A Cacophony Of Sounds — Part 1

Close encounter with an unceremonious restaurant guest. Sharing tables has never been more exhilarating.

It’s cool to eat at communal tables. Even expensive restaurants have adopted picnic-style benches. Practically speaking, the utilitarian design saves space. Endowed with the wingspan of giant albatrosses, these tables fit in more guests — which means extra ka-ching for restaurateurs. As a matter of taste and trend, cramped dining accommodations, as never before, seem to ooze deliberate casual sophistication. Perhaps they protest against stuffy round tables with pretentious ironed tablecloths. For the crowd of yuppie customers, eating within hipster interiors even reflect one’s character and popularity.

Communal tables

My exhilarating communal table experience is a tale worth sharing. Because I learnt that a communal table experience relies not just on food, companionship or atmosphere. It also depends on – who you might sit next to!

One Friday night, we were lucky enough to walk-in at a popular restaurant without reservations. My date was seated directly in front of me at a communal table. It was comfortably spacious — 2 pairs of empty seats to our left until the end was co-habited by a boisterous group of young bankers. And to the right, only a pair of empty chairs left until I could decipher animated chattering en français.

The drama unfolded as soon as an expat couple was ushered into the seats to our immediate right. The husband showed much distaste, I suspected, for the intimate seating arrangements. Feeling his searing glare upon us, I eyeballed my friend to scoot one seat leftwards. To my horror, the considerate gesture was mistaken as some form of personal attack. Mouthing angrily back at the maitre d’, he shot scalding stares and mumbled like a fuming volcano. I was so distracted, by Modor’s eye, that our savoury starter became tasteless. (It was a beautiful plate of ham – Bayonne, prosciutto, and mortadella slivers, mingling with beetroot slices and warm grissini chunks.) And as if our dinner could not get any worse than bland cold-cuts and a menacing neighbour, our waiter politely demanded us to return to our original spots! We were guilty of trespassing – there was a party of 4 arriving, and we were straddling the 6 seats in the middle of the communal table.

Modor’s evil eye

My date resourcefully hinted, “Let’s move left, again!” Yes please! Farther and farther away from him! I was being cooked under a hot sun for the past 20 minutes. My reddened face and lumpy throat welcomed the new shade — a quartet of glamorous ladies effectively buffering against the offensive guest. But I felt sorry for the girls. Unlike us, they had no seats to wiggle away from him. After all, the communal table was finally full.