Manners Learnt

From San Francisco, a good idea:

IT’S dinnertime, and 6-year-old Joaquin Hurtado is staying in his seat. He hasn’t stood up, run around the table or wrestled with his little brother. Good thing. It wouldn’t take much unruly behavior to shatter the dishware or the mood in this upscale restaurant.

“This is a place where you come to eat,” the boy says softly, explaining nice manners. “It’s not a place to play.”

The place is Chenery Park, a restaurant with low lights, cloth napkins, $24 grilled salmon and “family night” every Tuesday. Children are welcome, with a catch: They are expected to behave — and to watch their manners, or learn them. Think upscale dining with training wheels.

While the Little Pricks’ table manners are generally pretty good – and frankly, they’re better at “inside voices” than their parents – this seems like an idea that could take off in Sydney should an enterprising restaurateur be looking to increase turnover mid-week. Though it would require commitment on the part of both owner and guest, such an event could be its own reward:

Mr. Kowal himself can sometimes come across as hurried and even brusque. He has been known to scold parents, too. He once reprimanded a woman for talking on her phone and ignoring her son, who was yelling loudly. The woman was offended and told Mr. Kowal she wouldn’t be going back. He responded that that was her choice, and the people at nearby tables applauded.

Another night, two families were sitting at adjoining tables. At one of them, a 5-year-old starting yelling and jumping up and down.

“The second or third time it happened, one of the kids at the other table goes over to the one jumping up and down and said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mr. Kowal recalled. “That was the best.”

How about it, Sydney? Any restaurants up to the challenge of helping the next generation of customers learn how to use a fish knife and gracefully send back a corked bottle?

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4 Responses to Manners Learnt

  1. Anon says:

    Took our kids to an upscale French place nearby for a special occasion. Kids dressed up in their suits and took it very seriously. All were scandalised to see a Dad at the next door table pull out an iPad, open the paper and ignore his family for the whole meal. It can be done, but it requires training at home – eating dinner at the table every night, setting the table properly beforehand, not hoeing in until everyone has sat down, learning how to pass things around, holding a conversation etc etc. The teens did me proud by trying oysters, offal and “slugs in shells”. The chef asked me if I wanted to see the kids menu for the little tackers, and I told him “no way – the kids will eat a proper meal like the rest of us”. Which they did. It would be unfair though to feed them in front of the TV every night and then expect them to know how to behave in a restaurant.

    Given how slack trade is out our way at present, the chef was very grateful that anyone turned up for a feed – kids included.

  2. Dr Duck says:

    I’ve always taken my girls out to restaurants, and expected them to behave properly and eat well. When they were little Chinese was a good option, as Asian restaurants are pretty child tolerant. Once at Josh’s Cafe in Berrima (Chef is ex Ottoman Empire and food is OK), the youngest, who was about 10 or 11 at the time, surprised the waiter by ordering the duck confit. This was a result of the girls having developed a taste for Chinese roast duck, which morphed into a liking for all things ducky. The first time I brought a Chinese roast duck home, the eldest was only about 5, and said “What’s that delicious smell?” After that, I was often asked “When are you bringing home some Chinese duck, with the head on … quack quack.” These days there is nothing the girls (19, 17 and 14) like better than going out to a good dinner with the family, and it has been many years since any of them ate food different to the adults at home.

    It is a parent’s duty to introduce children to a wide variety of food cooked well, and to encourage them to be able to go out to dinner and behave properly. I’d agree that this might be a good marketing exercise for restaurants, but a lot of kids have no idea of how to behave or eat in a restaurant. When the girls were little I used to get a lot of positive comment from restaurant staff about their behaviour and taste. I agree with Anon’s comment above that is important to encourage the kids to order from the adult menu, but that this has to be based on exposure to good food at home.

  3. The Usual Suspect says:

    Dr Duck/Anon,

    I’m a school teacher, and the parental discipline described by yourselves is the reason teaching is so damned hard these days – kids who have appalling manners but are oblivious to the fact, and parent interviews show you why.
    Sorry Prick, but my experience is that a restaurant such as this would fail miserably in Australia, but I’d like to be proved wrong.

  4. It’s kind of cute that the flaming progressive liberals in San Fransisco and at the New York Times have apparently just discovered that table manners and general etiquette are a handy thing to teach your children. Wait till they discover Junior and Pre-Cotillion. “We’re all Southerners now.”

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