I HAVE dined in many hotel restaurants as part of my job as a hotel reviewer, and I have become accustomed to being seated next to inconsiderately noisy diners.
It’s just the (bad) luck of the draw.
On a recent visit to a hotel in the north of England – which I will not name as it is no reflection on the hotel (bad luck of the draw for them, as well) – I came across the rudest fellow diner I have had the misfortune to sit within earshot of.
He had a broad Lancastrian accent, a crew cut, a pot belly and a flushed red face. He was with his wife (or partner). They appeared to be “celebrating” some sort of anniversary or special occasion.
Here is how it went:
“Is this fooking good enough for you?” the Lancastrian asks his wife/partner.
Wife/partner: inaudible whisper.
They are in a fantastic spot, with a view across the countryside, in a room with crystal chandeliers, gilded mirrors and white table clothes with candles. They regard the menu for a short while.
Raised voice, coming out of the blue: “Do you want me to dance on the fooking table and say I love you?”
W/P: inaudible whisper.
“Well fooking ‘ell … Fooking …”
Voice of man trails off, muttering.
Waiter arrives to take their order.
“I’ll have the duck and the beef,” says the man in a polite-but-pointed voice.
“And for you madam?” asks the waiter.
“Oh I won’t have a starter,” she says. The restaurant offers a set five-course menu, which the waiter explains to her. It does not do a la carte.
The man butts in, choosing her starter – and main – on her behalf. “You can’t have nothing! She’ll have the tuna carpaccio and the lamb.”
The woman says nothing. The waiter says: “Very good.”
“And we’ll have them all at the same time,” says the man.
The waiter raises an eyebrow. “The starters and the mains at the same time?”
“Yes,” says the man. “Oh yes, and I’ll have a white wine. No, make that a Peroni.”
His W/P seems not to be given the option of a drink.
The waiter departs.
The maître d’ arrives and explains that it’s easier for the dishes to be staggered in the usual manner.
“OK, then,” says the man.
Silence for a while.
“Shut up! Fooking shut up. I love you and all that, so fooking shut up,” he says.
Inaudible whispers. Further silence.
The waiter comes with the starters.
The man switches to a polite voice: “Oh thank you very much. Cheers.” He then takes a phone call and discusses meeting up with a friend, while his W/P eats her starter.
Sound of whispers from the woman.
The man says: “I’ll smash him. Smash him. Simple as that.”
I glance in their direction, hoping that he is not referring to me. Perhaps they have sensed that I am, whether I like it or not, eavesdropping. I am the only person within earshot.
Man changes tack. “If I spend 300 quid here tonight, I’ll do what I want,” he says. The couple must be staying at the hotel.
“Don’t treat me like…” says the woman; her voice trails off so I can’t catch what she does not wish to be treated like.
“I can’t fooking be worrying about that,” replies the man.
Waitress arrives with an “intermediate course”.
“Thank you,” says the man, sounding almost sweet. He looks at the dish, and is surprised it is not his beef. Instead it’s a small scoop of sorbet. “To be fair, I just want my main course, please,” he says.
The waiter once again raises an eyebrow: “So you don’t want the sorbet?”
“Yes,” says the man.
The waiter takes the sorbets away.
The man says: “Fooking fancy.”
The W/P says nothing.
Dessert finished, I get up to leave. The man glares at me. He says “fooking”, followed by something or other, to his W/P. I am unsure if he is directing a comment at me. He does seem to have an opinion on most matters.
I depart, wondering how the meal will end . . . dancing on the fooking table, a declaration of fooking love, and a smashing of a fooking waiter or two for good measure?
At least, I suppose, he was taking his W/P for a fooking night out to celebrate their fooking anniversary.
I didn’t see them at breakfast.