Christopher Hitchens, in an article three years back, writes about the obnoxious practice of restaurants trying to speed up the consumption of expensive wine by pouring it out into glasses that are still not empty.
The vile practice of butting in and pouring wine without being asked is the very height of .. bad manners. Not only is it a breathtaking act of rudeness in itself, but it conveys a none-too-subtle and mercenary message: Hurry up and order another bottle. Indeed, so dulled have we become to the shame and disgrace of all this that I have actually seen waiters, having broken into the private conversation and emptied the flagon, ask insolently whether they should now bring another one. Imagine this same tactic being applied to the food
Once at a 5-star restaurant, I was playing host to a team from Finland. The steward, undermining my prerogative as the host, went directly to one of the ladies and asked her if she would like some wine and she said ‘yes, maybe some red wine”. The next thing I know he brings up a bottle of expensive wine, asks her if it is ok and pours it into her glass and offers some to the others too. After an hour or so, when food had been ordered, he goes again to the same lady and asks if she would like ‘some more red wine’. She says ok, and he opens up another bottle and pours out the wine.
At this point I was fuming. I excused myself from the table, went across to the manager and asked him how much the bottle of wine cost. Rs 6000 + taxes, he said. I blasted the hell out of him and said that the steward had no business to take the order directly from a guest and expect me to pay up. A compromise was reached that I would pay for only one of the bottles. I went out kicking and ranting and swore that I’ll never go there again.
Another common trick is to place some fancy foreign brand of mineral water (without the price tag of Rs 400) on the table and casually ask the foreign visitor if they would like some mineral water. Quite often, the Indian ‘host’ would feel awkward to stop this ‘transaction’ and end up paying good money for nothing.
If you must go these fancy restaurants, never forget the rule: Caveat emptor. And don’t hesitate to recommend an Indian red wine to a foreign guest.