Bread and wine: on or off the table?

And here we have the epitome of “first-world problems” …

I’ve noticed during my time as an epicurean owl that some high-end restaurants love to give you a basket (or otherwise beautifully arranged selection) of bread on your table, that you can nibble on between courses, while others have their waiting staff come round at regular intervals with a gorgeous selection of breads (walnut? potato? bacon?) for you to choose from. Likewise, while some restaurants place your wine in a stylish bucket on the table so that you can view it in front of you while drinking, others preserve your bottle on a special bucket of ice just to the side, or in a temperature-controlled container from which they bring the wine to top up your glass whenever you take so much of a sip.

Personally, I come down on the side of ‘bread off, wine off’ … I find that if I eat more than one piece of bread during high-end meals, with all their hidden bonuses, I feel just a bit too full at the end, so having one carefully chosen piece on the table as an accompaniment to the starter and main courses works well. I like the wine to be off the table as it takes up quite a bit of space (and not all tables in high-end restaurants are big) it removes the possibility that a clumsy owl will accidentally brush its talon against a wine bottle and it will turn the pristine white tablecloth red … If you’re prone to this, you could always go for a beautiful cocktail – often underused in posh restaurants and although expensive, unfailingly delicious.

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