Sunday, September 27, 2009

On Dining Out - Australian Style

It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you
© Lesley Gore, It's My Party

At Watson's Wine Bar and Restaurant
Another community service announcement

Not all Australian dinner parties take place at the host's home. It is quite common to host a party in a restaurant. Indeed, if we are to believe film director Scott Murden, it may be safer to host your Australian dinner party in a public place.

"You'll be DYING for an invitation" is the tag-line of Scott Murden's new film, The Dinner Party. Released earlier this year, "The Dinner Party" is the story of a hostess who plans to kill her boyfriend - and the guests fail to warn him. Murden denies that the film was based on the Joe Cinque Case (an actual case where a dinner party was organized in Canberra for the express purpose of killing a guest). Mr. Murden explained in an ABC interview last May, that HIS film is based on a "number of events".

Gee, thanks Mr. Murden - that puts my mind at rest!

But back to the etiquette of Australian dining - dining OUT.

A Party Animal
Australians love dining out. They especially like dining out in large groups, where they can be assured there'll be a range of opinions only one of which will be correct.

If planning a dinner party at a restaurant, I recommend organizing a prix fix menu beforehand. If you go for à la carte, when the time comes to pay the bill (check U.S.A.), you will be greeted with cries of, "but I didn't have the garlic bread" and "I gave my soup to Kylie!" As the host, you will be obliged to make up any shortfall, which can make it a rather expensive night out.

In any case, when the bill arrives, even with a fixed price dinner, there'll be cries of, "Oh how can THAT be!" and "Did we really eat that much? Why should we pay for corkage, I opened the wine with my teeth."

Amidst the cries of "My boyfriend is on the dole (welfare U.S.A.), so please don't make him pay" and "My ATM card isn't working and I have no cash", you'll see those colorful Australian bank notes flying through the air, willy-nilly. It's impossible to see who put what in the kitty, so cop it sweet. Put up or shut up, is the best I can say.

We Australians are a democratic and egalitarian lot. Waiters are people too. WE don't get tips where WE work, so why should they? In any case, tipping only encourages the NASTY CAPITALIST restaurant owners to pay low wages, and should NOT therefore be encouraged. If you DO believe in tipping, you will have to put that bit in yourself, but don't worry, it isn't like in America where you double the tax. Just round up to the nearest dollar.

The Party's Over
As well as the boyfriend-on-the-dole and the person-with-no-magnetic-strip on her ATM card, there's the blow-in-blow-out guest. Such guests turn up about one hour late and say they can't stay but wanted to drop by to say hello.

When this happens, everyone shuffles their chair closer to that of their neighbor's to make room, and the blow-in-blow-out guest drags a chair to the table. He or she will order "just one course if you insist" (we didn't). Most Australian restaurants are BYO so not having intended to stay, blow-in-blow-out won't have brought any wine. "Just a smidgen," he/she will say, filling a large red-wine glass to the brim. The GOOD THING is that blow-in-blow-out will not stay long. And if you really DO want him to leave, just ask for the bill ...

Although you might think that your worries are over when the last guest has left - there's always the post mortem. This normally occurs round-robin style by phone late the next morning. Someone will have mis-behaved and the mis-behavior will be discussed ad nauseum. This will cause you to have a head-ache after your phone is finally put down to rest. Drink as much as you like the night before - you'll have a headache either way, the next day.

Tips for hosting your dinner party at a restaurant
  • Do NOT choose your favorite restaurant for the venue; you'll not be going back.
  • Try to invite only guests whose partners have jobs
  • Tell the waiter beforehand that no one will eat the garlic bread so not to offer it
  • Do not use the restroom while the money is being collected and the notes are flying in the air; people are more likely to cough up if they think they are being WATCHED
  • (Applicable to women only) Beware the post mortem. All successful parties have them. Get in first then you're more likely to come out of it lightly, as by the time your round is due, they'll all be too tired to say much.

And above all,



Anonymous said...

Now I really know why I don't live in Oz. I'm too cheap to put up with that kind of behaviour. Maybe it's the frontier spirit that has lasted far too long. I've always thought that was the reason Australian guests overstayed their welcome. After all, they have to cross several rivers, parched deserts and fight of the bushrangers just to get home. So, they stay, and they stay, and they stay.
Starve 'em out I say. Cut off the booze. Whatever.
Good going, Kate. I'm forwarding your site to a number of interested parties. Ya gotta put this in a collection of short stories.

tim said...

Over the years I have noticed a pattern to the approach taken when the bill (check) money is being collected.
The poorer guests tend to offer a little too much "just to be safe" (morally)
The wealthier guests tend to offer not quite enough "just to be safe"(financially)
I'm sure this syndrome is alive and well in the "land of the round doorknob" too. In his autobiography Woody Guthrie advised that if you needed to bum a meal you had a much better chance knocking on the cheap pine door of a hovel than pressing the bell outside a mansion.
Keep up the good work sis!

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