Restaurants & Bars 3

Gouged in the UK

David A. | Aug 13, 200307:45 AM

As a former resident and frequent visitor to the UK, let me say how much I dislike the way that British restaurants attempt to pad the bill. I have been charged for white rice (this goes without saying); for bread; for tap water; and -- yes, if you can believe it -- for "table cloth laundering" (2 pounds in a Italian restaurant near Vauxhall Bridge). And these little extras are not cheap: white rice, which is of course free and unlimited in any self-respecting Chinese restaurant in the U.S., can cost as much as 3 pounds per bowl, which results in a profit margin that would make manufacturers of crack cocaine jealous. The extent of this gouging was brought home to me not long ago when my wife and I ate in a Chinese restaurant in Pimlico. The total bill came to 28 pounds, of which an astonishing 9 pounds ($15) went to white rice and two diet cokes. The bill broke down this way: 13 pounds for soda, rice, and tip; 15 pounds for food. In America this meal would have cost about $25, roughly the same amount minus the exorbitant soda and rice fees.

The most irritating thing, however, is when waiters, especially in Italian restaurants, drop some pathetic stale supermarket-caliber roll on your plate without informing you that it costs 1.50.

I recently dined at Gordon Ramsay. In light of these dispiriting experiences, I was very impressed that a bottle of fizzy water cost only four pounds. It seemed to me the height of classy restraint not to charge the ten or twelve pounds that customers would have coughed up without complaining. Kudos to Gordon.

David A.

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