Friday, 09 June 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 9 June

A good restaurant will always listen to complaints, says Thomas Blaikie

Dear Thomas
I am in a real dilemma. I was eating at a very prestigious restaurant in London the other day, and was totally shocked and angered when a woman at the next table was served the exact same dish as me, but hers was considerably larger than mine!

This is not the first time this has happened to me or my friends. The restaurant was very expensive. I feel that if we are to pay the same price we should be given the same size portions, don’t you? My problem is, how do I deal with this situation?

I never said or did anything at the time, as I felt it would have been quite rude. However, I am jolly angry when I think back, and furious with myself for my lack of courage.

I would really appreciate your help as, although I lacked the nerve to complain, I still have the right to have the same size portions. I really don’t like discrimination in any form, and restaurants rely on people like me being reluctant to fuss.
Marcia Jenkins, West Sussex

Dear Marcia
Thank you for your illuminating letter. I thought at first that you were going to raise a slightly different aspect of the same subject – the common complaint from a particular group (i.e. women) that they have been given less to eat than the men. The writer Sybille Bedford, at a dinner in Kensington, aroused terrific female grievance re portion size on one occasion.

But, in your case, your ‘rival’, as it were, was another woman.

You are quite right: portions ought to be the same size. But I imagine it’s a rare occurrence for a restaurant to be caught out. When you say you lack the courage to complain, perhaps you feel anxious about casting a pall over the enjoyment of your dining companions. Also, if your plate is taken away, then you get out of sync with the others at your table. So it’s not really a matter of cowardice, but more your sensitivity to the niceties of the situation.

When we complain, we want to remain calm and pleasant – which is easier said than done. So another reason to shy away from the whole business. But, rest assured, in a good restaurant, you’ll be listened to. If you feel strongly enough about being short-changed, it makes sense to raise the matter straight away while the evidence is there before you. Anywhere decent will replace your dish at once.

The alternative is to wait until the bill comes. Once again, a superior establishment will not haggle but immediately offer a reduction. You could even delay further and phone the manager the next day to find out how the error could have occurred. How exactly are they controlling their portions? They should welcome the feedback and offer a refund.

Please send your questions to or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Plane announcements

Fair enough – the safety demonstration on aeroplanes is routine and there’s little risk that the procedures outlined in the event of an emergency will ever have to be put into operation. Or sadly, in a dire crisis, they will prove useless. But for years now it’s maddened me when passengers talk loudly as airline staff battle to do what they have to do before take-off. The intention often is to signal a certain grandeur: ‘I’m a frequent flier and above all this.’ So imagine my delight when flying up to Glasgow recently for a Scottish sojourn (marvellous stately home visits) at the following scene: the pre-recorded EasyJet safety announcement was preceded by a firm request that all passengers stop talking or using computers and listen.

When two people failed to comply, the announcement was halted and the request repeated. When that didn’t work, one of the attendants who was in the middle of demonstrating the life jacket stepped over to where the troublemakers were sitting and pressed the bell above their heads. The chief attendant then came up and had words with them. I heard her saying, ‘You may not want to listen, but other people do.’

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