Restaurants in India, and around the world, very loosely use the term ‘fine dining’, without actually being fully aware of what they mean when they say that. Fine dining defines a very specific kind of service and presentation, dress code, ambiance and style. Not every restaurant in the world can be fine dining, because it goes beyond just what you show your customers.
What does fine dining mean?
Fine dining restaurants are also referred to as ‘white tablecloth restaurants’ and fall into a higher end bracket of restaurants. They cater to an upscale clientele; provide the highest quality of food with equal measure service. Fine dining restaurants are very different from cafes and casual eateries where you can walk in at any given time, wearing your most comfortable pair of jeans. These restaurants more often than not have a very strict dress code, the music isn’t loud and intrusive, but calming and soft, letting you know that it’s there, but not drowning out conversation.
And if that’s not enough, a lot of fine dining restaurants have dishes on their menus that you either have never heard of or don’t know how to pronounce. While the quantity will be smaller than you’re used to, you’re treated to higher quality food.
Fine dining in India
In India, over the last year or so, there have been lots of restaurants claiming to be ‘fine dining’ popping up all over the country. Most of them might present you with pictures that show that they are fine dining, but the experience is anything but. Fine dining is the term that you give the entire experience of being in the restaurant – from the moment you walk in till the moment you walk out – and that is something that is seriously lacking in restaurants here.
Maybe it’s because we as Indians don’t properly understand the meaning of ‘fine dining’ or we just assume that it would make the establishment more credible if you tack on the term ‘fine dining’.
I visited four restaurants in the last six months that claimed to be fine dining, but their staff could not speak English (or Tamil, for that matter) properly, did not understand my questions, had to ask the manager about everything before getting back to me. And if that wasn’t enough, the other patrons in the restaurant were dressed in crushed clothes, hair disheveled and looking ruffled from their long day.
Just because the ingredients are specially imported from Europe doesn’t mean that you’re a fine dining restaurant. It’s not even that you have to have spic and span, because not everyone can afford an actual fine dining restaurant, but there is a basic standard to meet and if you can’t even do that, then calling yourself a ‘fine dining’ establishment does not make sense.
Most fine dining establishments have a long list of things that need to be done a specific way, but there are a few things that I believe restaurants in India should consider doing or adding to their routine.
. Be able to speak English or the local language, just in case the patrons are more comfortable in that language
. Make sure the tables are all uniformly set before the patrons sit down. And everything presented in front of them should be clean and neatly placed.
. When asked questions about dishes or drinks on the menu, the waiter or the manager needs to already know the answer. It’s okay to double check with the chef, but have some of the information beforehand.
. Use the right glasses for the right drink. There are various kinds of wine glasses and it’s important to know which glass goes with which wine.
. Pay attention to the tables and the patrons. Always be ready for when they need some help or are done with their meals. Don’t let the used and empty dishes and cutlery stay on the table longer than necessary.