While restaurant recommendations nowadays come thick and fast, being deliberately denied that information is almost anti-food, writes Charlie Penn.
You know when you were a kid and there were those annoying brats who’d do that “psst psst” whispering behind their hand, looking sideways and around while you look on pathetically, pretending not to care? Well that’s the feeling I get when I hear about people who keep their favourite restaurants secret. It makes me sick to my stomach (and I want to punch them).
It’s the ultimate in selfishness – probably the worst form of food-lover etiquette beyond not sharing your food. These people don’t deserve to enjoy food. They’re hogging gastric pleasure, keeping it under their belts from us plebs who apparently wouldn’t know good food if it kissed us on the lips. If all restaurant customers were that crap at word of mouth, there eventually wouldn’t be a restaurant for them to go sit and gloat in.
I know a guy who keeps his favourite restaurant tucked firmly inside his exclusive digestive system between his gut and his ego. We were out for a coffee recently when he took a call from a restaurant calling to confirm his reservation. He was almost crooning into his phone, effervescent to be coming back again. So obviously, my good food radar went off. I was intrigued and asked where he was off to. Cue the downcast eyes into the coffee cup and a frequent clearing of the throat, strung together with mutterings to the effect of “it’s just a local joint I go to” and a subject change. This, I thought, was an unfair trade – I’d just introduced him to the joint we were sat in, and while he drooled over a goddam good cake, I was left hungry for his holy neighbourhood grail.
This sort of behaviour is the complete opposite to another type of restaurant-goer, the type that’s been spawned from an internet world that breeds FOMO (fear of missing out, apparently), and where chats between mega gastronomes unfold like restaurant Top Trumps. This is annoying in equal measure, but at least they’re foaming at the mouth and I can decide for myself later if it’s worth the verbal masturbation. Not sharing, though, is like restaurant terrorism, fighting off oncoming threats (the general interested and hungry public) with froth like “you probably wouldn’t like it”. What this roughly translates to is “I’m not telling you because it might end up busy and shit”.
So although I feel like I’m back in the playground when this sort of bull rears its ugly head, I’ve decided I’m just going to walk away, go play in a different corner and make my own fun in a restaurant I adore. And then I’ll tell all my friends.