Published 12 September 1993 Style Magazine 12th article
I am always wary of going to places that are supposed to be chic. Two years ago, people told me Christopher's in Covent Garden was "in", so I stayed out. I did go last week, however, with Miss Seagrove and the TV sex therapist, Dr Ruth Westheimer. Make what you will of that! The parsley soup was thick, my hamburger and bun extremely good, and the lime pie more like cheesecake, but edible none the less. Miss Seagrove and Dr Ruth enjoyed their grilled sole.
The owner, called, unsurprisingly, Christopher, is the son of Lord Gilmour, a former cabinet minister. It is always nice to see the upper classes forced to labour. At the next table was John Birt, a man I have always found extremely likeable. From the window he could almost see the LWT HQ, and pine for the bonus millions he missed by leaving it.
I have always said my ideal in life was to have the BBC catering concession. Whenever I went on TV, I was shown to a room laden with food, as if a wedding or bar mitzvah was imminent. I particularly enjoyed the sausage rolls. After the programme, a horde of BBC employees would descend and grab at chicken legs, scotch eggs, potato salad and assorted gunge. A wide selection of beverages would disappear at a similar rate. What this had to do with the high standards the BBC liked to say it maintained, I could never understand. Since Mr Birt took over, I have noticed a considerable diminution of such goodies. Doubtless programme-makers will say this is not conducive to a creative atmosphere. I, too, miss the sausage rolls, but I support Mr Birt's exigencies.
My wife and I experienced an incident last month at the Wagon and Horses at Hadleigh, Essex, part of the Beefeater group, which seems typical of the lack of consideration and intelligence in dealing with the public. We were seeking an early lunch at noon, and were about the second or third couple to be seated. We asked for a window seat, and were told that there were only tables for four at the windows. We were in a nearly empty restaurant, but were shown to a table for two outside a corner alcove like an open storeroom. The waiter then thrust the menus in front of us and hurried off. We departed without further ado. Is it a problem for restaurants to cater for tables for two?
S G S Feneron, London N2
Surely courtesy and good manners should bless him that gives and him that takes. The current campaign in The Sunday Times encourages readers, before a crumb is consumed or a drop is drunk, to intimidate restaurant personnel by slapping down on the table at the very onset of the meal a printed coupon with "ATTENTION RESTAURANT STAFF" in bold letters. In order, it states, "to ensure the highest standards of service and an enjoyable meal" the coupon threatens the staff with hostile publicity in The Sunday Times should the readers detect, in their opinion, any failure in standards. It does not suggest they should report any degree of satisfaction they experience. I hope fellow restaurateurs will join us, if they are the recipient of such loutish behaviour, in requesting Sunday Times readers who display this coupon to go elsewhere. Wherever such ugly tactics may apply they have no place in any restaurant. They focus on the most vulnerable, those probably with no responsibility for the management of the concern in question.
John Noble, Chairman, Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd, Argyll, Scotland