Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eating Out

You might not have noticed, but I love food and I love to eat out.  I blame it on my upbringing.  Friday and Saturday evenings were always reserved for eating out - and I don't mean McDonald's or T.G.I.Friday's.  I mean really eating out.  Whether we had Thai, Japanese, Indian or Italian food, my parents always made it a point to take us out for nice meals where we dressed nicely, minded our manners, and ordered whatever we wanted.  I don't think I ever took that for granted, but as I went to college and became an adult, I quickly realised that not everyone had the same childhood experiences and that eating out was simply not as important or - and this is crucial - affordable to everyone.  So when I moved to London, I was pleased to discover table booking services such as Toptable where you can book tables online and take advantage of special offers or set menus at restaurants you'd not usually think twice about going into.  And because of the Current Economic Climate (or "the CEC," as I like to call it), no one cares if you've booked through Toptable.  Recently, I took John to Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill on Swallow Street for his birthday dinner.  It became pretty apparent as soon as I entered the fur-filled, Prada-clutching, Rolex-wearing room that I was the only one who had booked the "offer."  I sank low in my seat, waiting for John to arrive and listening with embarrassment to the table next to me ordering starters and mains worth more than the clothes on my back.  "Um, excuse me," I said to the waiter, handing him the menu.  "Um ... I booked through Toptable," I whispered.  "Toptable?  Of course, no problem," he said, whipping away the menu and presenting me with the set menu.  "Are you ordering from the set menu?" asked the sommelier.  "Would you like a carafe of red or white wine with your meal?"  By this time, John had arrived and wanted red, while I wanted white, however this was not a problem as the sommelier easily suggested we have smaller carafes of our own.  Lovely.  The food was exquisite but the experience even better - and it made me think, I wish there were more places like Toptable in the US (I know it's available in NYC) to make dining experiences like ours more accessible.  Everyone deserves to have a good meal out (Michelin-starred or not) once in a while and not have to pay an arm and a leg for it.

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