Where do you stand on tipping? I go through this confidence crisis whenever I go from the States, where it’s completely out of hand, to France, where I think it’s fairly orderly and sensible (except I hate paying to use public loos.) The UK is somewhere between the two, so you never know where you are. I think a tip is for a service above the normal call of duty and not for someone doing the job he’s paid for. Why should I pay the wages of restaurant staff, hotel flunkies, taxi-door openers and room cleaners? It seems demeaning for both tipper and tippee - no one ever gave me a tip.
I muse on this after a dinner in a pub in Newbury. Tipping-wise, pub eating presents special problems because they’re not restaurants and they’re not MacDonald’s. You do go up to the bar, you order and pay for your food, you collect your drinks and you take them to the table that you have selected. The only element of ‘service’ is when some youngster on the statutory minimum wage comes out and says, ‘Lamb chops?’ You say ‘Here’, and he or she plonks them down in front of you. It’s nice and casual, and infinitely better than some poncey restaurant. But tipworthy? In my book, only if he or she takes your wet coat and hangs it up, or finds you some freshly-made Sauce Bearnaise or puts your grandchild in a high chair.
But to Newbury: we called into a pub called The Swan on our way home from Tesco’s (that’s a possessive – short for Tesco’s supermarket). The manager, an Aussie, is clearly trying to ponce it up into a ‘restaurant’ – but it’s a pub. Usual procedure: belly up to bar, order and pay for wine and food, carry wine, glasses, condiments, napkins and cutlery to table, wait for food. And wait. Eventually girl delivers a plate of food and we eat. The food is quite good.
As we’re walking to the car, I realise I didn’t leave anything for the ‘waitress’. I ask spouse if she left anything. She says not. I was hesitating, wondering if I should go back and leave some token payment, when the pub door opens, a distinctly Aussie voice shouts – no, screams – ‘Fucking freaks!’, and the door slams shut.
Thus not only did this plonker ensure that we would never go near his pub again, but he prevented his girl from getting a tip – and he got himself blogged. Not bad for two words.
We had the last lunch of the year at Le Carpaccio on Villefranche port, sun glinting off the water - loup grillée fresh from the Med, service unfussy but impeccable – and included. How could you not leave a tip?
Happy old year folks and thanks for reading - and good blogging in 2007.