I suppose I’m pickier than most when it comes to a restaurant table. It goes back to when I was reviewing for a living. But, with a few exceptions, what I like goes for most people.
I prefer a table against a wall or in a window not an ‘island’ table in the middle of the room. When the time comes to get out my notebook (I still review, for this blog) there is a very real danger of exposure, even though my wife is keeping watch for approaching waiting staff. One glimpse of a notebook and there will be faces peering through the window in the kitchen door.
If the restaurant is quiet you should always be offered a window table so you ‘advertise’ the place is serving food to passers-by. I’m only too happy to help out. But not in other directions.
Waiters like to save their little legs and have been known to cluster dinners together at tables in one section of the room when a place is not so busy. That’s bad. People like space about them.
Once, in a quiet, large dining room, I was led to a table hugger-mugger with two other occupied ones and rejected it. I was offered an island table. Again, no. So perhaps they wanted to teach me a lesson as I was shown to a table by the kitchen door. I thought I couldn’t reject a third time so agreed.
Throughout the evening our waiter took great delight in loudly kicking open the door every time he went through. Little did he know he was writing my review for me. It was punctuated by paragraphs such as “Thwack! Thwack! There goes the kitchen door again.” Oddly, I enjoyed the food. And, equally oddly, they framed the review for their wall.
I don’t tell restaurants this but I like a table from which I can glimpse into the kitchen. This can reveal much, just in case my tastebuds are slacking, like that packet of Bisto gravy powder on the shelf. Or the microwave in the corner.
I don’t like being given a table which is obviously an afterthought, when I have booked well in advance. Our posh Sunday lunch in a very busy Derbyshire hotel was eaten at an island table with so little space for staff and customers to manoeuvre past that I was on intimate terms with numerous bums and crotches over my roast pork. You don’t pay £32 a head for that.
Tables next to the door can be risky especially on blowy nights. Some customers seem to have been born in a barn, as my mother would have said, and are incapable of closing doors after them.
If this sounds as if getting the right table is a nightmare it isn’t really but I haven’t yet got to the wobbly table problem. There is always one in every dining room and so often it is the one I get. I once knew a man who reckoned he’d solved the problem by inventing a self-righting table mechanism which you slipped on the offending leg. Trouble was, he couldn’t find a manufacturer to take it up.
I should have offered him money for the prototype and kept it in my pocket for when the need arose.