I have discovered the secret of invisibility. It doesn’t lie in taking a mixture of exotic herbs and rare ingredients by full moon at dead of night; nor in suffering a radioactive mishap, superhero style; nor in entering into a soul-swapping pact with the spawn of Beelzebub; nor in communing with the spirit guides of a long-lost Amazonian tribe.
No. To become invisible, you simply have to take a seat in Rosetti’s. Nobody, nobody at all, can see you from the very second your buttocks touch the rattan.
Catching The Waiter’s Eye, as played in the standard English form, is a sport consisting of five very strictly segmented and choreographed sections. You may firstly raise an eyebrow in the direction of the staff. Move two adds a firm, but not brisk (and by no means excessive) lifting of the head. Third in line, not to be attempted by the amateur, comes a combination of the previous two moves. The fourth segment brings a raising of the arm, a movement too timid to deserve the title ‘wave’ – something akin to swatting an arthritically-slow wasp away while not wanting to cause offence to the insect in question. Fifth, and finally, we arrive at the Apologetic Bleat, the quivering-lipped ‘excuse me…excuse me…excuse me…’ which has every other diner bowing to his plate in pink-eared shame at having to witness such public degradation.
The staff at Rosetti’s do not play this game.
Perhaps it was my fault for not being specific enough. I merely asked for a table for two, and was politely shown to one, but at no time did I mention that I would be expecting something to drink and, in the fullness of time, to eat while said table was occupied.
The evening played out like a Jane Austen ball: me the gallant, eager, would-be suitor; the waiting staff the coquettish, giggling, fan-fluttering ladies desperate to be wooed but ever-fearful of appearing forward.
I virtually had to apply in writing to get a drink. Ordering the food required letters of introduction from three bishops and a minor royal. Asking for the table to be cleared once we’d eaten would have been tantamount to gazing at a young lady’s fore-ankle before three years of marriage had passed, so I refrained.
And getting the bill, despite having waved both hands vigorously in the time-honoured ‘I am writing in big letters on the palm of my own hand’ mime more or less in the face of the waitress, meant leaving my chair and hot-footing it to the front of house. To do otherwise would have risked sitting there until the Sun goes cold and the Earth decays to dust.
And let me make it clear: they weren’t withholding the food for my own good, to protect my taste buds from culinary abominations too vile to serve anywhere but, perhaps, Middlesbrough. Once served, calamari were fresh and crispy, bruschetta tangily anchovied, calves liver and veal softly-cooked and nicely sauced.
But the overwhelming aftertaste of the evening was one of lost opportunities. I was enjoying the prospect of a night out. My credit card was primed, loaded and cocked. I’d have had very little objection if they’d hung me up by the ankles and shaken my pockets clean of cash; I wanted to eat, drink and be merry.
But nobody suggested an aperitif. Hastened to take my order. Whisked away the plates and proffered the pudding menu. Pointed me in the direction of a brandy bottle with my name in large letters on it. The bill was a fraction of what it might have been.
So, restaurateurs of the world take note: out on the floor, your blind and silent staff are robbing you – night after night after night.by