Adam Liaw's respectful request for the return of house wine (and other affordable restaurant drink options)

Adam Liaw
Restaurants, we, the dining public, would love to repay you tenfold. Photo taken pre-pandemic.
Restaurants, we, the dining public, would love to repay you tenfold. Photo taken pre-pandemic.  Photo: Visit Victoria

COMMENT

Firstly, I'd like to say a big thank you to all of our restaurants in Australia. You bore the brunt of the restrictions we needed to keep us safe. You pivoted, adapted and re-invented yourselves to stay alive. You did it harder than just about any industry in the country, and you kept cooking long after many of us at home gave up.

A house wine suits the restaurants purposes and the diners, too, says Adam.
A house wine suits the restaurants purposes and the diners, too, says Adam.  Photo: Supplied

My hat goes off to you, and as we're emerging from our lockdowns I hope we, the dining public, can repay you tenfold. The drinks – as they say – are on us.

But while I'm on the topic I have just a few teensy tiny suggestions – respectful requests, really – that I'd love to see regarding those drinks I mentioned…

House wine

I get that restaurants count on alcohol sales for a significant proportion of their income.

Speaking from a diner's perspective, I'd love an option on your menu that acknowledges that quite a lot of us like wine, but also the reality that when we're perusing your wine list, we're actually just staring at it blankly looking for anything we might vaguely recognise that is also vaguely affordable.

A house wine suits your purposes and ours, too. You get to sell more wine at presumably a higher margin. We get wine that is likely to do exactly what we want it to do: taste nice, work with the food you serve, and not be too expensive.

It doesn't have to be just red and white like it was in the '90s, either. You could offer as many varieties as you like. A full-bodied house red, a lighter one, a heavy and buttery house white, a clean and dry house sparkling wine, a fresh house rosé… Break it down by varietal if it's not a blend. It's really your call.

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Consider it an extension of your restaurant's brand. You get to have a cool, affordable set of wines that no other restaurant has, and we get to drink it! Get yourself some fancy looking carafes (and some half-carafes while you're at it) and let's do this together!

A cold, well-poured tap beer is a special kind of pleasure that would brighten the day of many diners.

A cold, well-poured tap beer is a special kind of pleasure that would brighten the day of many diners. Photo: Supplied

Beer on tap

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person in Australia who likes to sit down at a restaurant at the end of a long day and start with a refreshing beer.

It's as much a ritual as it is a beverage, but if the best your restaurant is offering me is the same bottle or can of beer I have in my fridge at home at double the price… well, I'll still order it but I probably won't be impressed by it.

This is Australia. If sommeliers have had to learn about sake along with their European wine regions, it shouldn't be much of a cognitive stretch to realise that blowing the proverbial froth off a cold, well-poured tap beer is a special kind of pleasure most of us don't have access to at home, and one that will immediately brighten the day of many of your diners.

I get that you want to set yourselves apart from a trip to the local pub, but is the best way to do that to serve beer that is not quite as enjoyable as at the local pub?

Could restaurant cocktails come a little cheaper?

Could restaurant cocktails come a little cheaper? Photo: Justin McManus

Cocktails that are cheaper than an entree

For those who prefer to start with a cocktail before a meal, more power to them. A little aperitif has been a dining fixture across Europe for centuries. It's just I'm not sure they ever planned for it to cost more than the meal itself.

I don't mean to diminish the role of the bartender here, but mixing one (1) spirit with a mixer is barely cocktail territory and I feel the price could reflect that.

And similarly, a waiter casually upselling a round of six $24 cocktails before we've even seen a menu doesn't exactly feel like hospitality when you're in the chair and ultimately paying the bill.

My personal preference for an aperitif is on the simple and dry side, but there's no denying that increasingly elaborate, sweet and Instagrammable pre-dinner cocktails have become a part of the Australian dining economy. There's just something about how that is structured that leaves a bad taste in the mouth even before the meal has started, which I imagine would be the opposite of the purpose of the aperitif in the first place.

As I said before, my dearest restaurants, these really are just respectful requests. Regardless of whether these come to fruition or not, I can't wait to get into your chairs, and raise a glass to your return to normality and your success long into the future.

Cheers!