Sunday, April 27, 2008

Simple Pleasures

There's a thing here . . . Bring Your Own or BYO . . .I guess it's available overseas as well but generally we don't go to restaurants who do not allow us to take our own wine. Mainly because we take better wine at half the cost and also because most restaurants inflate their wine prices to make up for any shortfall with the food. Most restaurants will still charge corkage but I don't mind that . . it covers the cost of the glassware, wait staff and washing up I suppose. I hate paying $35 for a bottle I can buy for $7 in the shop. So, Thursday night . . . four of us have arranged to have dinner. Thommo books the restaurant and I'm the designated driver.

It was a horrible night, pouring rain and wet roads. The sort of night you'd rather curl up on a couch but this particular combination of diners have a quarterly meeting arrangement so it wasn't to be avoided.

We arrived at a new restaurant called The Glass House only to be told that it wasn't BYO (even though it was when it first opened in January). Unhappy with that scenario we asked the decidedly bitchy waitress if she could make an exception on our behalf as there was only one other couple dining in the otherwise empty restaurant. "I'm sorry, but we can't make any exceptions, besides you should be here for the food!" she snapped in her veiled South African accent. "You wouldn't expect BYO at Trellinis or the Euro Lounge!" Fuck off! Like this place was anywhere near the calibre of those two. It was a glass box with a boring interior and no atmosphere. It's exactly because we were there for the food that we wanted to bring our own wine rather than pay inflated prices for their very ordinary wine list. So after a short and curt exchange, we told her in no uncertain terms to stick her overpriced winelist up her jumper, packed up bags and moved on to the Thai next door which was absolutely packed. No room at the inn so we moved on to an old fashioned but reliably good-value Italian restaurant, Bon Amici's. No problems there.

It's a 70's style, wholesome Italian and slightly gaudily decorated venue that's in need of a facelift and some new carpet. You know the type. Lots of red and gold and a funny sort of organza canopy draped across the ceiling. Immitation Eretrian masks adorn the wall and rather tatty looking candilabres on the mantle piece. Normally there's an exceptionally bad accordianist and keyboard player who has a backing track and forgets the words to the most basic of songs . . he's been there for ages . . .practically an installation and half the place's charm. It's the sort of place where you always run into someone you know and either join tables or have a quick chat whilst they pick up their take out pizza.

The wait staff are lovely, professional but friendly and nothing is too much trouble. We are immediately given cold, filtered water and our wine uncorked. Before long, the wholesome but tasty food arrived including a magnificent home made crab ravioli with a to-die-for creamy bisque and Veal Campagna . . . followed beautifully made Italian coffee - we had good conversation and great service. We weren't rushed and the meal was exceptionally satisfying and good value. Our only criticism, they had run out of after dinner chocolates. Struth Ruth was not impressed .. no chocolate with coffee will cost you your tip! So our delightful American waiter came forth with a small saucier of chocolate topping surrounded by hundreds and thousands . . .weird but innovative . . . at least he tried and Struth had her chocolate fix satiated.

So 'up yours' Glass House . . hope you made a bomb on the only two diners who patronised your establishment! Piss off one punter and they can influence 12 others. That night cost you some bad press and now 48 other people know not to bother!

I couldn't find an image so here's a joke:

A man enters an empty restaurant and sits down at a table. He is approached by renowned funnyman / actor Ricky Gervais.

The man is obviously surprised when Ricky asks him if he can take his order and asks him what he is doing waiting tables in a restaurant.

Ricky explains that he is researching a part in a new film as a waiter and is hoping to pick up some tips - in a spurious yet necessary to the joke-type way.

The man points at the fish tank behind him where there is one solitary green squid casually swimming round. The man is particularly taken by what appears to be a moustache on the squid's top lip. "I'll have that one please" he says.

"Oh no, I couldn't bring myself to kill him for you sir" explains Ricky. "That's Sammy, he's been here for years. He's got such a lovely temperament I just couldn't do it."

"Well is there anyone else here who could kill the squid for me? I am hungry you know!" said the man.

"As you can see, it's not busy tonight" said Ricky "So there's only me and our dishwasher Hans here now."

"Well can't this Hans fellow kill it for me then?" inquired the man.

"No I'm afraid not" said Ricky.

"Why not?" pleaded the man.

"Because" explained Ricky ................

"Hans that does dishes is as soft as Gervais, with the mild green hairy lipped squid!!!"


katesaid said...

OK, totally don't get the joke, but remember that I'm hard of hearing so homophones are often lost on me... and yet after two beers, it's hilarious anyway.

But, more to the point, most restaurants here are not BYO, except, interestingly enough, the lobster pounds. The simple on-the-dock places where you eat steamed lobster and corn on the cob at a picnic table overlooking the Atlantic, and you bring your own wine (and sometimes your own place settings and linens!) and life is wonderful. I'd never encountered such a place before moving here, and have been to three different ones in the past three years.

Babysis said...

I dont understand the joke.....I know I'm blonde...but....

Aha, The Glasshouse, mmmm many many complaints around our area about that little joint. I think the waitress is the owner (could be wrong)....anyway, too expensive, no byo, too small a meals for everyone not just men.

However, the crowded thai "Thai Flavour" its called is booked out for weeks in advance....havent been able to get in yet! I believe food is fabulous, its byo, people are charming!

I want lobster at katesaid's restaurant though! That sounds yummo!

Thriftcriminal said...

BYO seems not to exist here, too much margin lost I'd guess. We came across it in a chinese restaurant in Cambridge a few years back. I thought it was a great idea, but I have not seen it since :-( I do get the joke. I first heard it without Ricky about 15 years ago, though it is perfect for his style of humour.

I love his one about Stephen Hawking: "Bit pretentious isn't he? Comes from Kent, talks with an American accent..."

GayƩ said...

I won't be going to the Glass House. So, here is the power of negative word of mouth! It's in my and Niall's blacklist as of now.
I am glad though you found a nice place to dine and had good time. :) It would have been terrible if they managed to spoil your nite out.

Nick said...

If BYO is the norm there, you were right to walk out of the Glass House. You obviously had a much better experience at the Italian. As Thrifty says, BYO is frowned on in NI, we have to pay those extortionate charges. A small point maybe, but I have to say I don't like this trend of using the slightest problem to withhold a tip. As long as the service is generally good, I'm not bothered by the lack of after-dinner chocs or the odd dirty fork. Give those hard-pressed staff a chance!

Brianf said...

There is an old rule of thumb in any service or sales industry.
"Treat one person well and they'll tell 5 people. Treat someone poorly and they'll tell 50 people"

Grannymar said...

I knew someone years ago with the stock phrase: If you enjoyed it, spread the word. If you didn't, save your breath to cool your porridge! I would be inclined to spread the word if the waiter was rude or food bad.

Baino said...

Kate: I'm IN. I lurve lobster but it's way expensive out here all the good stuff goes for export. Unless you can get out to extreme places like Geradton in WA where it's cheap. Save me a seat!

Sorry the joke is a bit parochial and based on an advertising line for Fairy Liquid .. a dishwashing liquid in the UK.

Babysis: I think you're right she was a frosty old cow alright. Haven't been to the Thai but if patronage is any indication it's certainly popular. Unusual for you not to have tried it out! (and you haven't been a blonde for years!)

Thrifty: It was the best I could do being less than inspired. He is the master of the understatement. Very funny guy. They re-did the Office with American actors and it just didn't have the same giggle factor at at all.

Gaye: they've shot themselves in the foot alright. It's tough for an expensive restaurant to survive in the burbs. Most are Bistro or cafe style, Chinese, Thai or Pub Grub

Nick: It's not exactly the norm but it's very common. We just choose restaurants where we can BYO because my friend has such an amazing wine cellar! It's not always cheaper depending on the corkage and the class of restaurant.

Fortunately, tipping isn't the norm either. And quite often tips go into a staff jar. Staff are paid award wages and the cost of service is built into the price so we only tip if it's exceptional service.
We usually round off the bill and leave the change. For example the meal was $46 a head so we each put in $50. No pain there.

Brianf: Same here. The number 12 came from some research done by the Financial Planning Association in terms of the financial planning industry . . .if one client has a bad experience, they'll tell 12 others unsolicited. Either way, she could have been pleasant about it. Her tone was decidedly hostile so why would I put money in her pocket!

Grannymar: Apparently it's reputation precedes us as Babysis mentioned. It's only been open a few months and people are staying away in droves. They won't last the year with or without my help.

Gledwood said...

We have "bring your own" too... it's from unlicensed (for alcohol) restaurants and generally they charge about £1 or £1.50 a bottle "corkage" fee, as you say.

Yes I have well and truly GONE. But I still manage to post, thanks to the glories of an internet caff at the end of my OLD road, which I'm just about to sneak back up to retrieve my old business suit and hopefully some classical records I left behind!! Wish me luck. Cheers!!

Baino said...

Hey Gleds, glad to hear you're moved and settled, hope the old vinyls survived the lootage. Good luck!