Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Well Done Fillet Guide to Choosing the Right Restaurant

So the weekend is nearly upon us yet again. Whilst my spongy brain turns to thoughts of work and the unbound joy of schlepping plates back and forward from psychotic chefs to fidgety, fussy and bothersome guests yours will hopefully be engaged with much more pleasant activities. Maybe you're planning a night out - possibly with works chums, possibly with family or hopefully with someone you actually like.

If you are, then pay attention because choosing the wrong restaurant is like choosing the wrong lover - bumpy, awkward, dissatisfying and leaves you wishing you had just sorted yourself out. Different scenarios require different restaurants. But fear not dear readers I am here to ensure you make the right choice this weekend and every weekend after that in a handy cut out and keep section I call,

"The Well Done Fillet Guide to Choosing the Right Restaurant
(Because Choosing the Wrong Restaurant is Like Bad Sex.)"


Snappy eh?

First things first always have one restaurant that is just for you and your special friend - husband, wife, partner, imaginary chum, whatever. Never share this place with other people, never take other people there, never tell them about it. This is your gastronomic hideaway, your gourmet island, your culinary oasis. If you share it's location with others you will inevitably have to take them there or worse meet them there and that's the road to ruination. Find it and keep it special.
Manuel's special place......

1. The Parental/Family Dinner. The key to a good family dinner is speed, Ninja speed. You want to be in and out in under an hour, an hour and a half tops. Anything longer than that and you will come home with a splitting head and swearing never to do it again and that's not cool. Avoid anywhere were your father will embarrass you by asking for "ordinary gravy" or has anything that could be considered ethnic. I cannot stress this enough. Do you really want to have to tip the nice waiter from India extra cash to make up for your family's unintentional racism? My advice is carvery. Carvery or any sort of buffet is the easiest route. It cuts forty minutes of bodgering about and tortuous menu selecting and waiting. Forty minutes? That's a month in family dinner terms.

2. First Date. It has to be somewhere good but not too good. Save that for when you have to apologise or are trying to save your fledgling romance. Stay away from anywhere that has a Hut a Shack or references to boobs in it's name. In fact stay away from all chain restaurants, it shows a lack of imagination. Always best to find out if your date has any weird food issues - allergies, dietary requirements, religious needs, vegetarianism and what have you. I mean you don't want to take them to Big Bobs Steak House only to find out they are a salad muncher now do you? Avoid anywhere were the eating is complicated, I'm thinking spaghetti here but also fancy Chinese where they only use chopsticks. Whilst you might be a legend with them your date may not. And don't be a hero either, tell your date where you are going in advance so that they can dress appropriately. So I suggest a mid priced restaurant with a fairly balanced menu. Not the number one in town but maybe a number four or five, three tops, if you are punching above your weight.

3. Works Outing. I cannot stress this enough but do not go, don't even consider going, if it's booked in somewhere you really like. Whilst you might be a fine upstanding member of society who knows how to handle themselves in public can you really say, with confidence, the same about your work chums? Mark my words they will let you down. I've worked enough of these tables to know it only takes Bob from accounting to kick off and the whole table is flinging food, fighting, having sex, crying or trying to punch the waiter. And it wont matter if you weren't part of the problem you will forever be tainted with the bawdy behaviour of your work chums. Waiters never forget. My advice is always pick somewhere you really don't care about, a place that you don't mind being banned from. In other words pick a shit hole. It's a works thing, you gives a fuckity fuck if you get thrown out. This goes without saying but never ever ever take work people to your special place.

4. Friends. Tricky one this. There are some, not many, but some friends that can be taken to the special place. But these really do need to be special friends. I'm talking about the sort of special that only comes along once in a lifetime. The sort of friend that knows your dark secrets and doesn't use them against you. The sort of friend that will marry you if you are still single when you are forty. That sort of special. Apart from those one or two individuals keep your chums out of your special place. Going out for dinner with other couples is a competition. Yes it is. You and your date must look better than the other couple. Your hair must be better crafted, your suit sharper and your shoes shinier. It's a never ending competition. If they order the mid priced wine you order the dearest. If they order steak you order the veal. And so on. It's the same when choosing the restaurant. There is a constant battle to choose the next hip place, the place that is up and coming, the coolest eaterie in town where all the cool kids and C-Listers hang out. You are not cool enough to hang out with the A-listers. No you're not. Choosing the towns number one restaurant is a mistake, a rookie error and wont impress anyone. My advice is to constantly check the papers and internet for reviews and new restaurant openings. But choose wisely if you get it wrong you wont live it down. For dining with large groups of friends see Works Outing. It's the same deal.

5. Kids. Pfft. Leave them with granny and grandad and go to your special place.

I hope that helps......

24 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Steve said...

Couldn't agree more.You are right on all counts.Especially the one about the kids.Get a babysitter for gosh sakes! It is ridiculous the couples I see who think they can enjoy their meal letting their kids run amock all over the restaurant.Yet some do in fact ruining everyone's meal around them.
One place I worked had the right idea.They didn't say no to kids but did not have one high chair or booster seat at all or a children's menu to offer.Many just turned away and left.
Bravo I say!

Manuel said...

steve: I can deal with them on a sunday afternoon but that's it....I just cant cope with them.....

Steve said...

It is Mother's Day over here.

Manuel said...

Steve: Noooooooooooooooooooooo!

Steve said...

Exactly........

Manuel said...

Steve: I feel your pain......

Silverstar said...

Fortunately, within a block of me I have six restaurants, with another to open soon. Unfortunately, I can't afford any of them. Or MickyD's even. But back when I could, I hated to go to a really nice restaurant and have to put up with kids running around. Couldn't agree more.

Manuel said...

silverstar: as I so often say, "kids should be seen and not served."

Medbh said...

Excellent instructions, Manuel.
I was thinking from your recent post that you could add one should never take a mistress to the regular family spot.
Awkward all around.

Manuel said...

medbh: cheers. Not least for me....and that's what counts...

savannah said...

excellent advice, sugar! we're now watching a very dear friend of ours go through the whole new place thing with his much, much younger fiancee - i guess we're not hip enough for her! xoxo

MJ said...

I recently attended a work outing that was booked at a family restaurant.

I'd never been there and didn't realize it would be full of screaming kids 'til I walked through the door and bumped into a double-wide stroller.

The kid at the next table stole my napkin and cutlery, the little beggar.

Never again.

Say no to family restaurants.

Say no to attending work outings.

dave said...

Manuel, on the run up to Christmas (and I mean black Friday), where would you recommend for an all round entertainment / meal / music evening?

daisyfae said...

a corollary on the "work function" - i once arranged a going away party for a particularly fun student at a children's "entertainment" pizza parlor. Chuck-E-Cheese, over here... guests ate pizza, drank beer, and played games - winning prize tickets, which were given to the 'going away' boy for his parting gift... everyone wins - except the little sprogs who get pissed off having to wait whihle all the adults are playing the games...

Masquerade said...

You might find this interesting...a friend of mine commented on an entry I wrote about Aussies being bad tippers.

"Okay.... Um.... not trying to defend bad tippers, but in Australia, waitresses, waiters, bar tenders, etc are paid an hourly rate which doesn't rely on tips to 'boost' up the income. Seriously, it's like $25 an hour for bar work and around $17 for restaurant work. I still tip in restaurants for good service, but there is no specific rate, it's something you do if the service is good. They may not tip well just because they don't KNOW what the standard rate is! I really wouldn't have clue to be honest....."

I think I'm moving to Australia.

paddy said...

masquerade - that's kind of true, but our dollar ain't worth that much and the pay scale can vary dramatically from workplace to workplace. Don't let your Aussie mate off the hook - we are a pack of tightarses.

Sharon said...

Great guide, but then I'd not expect any less from you.

I know what you mean about children in restaurants. It's a skill that has to be taught.

When I have all 3 of my lot we eat at the drive through at McD's, or if I'm feeling brave, at the Pizza Hut buffet. Now my middle one has extra issues and can be loud and difficult (wanting to sit in the same place each time), but I don't imagine anyone really goes to PH for a great dining experience, and I tip the waiter well even though we fetch our own food.

My daughter was 10 in August and myself and her dad took her out to a nice place for dinner and we taught her how to do it right. She was a star.

But nothing beats a lovely night out with just adults now and again.

Manuel said...

savannah: I very much doubt that....

mj: TV dinners for one......awesome-o

dave: I would recommend going back in time to about two months ago and booking it then because it's too late now......sorry

daisyfae: now you see that's smart thinking...

masquerade: they bloody do know how much the rest of us get paid.....they are just tight fuckers...

paddy: apart from you obviously...

sharon: you know I'm only joking......!

Manuel said...

off to work the now.......ta ta til later....

redleeroy said...

Yup. This is gold. You should release some sort of hip pocket book guide. Then retire.

Lottie said...

I always save my favourite restaurant for just me and the BF> We brought a big family group there a few years ago and it got all very messy and embarrassing. Never again.

conortje said...

One that has a vegetarian option is always the start for me. I'm amazed if there are two so I can have a choice...the luxury :-)

Anonymous Boxer said...

I was in a restaurant last night attempting to have a conversation with friends - but the ear drum splitting screams from the two children next to me with chopsticks in their hands made it kinda difficult.

What were the parents doing?

Do I really have to say?

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