a job if they ever make a comeback.

/Note to self: Eliminate all trolleys of potential sweet baring abilities.

Manuel said...

bbb: bet you had more than your fair share of chicken in a basket....eh?

upseto: and then where will I be eh...

medbh: my dad was an aspic master....I mean he could kill fish cook it and make look alive again....now that's quality eh...no? just me?

yoyo: you love the trolley....admit it....

Anonymous Boxer said...

Awww, I loved the dessert cart and I've wondered why it's disappeared. Boo to health codes, btw, how's your food poisoning? Anyhoo, I fully expect future "Manuel" to be a computer terminal at our table. Any happy "looking down" on us will have to be done with a web cam. Now, to figure out how the food is delivered.....

daisyfae said...

a-HA! my suspicions about the 'place setting mafia' have been confirmed! you really DID do that to scramble our brains and assure that we were so horribly embarassed by our social awkwardness that we'd be compelled to leave absurdly huge tips to overcompensate for our gross lack of ettiquette and manners.

bastards... ;-)

Lord said...

Nice Effort,
keep it up
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Sharon said...

I'd buried the memories of having glasses of foul tasting orange juice as a starter. I was a usually a bit more adventurous though, and went for the melon boat or prawn cocktail.

I remember the time I first ate steak which wasn't cooked 10 times longer than necessary (when I was 20 or so) and what a revelation it was.

Conan Drumm said...

Ah, ye olden days of eating: Gaj's Restaurant in Dublin - a thick Gammon, a slice of pineapple grilled on top of it, mash and peas. Meanwhile in the spare room overhead 1970s Irish feminism was being invented. It has no equivalent these days, as far as I know.

warriorwoman said...

the old days; one day these days will be the old days, what then?

Manuel said...

boxer: there nearly was no "future" manuel.....it was so bad....

daisyfae: yes, yes that was it.......and I miss those days.....boo hoo hoo

lord: knob off lordy

sharon: you know what so do I......and it was a revelation

conan: panini is the new gammon/pineapple....it's true

warriorwoman: I'll lament these days too.......I'm very sentimental you know.....

AnFearBui said...

"unless you are in a provincial backwater such as Letterkenny"
I had a great Aunt in letterkenny who referred to all areas west of there as the Outlands.....Very Judge Dread.
I still gag when I remember the boiled sausages she used to feed us....

Manuel said...

anfearbui: how very german......yuk

sheepworrier said...

My dad is still of that mentality - if a restaurant doesn't have vegetable soup, burnt steak and apple tart, he just doesn't want to know.

Poor fella has to eat in the Carrigdale now...

MJ said...

Over here the garnish of choice was a pale, flavourless tomato slice and a wilted sprig of parsley.

Gone gone are the days.

Manuel said...

sheepo: and expects it all for under £25 for him n her.....bless

mj: hell that shit is still cool over here......

Tony said...

our line cooks have to wear tall white paper chef hats...quite chic

Manuel said...

tony: hell yeah.....classy.....bravo

Mudflapgypsy said...

Aaah, I miss soup in a basket.

The sweet trolley, why don't they just get some new fangled refridgerated one that'll wheeze hot air round the patrons feet thus serving two purposes?

T bone steaks chips, peas and fried onions....the 80's.

Manuel said...

muddy: T bone steaks chips, peas and fried onions........sniff sniff...happy days

Blazing Saddle said...

And syrup puddings made with real suet, not your fake vegetable stuff. Whatever happened to them?

City Of Lisburn said...

Did you have to mention Lisburn in the same sentence as Letterkenny and Portadown?

Why Manuel? Why!?

Manuel said...

Blazing saddle: eh yer on yer own there actually......rank either way...

"city" of lisburn: know your place! Now away with you and leave us to flounce around our Victoria Square in peace, you have your bow street mall....bwahahahahaha

city of lisburn said...

:-(

Manuel said...

deal with it.......hehehe

OneForTheRoad said...

Now that waiters are usually dressed in stylish black, often without ties, I find myself increasingly asking passing customers for extra bread and more wine, much to their disgust.

savannah said...

the best thing i ever learned was: work your way in re: cutlery. the next: assume you're right and act accordingly.


and tip well, suagr ;-)

paddy said...

Great Australian menu itens from the 70s/80s - the fishermans basket which consisted of assorted different shaped fishfingers masquerading as scallops, calamari and whatnot. Deep fried camembert. The banana fritter. The crumbed chop. Anything with pineapple on the menu would be described as Hawaian or Tropical. The house wines always arrived in a carafe (to disguise the fact they were from a 10litre cardboard box)

ellie said...

Sara Lee Black Forest Gateau. Heaven! I mean that. Pure heaven!

INNER VOICES said...

what happened to the waiters with the low cut shirts and hefty tips? we want more of your hefty tips man!

Gypsy said...

I think this was my all time favourite post from you Manuel :)
Very funny indeed.

Caro said...

I made Baked Alaska out of a fit of nostalgia last time I had friends for dinner. They all spat it out and accused me of trying to give them diabetes.

I was forced to eat the lot myself.

Anonymous said...

Uniforms have improved - bow ties are no longer the fashion items they once were.

Robert Synnott said...

Erm, what, exactly, did you search for to get the 'chef' picture? :)

Interestingly, the queen mightn't have all the forks; the whole 27 pieces of cutlery per person thing was apparently popularised by the nouveau-riche (bankers and industrialists and other newly-invented creatures) of the 19th century to one-up the aristocrats.

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