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First Time Experience at a Fancy Dinner? Here are Some Tips to Guide You Through it

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It’s ok. Your favorite restaurant in town is any bukka with a sweet smelling aroma drifting from its window… and you are proud of it. We get it. No one can really blame you; isn’t the sweetest of meals the one cooked with firewood and garnished with sweat drops from the pits of the “mama” who eventually puts the food on your plate?

In fact, you sometimes wonder why people spend their time at fancy restaurants. Why all the serenre over a plate of food that probably tastes like grass? Who has time for all the stupid ceremony and what is ambiance biko? Most importantly, who has the money for an extravagant meal in these Buhari times …when all kinds of food whether cheap or expensive, well done or medium rare, eventually comes out of the same place anyway? Hian.

But, you’ve just been invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant. You have never been to one before and you have no clue how to go about it. I mean, you could say no and save yourself from ‘falling hand’… but you also do not want to ‘carry last’. Beeches are out there on the street viciously praying for a date like this. You cannot afford to lose the chance to be treated to a fancy dinner. How do you package yourself, please?

Very important: you want to act as if you visit fancy restaurants on the regular. Start by dressing the part: nothing too revealing or out rightly gauche. Nobody wants to see that much skin on anything, except perhaps on the roast chicken. Think of Rita Dominic or Toke Makinwa,… your goal is to try and pull off any of their many fabulous, but subtle looks. If you are a guy clueless about fancy restaurants, an Alex Ekubo or Chris Okagbue is what you should be aiming for.

It is not the time to dig out your gold chains and crocs please. At least, not if the restaurants you are considering are the likes of The Sky Resturant or Da Vinci restaurant.

Also, make sure you are comfortable: your shoes should not be too high or too tight that you are unable to walk in them. Some restuarants may have dress codes, so you want to check the websites to be sure as well. Basically, you’re going to want to look sharp. Why? Because there will be plenty of stuff to intimidate you— expensive menu with names you may not be able to pronounce, waiters in tuxedo or at least bow tie, other people looking very sharp e.t.c.

As soon as you arrive at the venue, please, don’t start going around and taking photographs, like a JJC (newbie). Thank you.
Doing that will only show that you’re not used to this sort of thing. If you want to be able to brag to your friends back home (with proof) what the restaurant looks like, please give them the restaurants web address. It’s 2017, we are all IT compliant. And if they insist, give them the address of the restaurant let them go and see with their naked eyes.

Ask the waiters to take you to a table or let you date guide you to your table. And when you get to the table, don’t scramble for the best seat, perhaps, the one with the better view…let the person that invited you, have the first pick. Then seat and put the napkin in your lap. Yes, the table is usually set before you arrive, that’s party of the ‘fanciness’. If at any point you have to leave the table for a moment you should place your napkin on the chair. Also, keep in mind that the napkin is not for blowing your nose. Again, do not put your cell phone on the table. You cannot use your phone during the meal. You can certainly survive without Instagram or Twitter for a night.

Once you are seated, the waiter will probably bring the menu to you, usually a high-quality menu and wine list. The restaurant might have an À la carte menu, a prix fixe menu, a menu broken down as First Course/Second Course/Meat & Poultry/Fish & Shellfish or it may not have a menu at all—just a meal price.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand the menu, that is what the waiters are paid for, to attend to you and answers all your questions as well as serve you. Do not feel shy. If you do not understand any of the menu items,  ask for an explanation. Don’t try to form then you go pick something you will not be able to eat and swallow. If you don’t know what a ‘Caramelized Cipollini” is, please ask and learn. Also, ask for recommendation from the waiters and be willing to follow their suggestions as they have more experience with the menu than you do.

After the food is served, use utensils accordingly. If you have no clue what cutlery to use or which is your water-glass, bread plate or napkin, Google everything, ahead of your date. Use your knife to move food around on your plate or scoop food with your fork.

Pace yourself while eating. Don’t rush it, the food is not going anywhere. Cut one small piece at a time. Don’t take big bites. Chew with your mouth closed and do not talk with food in your mouth. If it is soup you ordered, tip the bowl away from you and scoop the soup up with your spoon. Wait until you’re done chewing to have a drink. Also, don’t slouch or place your elbows on the table while eating. Chances are you will accompany the food with wine or beverage. Ensure you hold your wine glass correctly – by the stem…and don’t drink too much. You don’t want to ruin the meal by being annoying.

Please, no matter how tempted you are, do not take pictures of the food or make cute videos. Some restaurants do not even allow pictures. And when you are done with the food, do not ask for a “doggy bag”. Ask yourself: do I have a dog? And even if you do, are those doggy bags really for the dog? Just let it go for the night.

Of course, at the end of every meal, comes the bill. If you are lucky, the other person would cover the entire bill, but if you have to split the bill or cover it, don’t kick up a fuss or cringe. No matter how much it is paining you, wear a smile; ask for your check subtly. You don’t have to wave or shout for the waiter. Usually, a waiter is assigned to your table and he is stationed around you watching you for subtle movements. Just take a glance their way and they will be there. No matter how much the bill, try to tip the waiter. In Nigeria, there is no rigid tipping system, but it is the right thing to do. Don’t be cheap. Once the bill is paid, ensure you leave within 15 minutes of payment. No matter how interesting the conversation became, take it somewhere else or order more drinks. Don’t be a table hog, especially if the place is busy, as the restaurant will need time to clear and re-set the table for the next group of diners.

Eating at a fancy restaurant is not a tedious as it may sound. Instead, playing dress-up and being waited upon lavishly in an expensive fancy restaurant is richly gratifying. It is an opportunity you should never pass up on… something everyone should do, at least once. Not everyday mamaput or Mr. Biggs.

What was your experience the last time you ate at a fancy restaurant? Do you agree with the above suggestions?

Photo Credit: © Gstockstudio1 | Dreamstime

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