A whine about wine

5 May 2008 – 9:41 pm

It was Natalie’s birthday last weekend and we dropped William off with my parents and nipped down to the south coast for a pleasant stay in the Westover Hall Hotel in Milford-on-Sea.

Overall we had a lovely time…apart from the wine. The wine itself tasted fabulous. What made me spit feathers was the ludicrous protocol adopted by the restaurant for locating the bottle itself.

We ordered a very nice bottle of Veramonte Primus, Casablanca Valley with our evening meal, and it tasted just as described

A massive, mouth-filling wine with a smooth, rich, velvety texture. Concentrated multi-layered flavoursof bright blackberry and cherry. A beautiful combination of power and finesse.

The trouble was that they insisted on taking the bottle away and leaving it on a remote table (along with everyone else’s wine) out of reach. This has happened to Natalie and me before in a snooty restaurant in Provence, and it only ends in tears. Wannabe upmarket restaurants do this to declutter the table: the idea being that the service is so attentive that as soon as your glass gets remotely near to being empty it is refilled without you even noticing.

But if the service is anything less than amazingly attentive, you end up with an empty glass and no means of knowing if there is any wine left, or having the faintest idea when you might be able to enjoy your next sip. At the Westover Hall Hotel, they even took my glass away. It was only after pudding that I had the profound sense that we really had not drunk a full bottle of wine between us.

After attracting the attention of the waiting staff I enquired about the state of our bottle, and it turned out that it was still half full. A fresh glass was fetched and filled and I enjoyed a few more mouthfuls of tasty Veramonte Primus. A while later my glass was empty again, and it took us even longer to attract someone’s attention to get a refill. When I asked why they couldn’t just leave the bloody bottle on our table I was told that the plates were so large that there wasn’t room. I pointed out that there was plenty of room to leave the water bottle, why not a wine bottle too? In fact, given the choice, they should have left us with the wine and taken the sparkling water away.

Why do restaurants do this? Is it some kind of bizarre ritual that is necessary to earn a Michelin star? Next time I pay £30 for a bottle of wine in a restaurant and someone comes to whisk it away I shall insist they leave it on the table so that I can refill my own glass and drink the wine at my leisure.

Anyway, our non-wine experience at the Westover Hall Hotel was extremely pleasant and I can thoroughly recommend a stay there.

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