What do we want? Reservations! When do we want ’em? Around 7.30pm, if possible! Reader and blogger Emily Gibson says she’s done with queueing.
Many people believe that the British love to queue, but they are sadly misinformed. We actually bloody hate it, but – like democracy – it’s the best of a bad bunch of solutions to an age-old problem. Without orderly queuing, there’d be murder at the bus stop and old ladies, who enjoy nothing more than a good rummage around their handbag for the correct change, would be mercilessly bludgeoned to death in Sainsbury’s. One might even get jostled.
So, yes, we do need to queue. After all, it’s what distinguishes us from animals (and Europeans). What we should not need to queue for – ever – is dinner. Restaurants that do not take reservations are at the top of my list of eating-out irritants, along with wine served in tumblers, cocktails served in jam jars and anything ever described as ‘artisanal’. I had this brought home to me the other day while trying to find a table for four in the West End. How about Dishoom, the ever-popular Bombay café? Or Michelin-starred tapas bar Barrafina? Or Burger & Lobster, even? No dice, not without a good long wait. For well-organised types, an evening treat quickly becomes a swirling portal of uncertainty, as you wander round for 45 minutes before someone cracks and drags everyone into Nando’s, where you’ll slit your wrists over a garlic ’n’ herb chicken pitta.
The fact is, restaurants impose queueing on us because they can and we’ve only got ourselves to blame. In this toxic, one-sided relationship they’re Christian Grey and we’re whatsherface: you know, the clingy one. They get us all hot under the collar with their drippy sandwiches, steamy bowls of ramen and dirty burgers, then make us wait outside for two hours to get our faces around them. At least the ‘Fifty Shades’ girl got to kick her heels in a nice warm dungeon.
The solution is simple: we need to prove that, actually, we can do just fine without them: #TimeOutBoycott, amiright? We are strong, independent Londoners, who don’t need no walk-in restaurants! Can I get an ‘Amen!’? Never again will we resign ourselves to only eating out at 11pm on a Wednesday! Never again will we allow ourselves to be led into a basement holding pen – sorry, ‘bar’ – in the hope of some hot food in the next 90 minutes! Never again will a Londoner utter the words: ‘Three hours? Seems reasonable’, in the face of a blank-eyed hipster wielding a clipboard.
But this will only happen if we work together, so let’s not have anyone sneaking off to Spuntino while everyone else puts up a united front. Together, we can create a world where any man, woman or child can get a table anywhere with just a few weeks’ forward planning. Sure, we’ll lose a bit of spontaneity, but you’ll thank me when you can finally just waltz into Bao and suck down one of their sensational steamed buns with no wait whatsoever.
Who’s with me? Form an orderly queue...
If you're not done with no-booking restaurants yet, here's our fave in London.
Illustration Nate Kitch