Julie Bindel

Admit it, there’s nothing worse than restaurants at Christmas

Service and quality go up the chimney

  • From Spectator Life

We’ve all been there, dragged along to the office/company/feminist protest group/a cappella throat-singing-society Christmas meal out. The idea of sitting around a huge table eating bad food with a group of people who either bore you rigid or who you actively dislike doesn’t seem particularly appealing. Why will the food inevitably be terrible, wherever you go? Because ‘tis the season to be scamming – restaurants make a large share of their annual income around Christmas and New Year and the general idea is to part you from as much of your dosh as humanly possible while serving you food that would normally be rejected as staff gruel.

Not only will the food be left over from the day before, it will have been jazzed up with the vile flavours of cinnamon and clove

The restaurant will pack in as many punters as possible, resulting in terrible service by bad-tempered staff. You will be seated so close together that unintended pregnancies are an inevitability. As the warm white wine flows, bowls of food to share (such as houmous with the consistency of tile grout) are passed around as you cringe at the double-dipping done by hands of unknown hygiene.

Before someone sets fire to a coffee bean along with several of their fingers on top of a glass of sambuca there is the torment of pulling crackers and pretending to find it amusing that Nigel from accounts is wearing a pink party hat.

As a freelance journalist, who thankfully doesn’t work in an office or with a team, I’m perfectly happy to have my own party at home featuring a couple of negronis and a takeaway curry. In order for it to feel authentic, as I get more wasted, I will make an inappropriate pass at myself and subsequently get reported to human resources.

Why then, if I am not forced to partake in an office party (on account of not working in an office) do I care about such displays of sub-human behaviour and the terrible food crimes committed, even by the best restaurants, on such occasions? Because of late, they seem to begin in early November.

Try and get a booking for six anytime in the build-up to Christmas and you will see what I mean. Even if you and your friends do manage it, you will be subject to the same treatment those poor office workers are forced to endure. Not only will the food be left over from the day before, it will have been jazzed up with the vile flavours of cinnamon and clove. There will be a sprig of holly in the dessert, consisting of variations on the theme of Christmas pudding and mince pies – both vile concoctions that should be assigned to purgatory.

Turkey, which should only be used in dog food, will appear on every menu. It will be tandooried in the Taj Mahal, added to risotto in Mama Mia’s and baked with cream in Pierre’s Bistro. And as for cranberry sauce, some poncy TV chef type will do it three ways – sous vide, aerated and chargrilled.

Restaurants have every right to make a whacking profit out of the festive season but can they actually up their game a bit and stop serving the most grotesque variation on an already grim line in food and drink? Does anyone actually like Baileys? Who would order an eggnog latte if it were not forced on them? I would arrest any restaurateur who subjects staff to Christmas music on a loop – let alone paying customers. But the truly terrible Christmas food crime this year is one I doubt we will ever see in restaurants. The recent invention of the mince pie flavoured crisp. I’d rather eat brandy butter on Brussels sprouts and I am certain that, somewhere in London, there is a restaurant serving it.