Reviewing restaurants in Dubai

Penelope Walsh shames, but does not name, her worst dinner guests

Eating Out editor Penelope Walsh shames (if not names) some of her worst dinner guests and potential invitees.

The first reaction, when people learn I review the city’s restaurants for a living (paid for by Time Out, rather than from my own pocket), is always, with varying degrees of subtlety, to offer their services as a dinner guest on one of my regular dinner reviews.

I’m not averse to making new friends over dinner, but the first and most important criteria if you want to dine with me is ensuring you are reasonable company over three courses.

It’s surprising, then, how many people angle for, or even demand, an invite, when in reality we’d never consider even meeting for a coffee. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not a lonesome solo diner (I nearly always have a guest in tow when visiting a restaurant), or a walking Time Out Dubai two-for-one voucher.

One friend has regularly asked to bring a string of plus-ones to reviews, and turn it into a party. Nice idea, but the problem is she has never managed to actually make it to a restaurant with me. Unsurprisingly, the invites have now ceased. Another friend repeatedly badgers me for an invite, yet when it is offered, the review destination is invariably not exclusive enough, and is snootily turned down. If you’re not prepared to visit an Al Qusais curry shop, then you don’t get to check out Atul Kochhar’s cooking either: those privileges are saved for those who have done their time.

Once I asked a friend to join me for dinner, but she couldn’t make it, so I was dismayed when a random acquaintance of hers excitedly told me that he would come instead. I have also been ‘informed’ by people that when I review the city’s current most-hyped venue, they will be coming along.

Another snorted at me in outrage when he learned I had taken my best friend, and not him, to a top new restaurant. I’ve even had one person angrily chastise me for not taking him out more regularly, and for not picking up on an obscure hint that he would have liked to have visited a particular venue. The most surreal was a friend who, late one night and a bit emotional after a long day brunching, whinged that I didn’t take her anywhere any more, asking if it was because she was wasn’t a very nice person. She seemed to work the answer out herself.

Finally, once you’ve secured your invite and are seated in the restaurant, don’t huff and puff while I take my time reading the menu (because I will), or try to push me to order the most outlandishly expensive item on the menu (because I won’t). But my favourite incident was the friend who knowingly walked out of the house without his wallet, then asked me to lend him money for expensive mocktails, and then a cigar. Ouch.

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