10 things restaurants need to stop doing in 2018

Please don't offer house-baked bread like it's complimentary, then whack it on the bill.
Please don't offer house-baked bread like it's complimentary, then whack it on the bill. Photo: Stefan Postles


Truffle oil. Cheese served on slate. Tartare served without the proper amount of toast. There are some restaurant irritations that will never disappear. It doesn't matter how many people vehemently hate it, posh waitstaff will always lay napkins on laps. No matter how many food critics whinge about the dark art of deconstructed desserts, sweets are still served where panna has never touched cotta; where cheese has never met cake.

I've given up complaining about waiters correcting my pronunciation of Montepulciano, and surrendered to the maelstrom of mandolined radish but, for some issues, it's not too late. Now is the time for the following nonsense to end.

Handing the wine list to the bloke

Less common than it was 10 years ago, but still a thing. Waitstaff in regional restaurants are very good at it. Just place the wine list in the middle of the table or ask who would most like to have a squiz at it. This is not difficult.

Describing a menu as "produce-driven"

Restaurant mind games: Serving an uneven number of snacks.
Restaurant mind games: Serving an uneven number of snacks. Photo: Daniel Pockett

See also: "seasonally inspired" and "locally sourced". When The SMH Good Food Guide 1985-86 included cuisine categories such as "Anglo-Saxon", "International" and "Eclectic" (true), these terms might have meant something. In 2018, they ring hollow. Why not tell us something useful about the food instead? Something like "bottom-line driven" or "inspired by the popularity of Belles Hot Chicken"?

Cultural misappropriation

That is: white people opening restaurants and using murals of dead American rappers to flog fried chicken. Or naming a bar in Surry Hills after a "famous Shanghai call-girl" and posting "MEE-so hungry MEE-goreng" on your Instagram account. This rubbish wasn't OK when Kingswood Country was on the telly and it sure as hell isn't acceptable now.


Sticking TripAdvisor reviews in the window

If someone can't spell "butterscotch" correctly, you probably shouldn't draw attention to their review of your pudding.

Serving terrine straight from the fridge

Bring that pistachio-spiked tranche to room temperature before placing on the table, please. No one wants to pay $18 for slab of stone-cold, fancy meatloaf. We've been through this.

Confirming my booking with a phone call

Look, I have a lot of unpaid parking fines and will assume any call from an unknown number is the State Debt Recovery Office and won't answer it. I'll have to check my voicemail and phone the restaurant back, wasting 15 seconds of my day as a very important food writer. Send a text. We have the technology.

Placing anything on a cheese board that isn't cheese

Dried apricots, old walnuts, shrivelled muscatels and figs on the turn. None of these have any place on a cheese board when a customer is spending $15 to explore the nutty sweet nuances of comte. A few crackers on the side, please, and oatcakes if they're going. Maybe a splash of vin jaune, too.

Hiding the cost of bread

I'm more than happy to pay for great house-baked sourdough, but please don't offer bread like it's complimentary and whack it on the bill at $8. Explaining if there's difference between still and tap water would also be nice. I don't know anyone who wants to drop 20 clams on a flagon of Mount Franklin's finest.

Serving an uneven number of snacks

There are four of us sharing snacks, so why have you sent out five slices of prawn toast? Everyone loves prawn toast. You know this, so what are you doing? What mind games are you playing here?

Playing dodgy music on a one-hour loop

I once heard Seal's Kiss by a Rose three times during one dinner. It was an incredible effort. In the age of Spotify, pay a business license fee to stream music and fire that Lighthouse Family record into the sun.

The national Good Food Guide 2018, in partnership with Citi and Vittoria, is available from newsagencies, bookstores and via thestore.com.au/goodfood, RRP $29.99.