Twenty rules for restaurants
An ever-evolving list...
1. Make your own triple-cooked chips and preferably fry them in beef dripping. Unlike that dipstick who insists that frozen fries are “just as good as home made in certain circumstances,” James Martin from the telly (NB: not James from the Peerie Shop Café in Lerwick, who would never do such a thing. I made the mistake of buying one of his (JM from the TV’s) branded knives once (in TK Maxx, right enough) and the handle fell to bits. Also, he hates cyclists.
2. So-called ‘Scottish’ gins to be made using alcohol produced from scratch at the distillery. All other gins to carry a warning stating that they are just flavoured industrial alcohol, slightly watered down and in a fancy bottle.
3. There shall be no live music and, on pain of closure from the Food Police, no ‘open mic nights’ when people are eating. If you want to run a venue, have a relative who thinks they’re Lewis Capaldi or nurture your own ambitions towards Dylanhood, remove grub from the equation. For that matter there shall be no recorded music: There is no such thing as ‘just for background’. Goes without saying that there will be no TV. Doesn’t it?
4. Proper ceramic plates shall be used for serving all food items. That’s ‘plate’; not ‘slate’. Irony and ‘humour’ in serving utensils (chips in miniature deep-fryers, drinks in jam jars) will result in stern and possibly Divine repercussions. What’s more they shall be big plates, with enough actual edible stuff on them to satisfy someone of a large appetite, namely me. I DO NOT WANT TO SHARE. Tapas is for when you’re in Spain and need a fried egg to keep the flies out of your drink. Forks. Knives. Spoons. Good paper napkins are better than starched ‘linen’.
5. There will be no dress code save (a) the compulsory removal of all headgear, except for religious reasons, and (b) the banning of shorts, which, when standing, reach above the knee. This applies to all genders. Obviously no football colours other than Ross County.
6. Tables shall be far enough apart so that intimate break-up conversations or aural foreplay cannot be heard so loudly that you think you’re being addressed yourself, even when the source is whispering. Even in the absence of recorded music. For the same reasons, it should be impossible to play footsie with anyone at the next table. Which should not wobble.
7. Do not try and excuse crap wine by stating that it’s ‘natural’. For your house wines, there are some pretty OK bags-in-boxes (even ’natural’ ones) which don’t go off like half-empty bottles do overnight (see whisky, below). Everyone else charges three times the shop price, plus VAT. Have some generosity and just make it double. ALWAYS offer BYOB and non-death-dealing corkage.
8. Bread and butter should be free in a fine or aspirationally quite good dining context. The bread shall be made on the premises (or, if you’re rubbish at baking and don’t have a decent sourdough starter, get it (in Glasgow) from prison (Freedom Bakery) or an approved bakery, as listed on menu, which shall be neither laminated or evidently much-fingered). Soft machine/industrial ‘bread’ will be available for those with proof from dentist of oral health issues. Gluten free bread does not exist. Butter not olive oil.
9. There will be salt, proper sea salt, on the table, preferably with smoked salt as an option. And pepper. Leave the mill (maximum height - 10cm) on the table. These are my tastebuds, not yours.
10. Provide shite lager of the Corona, Becks, San Miguel variety, even shiter Tennents on draft, in addition to whatever obscure, heavily hopped microbrews you deem necessary for credibility. For lo, there are times when shite and even shiter lager is exactly what is required.
11. Serving staff shall be friendly, polite, informal but not intimate, informative but not patronising, and they better not be un- or under-employed comedians, models or would be rock stars intent on furthering their careers through ‘networking’ No beards longer than 0.5cm at any point.
12. Do not stop serving lunch at exactly 2.00pm. Or for that matter at 2.30pm on the digital dot. As long as someone wants fed, and they arrive within half an hour of advertised closing times, your kitchen is never closed. It’s the HOSPITALITY industry! Get a grip. Be generous. Be welcoming.
13. Whisky shall be served in quarter gill measures or metric equivalent. Remember spirits go off when exposed to air for any length of time. Yeah, I know, it’s the truth that dare not be admitted. Take countermeasures (glass beads etc). And remember thy customers see those knockdown supermarket offers too (Tamnavulin, Glen Moray, Glenlivet and Old Pulteney always the giveaways). No stupid flavoured ‘matured in herring casks’ drams.
14. The vegetarian option better not be Linda McCartney sausages, claggy defrosted ‘risotto’ or an omelette (unless it’s one as good as probably the best I’ve ever had in Scotland, at Au Bord De L’Eau (see what they did there?) in, of all places, Wick. Speaking of options, it’s reasonable to ask for the party’s allergies at time of booking. ‘Gluten allergies’: medical evidence required.
15. Tap water is free, always. Jugs. Big jugs. With ice.
16. Cheese. There must be cheese. Lots of different cheeses. From Scotland. Leave the customer to cut his or her own portions and do not moan when they take the whole round of Highland Fine Cheeses Brie. NO FLAVOURED CHEESES OR ONES WITH BITS OF FRUIT lest you be immediately consigned to Trip Advisor’s kennel of one-star reviews. Supermarket Extra Mature is allowed as long as you don’t lie and say it’s ‘farmhouse’. Biscuits. Carrs Water and proper oatcakes will do. NOT BREAD. NO QUINCE.
17. ‘Local provenance’ and ‘traceability’ do not mean an undated printout from the wholesaler. Or a receipt from the Tesco/garage down the road.
18. Bookings. I understand that some toerags book three or four places under false names before deciding on the night which one to go to. And book for more people than actually turn up. Feel free to charge them. Take a deposit. But on the other hand this “We will require your table back within an hour of you sitting down” nonsense has to stop.
19. Children. Be prepared for them. High chairs, games, soundproof booths, ball pits, private rooms, helter skelters. If they can have them in church, you can have them in your own feeding byres.
20. Service charge. Tips. There will be no service charge. Or tips. Pay your waiting staff properly and factor that into your prices.Make a point of saying, in revolutionary fashion that SERVICE COMPRIS. Which means included. And mean it. It’s not le science de roquette. And give me the bill WHEN I ASK FOR IT. I want to go now.
...and in return, your customers might come back...