The Restaurant Aperitif Experience
Order an aperitif and see how they respond. It'll tell you almost everything you need to know about the restaurant.
There have been restaurants where the waiter has shown us to our table, handed us a menu and walked away before we could speak. This tells me they're not expecting us to take our time here. They'll come back to take our order, but any drinks we order then will arrive with the starter. Best order a mid-price bottle of white wine and clear off as quickly as every other diner. They're not ready for customers who will lazily make their way through a meal, relishing every taste and texture, so the food is unlikely to stand up to much consideration.
Perhaps the waiter is clued-up enough to offer you a drink, but it doesn't arrive before they return to take your food order. You won't be as pressed here, but it'll be a bit functional. They see your aperitif as a means to fill the time it takes to peruse the menu and choose your dinner. They're not understanding your aperitif on a psychological level - a means to relax and get in the mood for a beautiful meal. I'd wonder what else they see as functional and whether they have sufficient self-belief to succeed in the difficult world of hospitality.
Two restaurants I've eaten in stand out for the quality of their aperitif offer, and I'm going to name and celebrate them. They're very different restaurants in style and geography but they shared a single assumption: that one would want to relax and chat over a drink before being shown to table.
|Photo courtesy of The White Peacock
|Our aperitif at The Black Swan at Oldstead
The aperitif experience at The White Peacock was all about the quality and warmth of the welcome. Everything about it, from the friendly chat at the door to only being given the food menu when the cocktails arrived, spoke of being made to feel at home. There would be no rush; nothing would be too much trouble; they were pleased we had come. At The Black Swan, the aperitif spoke of care and peace - a moment of reflection at the end of a long drive and the beginning of a very special occasion. Both experiences told us the meal that followed would be worth our time and expense.
|The super front-of-house team at the White Peacock
I shouldn't have to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant to be well furnished with an aperitif. All it takes is for restaurants to assume, just like those I've named do, that customers want to sit and relax over a drink while they prepare for a great dinner. With care, the aperitif becomes part of that great dinner and encourages diners to linger, enjoy and - importantly - spend.
Links: www.the-white-peacock.co.uk and www.blackswanoldstead.co.uk
Thank you to both establishments.
Next time: home-made aperitif drinks