MATT PRESTON airs a few gripes about restaurants.
He may enjoy eating out as much as the next person, but Matt Preston still has a few gripes about the way some Australian restaurants roll circa 2019.
I LOVE eating out. Well, I just love eating – in, out, wherever. But a few things occasionally bug me about cafés and restaurants. My sister gets narky about a beautiful Instagrammable breakfast loaded with flowers and pomegranate seeds, but the things that make me mad are far more infuriating.
Great design isn’t about a picture in a magazine, but how special it makes diners feel and how it enhances their night. If the room is too dark to see the food and too noisy to hear what the other side of the table is saying, then the fit-out has failed. Well, unless you want to go with boring, ugly friends who you don’t want to see or hear.
Surely these are past their use-by date, along with their dangly cloth-wrapped cords. How about going back to LED downlights, wall conches, chandeliers or even candles for a change?
It’s not that hard. We’ve had our dessert and you’ve delivered the coffees. This means the meal is coming to an end; the final act of the evening is about to unfold. Isn’t it obvious we’ll want our bill? This is the good bit of the evening for the restaurant when the bill gets paid and the waitstaff discover whether you’re going to stiff them for the tip, so why do they seem to disappear at the end of the evening? Just bring the bill, take our money and we can all go home.
PRICEY FOOD THAT ISN’T TASTY
We shouldn’t have to get mad about this. Aren’t chefs always telling us they’re in the flavour biz-er-ness? Now, I love experimental cookery as much as the next pretentious food wanker, but if you want me to be your guinea pig, serve your prototypes on a cut-price menu like Ben Shewry used to do at Attica on Tuesday nights. Every chef (apart from maybe a dozen trailblazers around the world like Central’s Virgilio Martinez, Noma’s René Redzepi or Massimo Bottura) should run every new dish through the same prism – if it’s not delicious it ain’t going on the menu.
Is it really that hard to take some bookings for those who need to get a babysitter or have to travel to eat at your place? Surely you want to give those people reassurance they can eat at your place? Oh, and don’t try and sell it like it’s a benefit to us the customer – that is the height of hide.
First up, my dear sommelier chums, does the presence of natural wine on your list mean all the other wine is unnatural? Second, I love natural wine of the minimal-intervention variety – the purest expression of the grapes – as long as it tastes deliciously of wine or even grapes. What makes me mad is when that much-lauded bottle of natural wine with the trendy label and hefty price tag tastes like dodgy farmhouse cider, kero or a strange amalgam of vinegar and dishwater. Please, my dear sommelier friend, don’t sell me faulty wine and claim it’s just edgy – even if you and the winemaker have matching man buns. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather have a nice classic chardonnay that tastes of burnt matches.
“Enjoy!”, “How is everything?”, “Did you like that?” are all still really annoying. The only time a member of the floor team should appear at your table is when you need something or they’re delivering something. Otherwise stop interrupting my conversation with my friends because you’re fishing for compliments or a tip.
No one is eating slimy açaí bowls any more, so no more having to pretend to like them. Also on the way out is the bowl concept – disappearing the same way as grey slates used as plates and wooden platters instead of boring old hygienic white china.The final nail in the bowl’s coffin, however, will be when people finally realise we can just as easily organise ingredients on top of a carb or grain of choice on a plate as a bowl.The concept still hangs on in food courts and paleo cafés, however, in the same way the smear and the black plate is yet to die out in those aspiring winery restaurants where the young chef has a philosophy that’s longer than his (it’s almost always a him) CV.
Over the past few months a weird trend has been emerging on Instagram – my badly lit, ugly pictures of home-cooked food have garnered more likes than the pretty pictures I’ve laboured over in a fancy restaurant. Is this the latest manifestation of the authenticity trend? At least it puts dishes back to where they should be – food for the stomach and soul, not the eyes.
It’s probably because I’m old, but I’d rather cook than get a lukewarm takeaway delivered by an underpaid driver who is sacrificing a living wage to help boost the profits of some huge multinational who doesn’t pay tax on the money it’s making here. That makes me mad.As does the fact the road (and the parking outside my fave local) seems to be increasingly clogged with freelance food couriers – even if it’s not. Please note that when you get old it’s as easy to get mad about imagined problems as real ones.