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London restaurants’ biggest mistakes of 2018: Zalto wineglasses Zalto [Official Photo]

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2018’s Most Egregious Dining Grievances

Wine glass inequality, risible service catchphrases, institutional blindspots, and more

It is the tradition at Eater to end the year with a survey of friends, contributors, rovers of the industry, critics, and professional eaters. This year, the group were asked eight questions, spanning meal of the year to biggest dining grievance. Their answers will appear throughout this week. Responses are related in no particular order; cut and pasted below. Restaurant standbys and dining newcomers; 2018 in a word and a city in neighbourhoods; food-related shocks and surprises — they’ve all been done. Now, it’s the bad stuff, the annoyances, irksome moments and infuriating outings: these are the biggest dining grievances of 2018.


Adam Coghlan, Editor, Eater London: Zalto wine glasses acting as an indicator of wealth.

Soho not being able to keep a restaurant / wine bar like Fernandez and Wells.

A general lack of understanding of what’s good and bad.

James Hansen, Assistant Editor, Eater London: The industry’s continued refusal to acknowledge, let alone better, structural inequality.

British libel laws making it easier for restaurant bad actors to stay in the limelight.

Unequal wine pours.

The obstinance of the set down plate; set down dolls’ house side on dolls’ house plate; pour teensy quantity of sauce from teensy jug model of plating in Michelin-adjacent/bothering/starred restaurants.

A restaurant awarded a star for its “consistent” excellence being rendered 5/10 by 1 (one) chef being absent.

Restaurants serving dishes heavy on superb broths, sauces, reductions, and the like, but not offering either a spoon or a carb to enjoy them with.

A general lack of understanding of what’s good and bad.

Anna Sulan Masing, food writer and Eater London contributor: Sullen service - made to feel like you don’t belong somewhere — St Leonards’ bar is a classic example.

Or, the prevalence of racism in the dining world, which some in the industry refused to properly address.

Jonathan Nunn, food writer and Eater London contributor: The marketing of “new” London dining experiences when they’ve been available in Zone 4 for the last couple decades.

Spending £200 on a meal where the best bit was the bread.

That I couldn’t find anywhere in London that sells rag pie or saveloy dip.

The proliferation of automated McDonalds ordering, meaning double cheeseburgers are made fresh and the meat and cheese don’t have time to sit on the heated counter fusing together. This is legit the most serious UK wide issue that is going on in food right now.

Having the song stuck in my head any time anyone mentions Jolene.

Sejal Sukhadwala, food writer and Eater London contributor: Nightmare booking systems. Restaurant ‘sittings’.

Queues.

Lack of imaginative vegetarian options.

Dishes marked ‘vegetarian’ that nonetheless contain parmesan (it’s made with animal rennet), chicken stock, gelatine, fish sauce etc.

Restaurants neglecting vegetarian diners in favour of trendier vegans — note that not all of us want nut milks and fake cheeses!

Emma Hughes, freelance food writer and Eater London contributor: “We’ll need the table back in 90 minutes – is that ok?”

George Reynolds, food writer and Eater London contributor: Minor grievances: restaurants giving customers clunky inelegant glassware and only upgrading them to the baller Zalto stuff when they order crazy-expensive wine; the growing prevalence of “burrata plus x” dishes (+ tomatoes, + seasonal greens, +hazelnuts, +etc); the stealthy winnowing of carbohydrates from the menus of hip new openings. It probably isn’t intended to stop people filling up so they spend more money on prime protein, but it sure looks that way.

Major grievance: our cultural inability to look beyond a single type of anything. All sandwiches must be katsu sandos! All ramen must be tonkotsu! All pasta must be what Italians derisively refer to as all’inglese, perhaps with a bit of truffle grated on top! All wine must be natural, all plates must be shared, all bread must be sourdough and all crockery damn well better be hand-turned ceramic in neutral earth tone. I liked a lot of things about Nicholas Balfe’s new place Levan, in Peckham, but what I found most refreshing was the ease with which it moved between different influences — the bread was even baguette! — whilst still retaining a distinctive identity of its own. There’s a whole world of variety out there – isn’t it time we explored more of it?

Shekha Vyas, food writer and Eater London contributor: It will always be massive queues!

Helen Graves, food writer at Food Stories and Eater London contributor: I still have a lot of beef with the way wine is sold in restaurants. I don’t think we’ve found the right balance between stuffy and too cool for school.

MiMi Aye, food writer, cookbook author, and Eater London contributor: The Som Saa shitshow. And that so very many people seemed to think that the grievance was about authenticity, when it was about racism.

Zeren Wilson, food writer at Bitten and Written and Eater London contributor: Too many good openings, too many old favourites, too little time...

Daisy Meager, food writer and Eater London contributor: Menus that need explaining and places that still don’t grasp the basics of hospitality.

Angela Hui, food writer and Eater London contributor: Waiters need to stop asking me how my meal is when I’ve just taken my first mouthful and especially when my gob’s full of food. Every. Damn. Time.

Leila Latif, Eater London contributor: Burrata on pizza.

That newspapers seem to view restaurant critics like supreme court justices, appointed for life no matter how tedious they become & poorly they behave.

The dessert shortage at Market Hall Victoria.

The bizarre Star Trek meets Gilead shirts all women working at Hide have to wear.

som saa

43A Commercial Street, , England E1 6BD 020 7324 7790 Visit Website

Market Hall Victoria

191 Victoria Street, , England SW1E 5NE Visit Website

Levan

12-16 Blenheim Grove, , England SE15 4QL 020 7732 2256 Visit Website

HIDE

85 Piccadilly, , England W1J 7NB 020 3146 8666 Visit Website

St Leonards

70 Leonard Street, , England EC2A 4QX 020 7739 1291 Visit Website

Jolene

54 Great Jones Street, Manhattan, NY 10012 (646) 429-8383 Visit Website

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