You can choose your cuisine and price range, so why, can’t you pick your restaurant neighbours?
It’s Colin I feel sorry for. I’ve only been sitting next to The Worst Woman in the World for 20 minutes. He, as the entire restaurant now knows, has to share a bathroom with her.
‘Tell your mum how ill I’ve been, Col. Tell her.’ Colin, like myself, his mother and the unusually distant waiting staff don’t think this is suitable tableside chat. Especially not at this volume, and at the level of detail we’ve been listening to for five minutes.
TWWITW doesn’t care. ‘I’ve had the worst ever stomach bug. There was more sick in our en-suite than you’ve seen in your life, wasn’t there, Collybob? And he worked that summer on the rollercoasters, as you know, Lorraine.’ Suddenly my Bolognese sauce doesn’t seem half as appetising, and I want to snatch the breadstick from her hand and poke her in the eye with it.
TWWITW is real. Perhaps you’ve sat beside her in a restaurant before. If not her, then somebody like her.
She’s the woman who is rude to your favourite waiter. She is the woman who spilled soup over you while squeezing behind your chair. She is the woman that took the last piece of brie from the cheese platter.
She is, in short, The Worst Woman in the World (to be sat next to in a restaurant). The Worst Man in the World isn’t much better.
He’s normally braying something moronic about marketing while jabbing his fat fingers at his phone and reading offensive tweets.
Waiters, perhaps believing me to be a lousy tipper, tend to seat me next to these people on purpose. Our restaurant neighbours are one of the most important aspects of any dining experience, yet it is the thing over which we have least control.
When picking a place to eat in Dubai, I can chose between dozens of cuisines and a price range between embarrassingly cheap and disgustingly expensive. I can choose to have food fried, baked or grilled and to be outdoors, up a skyscraper or down a ski slope, but I can’t pick who sits next to me. Glowering at rude arrivals and tutting towards troublesome maître d’s doesn’t work.
My ideal restaurant would not have food on its menus. It wouldn’t even specify a cuisine. I would happily eat the same dish over and over again if somebody let me browse a list of people to eat alongside. ‘I’ll have the respectable old couple please, but hold the noisy grandchildren. For afters could you move me towards the sweet girls having a quiet coffee? Thanks.’ Will Milner is our digital editorial director. He doesn’t talk with his mouth full.