It's rather a passion of mine to indulge in good food. Not regularly, but enough to be able to savour delights from many of the nicer local establishments. I've also had the privilege of dining at a number of nice places in cities and countries which I believe bestows upon me, the right to envisage The Perfect Restaurant.
Now it must be remembered that a lot of restaurants are good, excellent in fact. However I've always felt a little let down by some minor intricacy where I'm left feeling wanting. It's almost not enough to just cook excellent food anymore.
Food & Menu
Although The Perfect Restaurant shouldn't focus solely on food, that's not to say that the menu isn't important. I hate menus with more than a single page. It's hard enough deciding what colour shirt to wear in the morning sometimes so having the choice of four mains makes life that little bit easier. The other advantage of a smaller menu is that the chefs will be able to cook those four dishes exceptionally rather than being able to cook fifty dishes adequately.
Having regular menu change though, wouldn't be undesirable. If it's going to be the place I want to regularly go, I don't want to keep having the same dish twice. Why stick with X when Y could be so much better?
A lot of the dining experience exists in the general ambience of the place; a theme is always good, especially when twinning the food and atmosphere. The music however, should not be too loud, nor too soft. Far too often I'll either only catch a waft of notes as I wander to my table - or - that'll be the only thing I hear for the duration of the meal. Ideally, each table would have directional speakers with an ability to control the volume for the leisure of those dining.
"Too loud? Let's just turn the volume down!"
Another thing that could be independent to each table is the ability to waiter-summon. I've seen a number of innovative methods of the waiter-summon. When I dined in Fogo de Chao they used coloured tabs to denote whether you desired attention or not. If the tile was green side up, a waiter would attend your table promptly. If the tile was red side up, the table was bypassed. Curb your Enthusiasm featured bells on tables as a summoner, perhaps a little obtrusive but the general point still stands. Perhaps even having a small switch near each chair similar to those used on aircraft. This would bring even more granularity in terms of which diner requires service.
Having a signal is the optimum method of obtaining service in a busy (or quiet) restaurant. Having repeated asks of "Are you ready to order yet?", not being able to attract attention or simply being ignored would be eradicated in one fell swoop! A coup for the awkward/polite diner and an efficiency tool for the overburdened server.
I'm a huge fan of the round table.
Seating too, is more important than a lot of places understand. Not only the comfort of the seat (firm but soothing), but both the orientation towards other diners and geographic location.
King Arthur had it right when he selected the round table for Camelot. As one who enjoys entering into the foray of animated dinner conversation with friends or colleagues, the absolute worst place I can possibly be is in a corner. I have an effective audience of about three people. This causes table fracture and disjointed conversation requiring double the time to tell stories and forcing some listening to do so twice. The round table prevents people being forced into the corner and allows any diner the conversation spotlight should they so desire it.
Airlocks, on Earth
Sitting next to the door on a cold night is for sure a sustenance ruiner. The food may be fantastic but if the draught is chilling me every time another patron enters or exits it does kill the mood rather. This is possibly on the higher end of alterations a restaurant could make but I'll say it anyway: airlocks. An antechamber that nulls airflow from the outdoors and warms said air would create a stable atmosphere indoors not ruined by the passage of an angsty Antarctic southerly.
It would also remove doorslam from the restaurant equation; one of the leading causes of my discomfort.
The star rating
Finally, because I don't want this to go on forever, the bathrooms are one of the most important, yet simultaneously underrated areas of the restaurant. Some of the best restaurants I've eaten in have had shoddy bathrooms which unfortunately removes a notch or two from my internal rating system. I shall use one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants, maze, as my benchmark for good bathroom practice.
- Dimly lit, candles and warm bulbs. The ambience of the restaurant continues.
- Paper towels for hands, hand driers may be environmentally friendly but the noise generated is aurally unfriendly.
- A selection of hand creams and lotions to make even the gruffest of men feel pretty.
- Excellent decoration. The bathrooms should not be an afterthought, but integrated into the overall design. Wood panelling on the outside well my cubicle better have that same effect.
It's a small internal game I play to rate the bathrooms of places. Points may be attained with scented candles and a man offering to spray cologne yet lost for cigarette burns on the porcelain. It's a dangerous game to go cheap on the smallest room.
I'd be interested to see if others share my opinions or have their own ideas on what would make The Perfect Restaurant. Comments are below!