By ANNE DESBRISAY
“And how are our first bites this evening?” Just 30 seconds ago, our server had dropped two plates in front of us.
“Fine, thank you.”
We carry on our conversation.
Three minutes later, she’s back. “Does everything continue to be to your liking?”
Yes, “Thank you,” we say through gritted teeth.
“Excellent. I’ll tell the kitchen.” And off she goes.
Delivered shortly after the next course, my favourite line yet: “And how are our flavours suiting your palate?”— I kid you not. That’s what she said.
It took remarkable restraint not to shoot back: “Actually, dearie, the first bites, the fourth bites, and the eleventh bites are all fair to middling, if you truly want to hear it, though you may read all about it in next week’s column. But if my soup happens to be stone cold or the salad studded with earwigs, I’ll let you know. Otherwise, kindly LEAVE US ALONE.”
When did these maddening quality check rounds become de rigueur in restaurants?
You would think the constant querying smacks of gross insecurity. (Do you like me? And what about now… Do you like me still?) And while service style in modern restaurants tends to be approachable, casual, personal — none of which I have a problem with, nor do I have a problem with a server describing my dish, or asking if there’s anything else I might require before leaving me to tuck in — this constant servility seems faux. More self-seeking than genuine.
Except, may I tell you, at Le Baccara. There, at fine dining room of the Lac Leamy Casino, the disruptive bob-ins were noticeably absent, and the lack of them noted and appreciated.
I would suggest a server at Le Baccara wouldn’t think (a) to interrupt a conversation and an appreciation of the dish, and (b) that the plate that’s just been created and assembled for me would be anything other than marvellous. You might find that arrogant. I think it’s more likely confidence from the kitchen, which in turn generates confidence from the eater.
My Baccara server and server’s assistant dropped by my table many times, quietly pouring wine, refilling water, noticing the house churned butter had been gobbled up and delivering, without a word, another round. I was not left alone. And I could have — should I have felt the need — voiced a concern. (I didn’t. There were none.) But at a recent five-course menu degustation, I was not asked, not even once, how were my first bites. And yet the service was attentive and polished, thoughtful and kind.
Which begs the question: when did we start training servers to be so much a part of our meal? Can we please be rid of the constant lickspittle quality assurance check ups?
How’s my meal?
We’ll let you know… buzz off.