There are few industries more prone to me-too trend following than restaurants. And sometimes, eagerly following the trend leads to the trend becoming rather tiresome. So, restaurateurs, it's probably time to ease off on this little lot…
The curse of Michelin has a lot to answer for, and a lot of restaurateurs seem convinced that the only way they can prove they're serious players is to force guests to sit through multiple tiny courses over a period of hours and hours and hours. As a novelty, such degustation/ tasting menus are great – maybe for a special treat once every two years – but surely no-one really wishes to dine like this on a regular basis?
There's nothing inherently wrong about the sharing plate concept. The problem is when every new restaurant adopts it and – particularly as a solo traveller – you can't find anywhere that just serves a normal main course. The main issue, though, is pricing. The standard seems to be charging 2/3rds of a main for something half the size of a main, or full price for something 2/3s the size. There's a fairly obvious reason why the concept is popular with restaurant owners.
Slates/ chopping boards
Just serve it on a plate. Photo: Alamy
Just serve it on a plate, dammit. And the same goes for drinks in Mason jars.
Nose to tail dining
The sustainability principles of using every bit of the pig or cow are admirable. And fair play to the chef if he or she can make offal taste palatable. But if the magic recipe can do wonders with the bits that'd normally be thrown away, surely anyone paying good money to eat out would prefer to try it with the good cuts of meat. Basically, if charging sandwich-esque prices for innard-based dishes, fair enough. But nobody wants to be shelling out $30 or $40 for this.
Again, concentrating on local produce is admirable. But every now and then, it'd be great to see a menu that admits the peaches/ lamb/ cheese in these parts is a bit ropey, so they've proudly got the better stuff from further afield.
No restaurant is worth queueing for. No, not even that one you really like. There's another perfectly good one down the road. While the pretence behind a policy of not taking bookings is that it's egalitarian, it's really just a weapons grade piece of "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen". Let people have the security of knowing they can get a table at a certain time for heaven's sake – you can always keep some seats free for walk-ins if you want to.
Unless at the very cheapo end of the scale, cash-only restaurants come from the same place as the no bookings lot – they're trying to add an extra layer of cool by making things needlessly difficult for the diner. If you're genuinely that worried about the relatively tiny credit card processing fee on a meal that's costing someone a big chunk of a week's pay cheque, then you're probably in the wrong business. An exception is granted here for those cash-only restaurants doing it for tax evasion purposes – that's wrong for a whole other set of reasons.
Not another "street food" restaurant Photo: Alamy
At one point, 'street food' had a distinctive meaning – simple dishes that are often whipped up from a cart on the street in various parts of the world. Now it's just plastered over everything, with very little relevance to whether the menus could actually be served up on the street, because it has got some marketing cachet. Oh, and the block probably doesn't need a fourth burrito joint.
Eating at the bar
Sometimes, eating at the bar is just the ticket. If you're not planning to stay long, and maybe fancy chatting to whoever's next to you/ the bartender, then great. The problem is when you turn up solo, and you're automatically ushered towards the bar seats as if you're simply not worthy of one of the precious tables…
High concept menus
When the menu is broken down into cutesy/ sassy subheadings, but you haven't really got a clue what any of them means, or what sort of size the dishes are, something has gone wrong. The experience shouldn't have to start with wait staff asking whether you've dined here before and understand the concept. No-one really wants to be told "how it works" in a restaurant.
See also: Ten endangered species you shouldn't eat