What a rude bunch we have become. So rude that restaurateurs and pub owners call in last orders from customers who don’t keep their reservations.
Last-minute apologies and no-shows are becoming more prevalent in the hospitality industry as upfront deposits, cancellation fees and blacklists are fast becoming the norm.
Not just a disgrace, but a damn expensive disgrace for small businesses who can’t afford to lose half a dozen blankets at short notice because your lazy friends decide they’d rather stick around for a Deliveroo in their pajamas.
Whether I’m looking for acres of white tablecloths and place settings heavier than a shot put or cheerful gingham rags with freesias in a small vase, I love the anticipation, the preparation, the not not eat all day because I’m-at-that-age-where-lunch-fills-me-with-the-excitement-of-dining-out.
During our repeated closings, I dreamed of wearing proper shoes and clicking past Main Street to somewhere – anywhere – serving just about anything I hadn’t had to cook myself.
In this case, I found myself in the Faroe Islands (what can I say, it was the green light first and I really wanted to escape my family for a girls’ weekend) at Koks , a two-star Michelin establishment with a turf-roof and a sunny 3 a.m. vibe, Brigadoon.
There we ate fermented lamb, barnacle scrapings and sea cucumbers boiled in wine for about ten years. It was a fodder feast for the senses, utterly memorable and so much more than the sum of its parts.
Ambiance is everything; it’s a rare meal that can rise above – let alone eclipse – the dreary impact of a grumpy waiter (unless it’s Paris, in which case a contempt veneer is mandatory) or a lackluster company.
Now that Britain has no shortage of good restaurants, we must learn to value them and that means respecting those who strive to serve good food. If a modest, non-refundable deposit is what it takes to focus the spirits, so be it, though it won’t make up for the lost profit or the dreary sight of empty chairs.
Far better to charge for the whole shebang in advance, and then if diners don’t show up, glamorous speed-dial seats can come and make up numbers like they do at the Oscars.
Gordon, Heston, Jamie: contact us. I’m free every night, I hold my knife well and I always pay my compliments to the chef.