Why can’t everybody behave like me in restaurants? I eat out reasonably often, and while the service in local eateries is certainly on the up and up, the general deportment of the kiwi diner is most certainly not.
There are two things I should throw into the equation before I go much further.
1: I am famously intolerant (of pretty much everything and everyone), and quite cantankerous – more so when I’m hungry. I’ve been deliberately grooming myself as a grumpy old man since around my twelfth birthday.
2: I was raised in and around restaurants. I learnt how to behave in this most public of settings early on, and as such perhaps have slightly high standards and expectations of others.
Nonetheless, there are some Kiwi-dining behaviours I find particularly repugnant:
People, who do not, nay, WILL not control their children in restaurants.
I was quiet and didn’t run around the dining room in loud uncoordinated circles at age 5, so why the hell can’t your kids? I know, ‘they’re only kids”, ‘they don’t understand”. Maybe so, but you’re not a kid and you do understand, so stop being such a thread-bare muppet and sort it out.
It’s pretty simple really: restaurants are adult spaces. So any accompanying kid needs to do their very best to act like adults (proper adults, not thoughtless slap-heads). By all means take them along. It’s an important part of healthy socialisation, but do NOT seat them at another table and then act as if you’ve been hypnotised into forgetting they exist for the rest of the evening. No matter how much the waiter smiles, they hate you and may hoiyk in your brûlée
Men who employ enormous roaring laughs to gain attention
These types usually get louder as the evening wears on and the wine bottles drain. Their startled donkey braying is usually directed at their own witticisms. These men usually get in a few ostentatious, room-rattling sneezes before the night’s through as well. They always pay by gold card, either don’t tip at all or do so excessively and loudly, before driving off in their $200K penis extension.
People who talk utter drivel at the next table
The other night I was altogether too privy to a conversation from the next table about how a certain film represented ‘a post-modern deconstruction of the New Zealand psyche’. Are you serious? Eat your God-damned food and keep quiet.
Ordering off the menu
Unless you are true regular or are married to the chef, stick to what’s written in print. The menu is not a vague sampling of the chef’s skills, it’s what they are willing to make. Asking if they could ‘just rustle up something else’ is extremely rude and will hopefully be declined. If it isn’t, chew each mouthful very carefully. Glass fragments in the lower colon are a bitch. (For those following my weekly ramblings closely, at our recent soiree at Merediths, my best beloved did in fact request special food treatment – however, this was arranged in advance and purely for medical reasons, so I reserve the right to my opinion and any resulting double standards.)
Asking for well-done steak
This one is a cliché, but it really does annoy chefs and it annoys me too. I don’t consider it a matter of opinion when I say well-done steak is horrible. It is. Have you considered the possibility that you don’t actually like steak? Order something else rather than showing such disrespect for the meat’s previous owner, and the poor gimp in the kitchen who has to semi-cremate it.
Loudly commenting on the prices
You know perfectly well that you don’t have to order the San Pellegrino, so don’t make a big fuss about the audacity of ‘charging for water’. Yes, the wine is MUCH more expensive than it would be at the supermarket. That’s because supermarkets routinely undercharge on wine and restaurants make bugger-all money on food. It’s called business. Perhaps you’d be more comfortable at home in front of Coro-street with a bottle of Marque Vue and a microwave lasagne?
Wearing way too much fragrance
No matter how pricey and pleasant your fragrance may be, I don’t want to taste it when I’m paying to eat. So if you’re dining out go easy on the scent, or preferably omit it all together. For some reason Eternity by Calvin Klein is particularly potent. A well-doused woman can drown an entire dining room in this viscous odour, which lingers long after the culprit has exuded from the establishment.
Essentially, what annoys me most about a lot of kiwi diners is how little they consider others. They don’t seem to feel the need to adjust their behaviour for the setting. Stripped bare (figuratively), most of us are pretty un-presentable. Fine and good for your nearest and dearest behind closed doors, but when you’re eating out, please make a little effort and show a little class.