A wise attitude. Restaurants with this kind of requirement are usually hot destination restaurants. Places where you are more interested in what they are doing, their culinary vision, fireworks/surprises. This kind of food exploration is diametrically opposite of dining as a relaxed, evening out. Occasionally these qualities overlap, but it sure isn’t a given.
With this excellent description of your dining preferences, I do understand your frustration with this evening. To be honest, I have never dined in a restaurant that allows the flexibility you propose. Possibly the difference between suburban and city restaurants. Whether NY’s Le Coucou or Paris’ ERH or SF’s State Bird, it really has become “their way or the highway”. The big deal is whether the diner knows in advance what he should expect so that he can make the good choice of dining room.
I find its the mid-range places in the city that say they have time limits. It’s not going to fly in the high end Michelin starred place, not is it going to fly in the cosy neighbourhood bistro.
Personally, I don’t mind them setting a limit. If they can serve me three courses followed by coffee without me feeling I’m being unduly rushed, then I’m fine. Rush me and I’m simply not coming back. All that said, I cannot recall ever overhearing a conversation suggesting that a customer had reached their time limit - so perhaps it’s one of those rules that isnt really a rule at all.
We ate at a restaurant in Paris last year that pursued these rules to a vengeance, in that reservations were only accepted for the start of the alloted time periods. Our reservation was for 9:15 pm. Our table was not yet free, nor were several others. So we and the other diners were forced to wait on the street. They did not have a bar or any other seating area. I do not criticize the restaurant for not hurrying the diners who had not yet finished their evening. I do criticize them for having such a wretched reservation system.
To be honest, several of our now regular monthly restaurants initially asked us to order everything up front. However, once they got to know us, and realize that we order our entrees in a timely manner, and don’t abuse the privilege, they have made an exception for us going forward. It also doesn’t hurt that we dine at a very early hour as to not inconvenience the restaurant by causing them to get backed up during a busier time. It’s also nice to dine early when it is more civilized, and you are not rushed, and we can sit next to each other at a larger 4 top, and not feel cramped. I usually bring my own wine and wine glasses so we need the extra space to put all of the bags We also get to catch up with our favorite servers and talk to the chef / owner when they are not overwhelmed.
Unlike @paryzer, I seldom go back to the same restaurant to become a regular, I just can’t, Paris has so many interesting restaurants I want to try. I don’t work in an office, so I have no lunch places that I can be a regular either.
I do have my fair share of restricted reservations, it seems this is more popular some years ago than now. Many restaurants that did that system ditch that after reaching a certain popularity and raise their price and you can sit as long as you want. My last meal with a time frame was a Michelin 1* place. Initially, I had reserved. Problem I had a medical appointment just next to this place, and I wasn’t sure when I could leave the clinic, I just cancelled the appointment half an hour before the reserved time. I popped up at the restaurant at the time I had reserved without the appointment, they told me that I could have my lunch there, but only for 55 minutes. Since I was alone, it was fine, I really want to try their “bargain” lunch tasting menu. They seated me promptly, dishes were brought out in an evenly pace. It was more a challenge for them than mine, as there were many tiny dishes. I finished the meal 5 minutes before my allotted time ended. They thanked me again politely when I paid the bill for the “help”. You can read it here:
Many I know, they have a 2 hour slot, which makes things more comfortable.
Although many years ago, I reserved a place for a dinner for several with a limited time slot in Paris 14e or 15e, it was a young chef that has worked for Frédéric Anton, but I forgot the name of the restaurant, it was a new hot place. I had a meal some months before, and found the place really interesting. It was a dinner for 4, one friend had trouble arriving on time, we had to wait half an hour to order together since she needed to find a baby sitter or something like that. The waiters put a lot of pressure in emphasising that we need to leave at a certain time etc. I remember the meal was very rush, with the bill arrived on the table without our asking. A bit tactless, I would say, but we got the message, we paid and never went back and the restaurant vanished a year or 2 later.
After this meal, I understand if dining with friends, it’s better to choose a relaxed place rather than too “foodie” oriented.
This. If your intention is to spend a long evening socializing, choose a place that’s conducive to that, rather than one where food is the primary focus.
This is why a lot of New York restaurants won’t seat you 'til your party is complete.
90 minutes is usually not an issue if it’s just me and my husband. But, I would rather not be told I had a 90 minute time limit. In one instance my husband and I had a 6pm res at a local French place. The owner gave us a nice corner 4 top and asked if we could be out by 7:30 in time for the table reservation.
Recently a very wise fellow HO member told me that “you try a restaurant for the cooking, and you return for the hospitality. That said, in life you have one chance to make a first impression, so choose accordingly.”
I think that perfectly sums it up.
This should be a mutual understanding between the patrons and the establishment. If the restaurant chooses to have a 90 minute window for a table of 2 or 4 so they can appropriate turn the tables for several seatings, and the diners are required to order apps and mains at the same time, then the establishment should damn well make sure the mains are being served at an appropriate time after the apps (i.e., not within a few minutes after finishing the apps). Ninety minutes is an appropriate time to enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, have an app, the main, and dessert or coffee. If the kitchen fucks up and the main is delayed, the patrons should not be penalized for now having a shorter time frame in which to enjoy the rest of their meal.
But if the apps and mains are being shot out to the tables as if they were on the sped-up conveyor belt from the famous “I Love Lucy” candy factory conveyor belt, then the restaurant is wholly in the wrong and needs to retrain staff - both FOH and BOH.
I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere but, in the UK, it would be most odd to do other than this. At any level of dining, it’s customary to order both together. The only time I recall seeing a follow-up order (other than desserts) has been in “small plates” places where folk might well order mezze/tapas and then, later, order some more
I don’t disagree with you, Harters. But I guess I’m looking at it if a couple would like to have an appetizer while they continue to look at the menu for their main, unless it completely throws off the kitchen, why not?
While it doesn’t happen a lot, I’ve been at places where a group knows what apps they want, but still aren’t sure about the mains, and the staff serving them will say “I’ll put in your apps, and check later to take your order for the mains.” But I do understand that it can throw off the kitchen’s rhythm ordering that way.
It’s standard to order both at the same time, although if you’re dining with a large-ish group, you may be asked whether you want to “start off with some appetizers,” which I’ve always thought was a way for the restaurant to get the meal started while everyone’s mostly hanging out and chatting and not even looking at the menu.
On my first visit to Burger & Lobster, I was pressured to put my drink and food order in simultaneously, and the food arrived before the drink. On a subsequent visit, I refused to order food 'til I got my drink, which pissed off the server, but better him than me.
We have visited many rooms where you are requested to order dessert along with starter and main. And a few where special desserts NEED to be requested early on because of advance cooking requirements, but that is a different horse.
Ordering a dessert, if specially made and needs advance notice/cooking/baking - that I understand. But how am I to know if I want dessert until after I finish my app/main? If I’m too full, I wouldn’t want dessert…but am forced to pay for something that would, in all likelihood, go uneaten.
That would piss me off big time. I recall it happening once, maybe twice. Made me wonder just how the kitchen managed to prep the starter before front of house can bring a drink.
I can’t recall a single time when that’s happened to me (maybe during Restaurant Week?). At the start of a meal, I don’t even know if I want dessert at all.
Unfortunately I have been burned too many times, when I order the main course and appetizer at the same time. No matter how many times the server assures me don’t worry it will be paced accordingly, invariably the main comes within minutes of us finishing our appetizers. Also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes I like to order several appetizers because those tend to be the most creative dishes, and show off the chef’s best work. There are some restaurants that we go to where we would only order like 5 or 6 appetizers instead of a main course because those dishes are more interesting than any of the main courses. In those cases I don’t know how full I will be after finishing the appetizers (although we usually just have a taste and take the leftovers home, unless it is really good ). In those cases I might initially want a heavy meat dish but then be too full and want to switch to a lighter seafood dish. If I ordered everything up front it would be too late to change my order since they would be firing it up while I’m eating my appetizer.