Eric Three Thousand Talks International Dining.
We just got back from London and I thought I'd share a little dining observation before I get to a quick review of our trip. Let me know if you have had the same experience or if I'm just crazy.
OK, so this is how dining works in Los Angeles: After you've finished your meal your server will come to your table and ask you if there is anything else you would like, at which point you can say, "No, thank you; we'll just take the bill." This process seems to make sense but it is not practiced everywhere.
In fine-dining restaurants in New York, for instance, this is how it seems to work: After you've finished your meal your very attentive server stands patiently nearby so that you can signal him or her to come to the table and you can ask for your bill. I completely understand that it can seem rude for the server to simply bring you a bill, as that can appear as though they are trying to kick you out of the restaurant; and this system works perfectly well as long as you realize you have to do this. The first time I was in a nice restaurant in New York many years ago with some coworkers from Los Angeles we sat at the table for a very long time wondering when we would get the bill.
Now, I'm not sure why I've never noticed this before, but this seems to be the system in London: after you've finished your meal your server, who has been very attentive up to this point, suddenly refuses to acknowledge you existence, hiding at the far end of the room and refusing to look in your direction. After a while you eventually give up and are forced to set your table linens on fire, at which point your sever will come to the table and you can request your bill. I really don't understand how this is supposed to work. Does anyone have any insights?