Fine dining restaurant Photo: Thinkstock
Try for a cancellation
Getting a table at a celebrated restaurant can be difficult, so be flexible when you phone up and have more than one date to suggest. If you want to eat out on a Friday or Saturday, especially at a popular venue, you can expect a very long lead time. But it’s always worth ringing up at short notice, as tables do come up as a result of cancellations – if customers have to book so far in advance, it’s highly likely that someone has had to change their plans.
Don’t be intimidated
Never allow overbearing or patronising restaurant staff make you feel uncomfortable. They work in the hospitality industry
and it’s their job to serve you. If you’re not happy with their attitude, don’t leave a tip, don’t go back and tell your friends not to go there. A tip described on the bill as ‘optional’ or ‘discretionary’ is just that. You don’t have to pay it if you’re not satisfied with the service.
Get the best for less
If you’re on a tight budget but want to try one of the leading restaurants in your city, then consider going there for lunch. It won’t be cheap, but it will cost less than going in the evening. Many top restaurants offer lunchtime menus that are almost half the cost of the dinner menu, yet you still get superb cooking and the same wonderful setting. And, although the service will be just as attentive, the atmosphere is likely to be more relaxed. Be warned, though, that a set lunch is likely to offer a more limited choice of dishes than the evening menu.
Avoid unnecessary extras
Many restaurants make their dishes seem better value by giving a price on the menu for a main course that only includes a basic garnish. The waiter will then ask you what side dishes you require – and they cost extra. So enquire about what is served with your choice of dish. Perhaps the potato topping will provide enough carbohydrate and you won’t need a helping of chips or perhaps the bed of spinach will supply enough greenery. Sharing one side order with your dining companion may also be plenty. If you discuss it with your waiter, he or she is likely to give you an honest response. And if you’re still worried about feeling hungry after you’ve eaten the meal, make sure you take up the offer of bread; it could be ideal for soaking up the sauce from your main course.
Order water from the tap
If you ask for some water in many restaurants these days, you’re highly likely to be given a fancy bottle containing some costly liquid from a famous spa. But tap water is usually perfectly drinkable and most restaurants will be happy to provide you with a glass or jug of it – often chilled with a refreshing slice of lemon – if you ask for it. So don’t just tell your waiter that you’d like some water unless you really do want the bottled kind. Be specific. Request a jug of tap water and there should be no confusion – and you’ll end up with a smaller bill to pay.
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