I suppose I had probably guessed; there had been rumblings from Pizza Express for years about the upper layers of management helping themselves to tips given to the waiting staff. However, I have been appalled at the greed of some restaurant chains that I've been using from time to time because of their relative affordability and decent food.
So stuff you, Bills, and Cote, and Las Iguanas. I will not be coming anywhere near you ever again.
What with boycotting Starbucks because of their dodgy tax, Costa because they have removed so much filling from their sandwiches that you really have to imagine the ingredients listed on the cellophane packet as you bite into their 'panini's, and MacDonalds and Burger King because I don't want slurry in my food, there soon will be nowhere left to eat.
The streets of the West End were thronging and the rain was cascading down; I was starving and couldn't quite face John Lewis's fragrant gentility. I remembered a Lebanese restaurant that I had been to for coffee last year and I resolved to find it. In fact, I walked what seemed like miles when it popped up in front of me in Wigmore Street. It was relatively early so I managed to get a table. It is a cheerful place, with embroidered baskets lining the walls, bottles of rose water and orange flower water lined up in front of the counter, heaps of baklava and nice waiting staff.
As soon as I sipped the coffee I remembered what I had liked about it; this was proper coffee, none of yer tarry chain-cafe nonsense. I am pretentious enough to describe it as fragrant, because I had a sensation of wanting to savour it rather than chucking it down the hatch to give me a burst of caffeine energy to get home with. It came in a glass cup and saucer, which I felt was respectful to the brew.
Last week I went to a Lebanese restaurant in the Westfield Stratford shopping centre, partly because it is always empty but partly because I love Lebanese food. Even at Westfield, everything tasted fresh and cared-about even though it wasn't expensive.
So I had the same thing to eat here- a very basic wrap with salad. It was so gorgeous- the bread was crispy and actually tasted of toasted bread rather than flannel like the (c)wraps you get in M&S and Poshrose. The tomatoes tasted of tomato, the radishes tasted of radish, there was no slimy sauce to glue it together. It was perfect rainy-day grub, and suddenly I saw the point of eating rather than just stuffing food in my face to stop the hunger.
I checked with the waiter to make sure the staff get paid the service charge, which is why I'm writing this. And it was such a delicious lunch that I started raving about how nice it was to them, so they asked me to write a review on Trip Advisor. No chance- they would probably make me log in and then try to sell me things twice a day before being sold off to Rupert Murdoch; but I did tell them that I would write about them here, even though I am not a restaurant reviewer.
Perhaps rather craftily, they loaded a box with baklava which meant that when I got home, I couldn't forget to do this, because of course, I remembered when I ate the baklava. It doesn't count as I bribe, I don't think, because they gave it to me after I'd ranted about how lovely the food was. And it really was; the waiter was so pleased to hear it that he got all excited and started to plan what I would like to eat next time I came along. Sweet!
Anyway, now I have to tell you where it is and what it is called. It is the Comptoir Libanais in Wigmore Street. My substantial wrap, salad and coffee cost £11.25. You can get unusual stuff like rose-hip tea, it's perfect for vegetarians and it has a happy atmosphere. Red tin chairs, no one hurries you, food takes a while to arrive because it's freshly prepared, but it's a lovely, cheerful oasis in the grey and greedy West End of London if you need a resting place with proper food while you gather your strength on a rainy day.
Hope you read this, guys and girls in the restaurant- you didn't need to give me the baklava, you know! (I don't really like it very much, but your other food is gorgeous)