Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favourite establishments.
This time, we hear from a junior manager at a popular bistro in central London about her experiences working on Valentine's Day.
I've waitressed and been a restaurant manager in London, Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. Valentine's Day is pretty much the same in all those places. It's a very odd night—a restaurant full of twos isn't great for atmosphere as everyone is on their best behaviour and it feels a little forced.
I have developed dad jokes about the night that I find myself telling my staff each year: "We don't need candles because the awkward couples light up the room with their phones," or something about how the hopeless romantics are to blame for no stars in London because of their light pollution on February 14. They're bad jokes but everyone laughs as it totally sums up how the night goes. Taking a photo of the food and Instagramming it is a polite way to not talk to your date, I suppose.
In general on Valentine's Day, there's always one couple dry humping in the middle of the restaurant and, if we're really lucky, sex in the toilets. Once a couple fucked in the toilets and she left handprints on the mirror and her ripped stockings in the bin for us to collect. Classy.
What I've also seen occasionally is the excuse of Instagramming but really that the person is on Tinder, lining up a date for later that night. Those are the tables I want to watch because I know I can turn them quicker—plus hear the hilarious excuses of why they need to leave. Girls are better at this than guys, by the way.
Tinder dates do happen on Valentines Day, too. You wouldn't think it's the best night to meet someone new—all that pressure—but I think for some, being alone is worse than an awkward night out.
She realised her mistake as soon as she saw the second guy walk in. We devised a plan: she explained to Guy Number Two that as it was a first date, just drinks at the bar would be best.
There was this English girl in Melbourne who had taken a shine to me because I was a fellow country folk. She could drink (she was northern) so to be fair, I had taken a shine to her too. She was fun; the kind of regular that you could have a laugh with and who was also interested in how you were. I think we were her go-to place for Tinder dates, which is sensible—have somewhere you know so if things go tits up, you've got backup around you. Once she got me to call her phone pretending to be her flatmate in an emergency. She then left in a hurry, came around the back, and watched from the kitchen as her bad date left. Then she sat at the bar entertaining the bartenders for the rest of the night with excellent stories, while downing Aperol Spritz.
This particular night, Valentine's Day a couple of years ago, she arranged two Tinder dates for the same night by accident. Our place was a shared dining space but the bar was just tucked away behind a wall.
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She realised her mistake as soon as she saw the second guy walk in, and came up to me and told me situation. We devised a plan: she explained to Guy Number Two, that as it was a first date, just drinks at the bar would be best. So, that was one date at the bar and the other at the table for dinner—the full, four-course V Day special meal!
Obviously she got hammered because she's English, nervous as hell, and drinking pace with two guys at the same time. One on wine, the other cocktails.
She kept it up for awhile—walking between the two tables—but ballsed it up because she called her Mr Dinner Date by Mr Drink Date's name. Mr Dinner Date comes up to the bar to pay and then tells Mr. Drink Date who he is. Mr Drink date gets up and leaves too. Neither say goodbye to her, she's standing frozen between the dining room and bar watching it unfold. Everyone's watching it unfold.
So I'm stuck with a drunk English girl who now has no dates. She sticks around and has another drink and ends up hooking up with a bartender from next door, who came in after he finished his shift. So, all's well that ends well, I guess.
She was fun but she was such mess. I wonder what happened to her?
As told to Anna Sulan Masing.