The 12 essential restaurant rules of Christmas
As we head into the busiest season of all for restaurants, it's time for an annual reminder about how to behave in restaurants - not aimed at you, of course, but at the people who perhaps don't eat out very often...
1. If you make a restaurant booking, honour it. Don't be an ass and stay in the pub, not answering your phone.
2. Please don't make multiple bookings in different restaurants on the basis that you'll decide which one you're going to use on the night. These are the weeks in which restaurants are going to take in the money that will pay the bills and wages during January - they can't afford to have empty tables.
3. If you do have to cancel or your numbers change - inevitable, due to illness, babysitters, life - let the restaurant know and give them as much notice as you can so they can try and sell the table to someone else.
4. Arrive at the restaurant at the time of your booking. Sounds obvious, but if you turn up half an hour late, that has a knock-on effect on the people coming after you, and on the kitchen's work schedule.
5. If you are vegan, coeliac or have genuine food intolerances, let the restaurant know in advance. Don't be the person who insists on a gluten-free, dairy-free starter and main course and then tucks into a big slice of chocolate tart with ice-cream for dessert.
6. Be polite to the restaurant staff. It is not cool to be rude to waiters and waitresses.
7. If you're exchanging gifts, don't leave the wrapping all over the table so there's no room for the food when it arrives - and don't drop it on the floor either.
8. Don't get rat-arsed. You won't enjoy the food and you won't remember the night.
9. Don't scrunch up your napkin and put it on top of your dirty plate at the end of the meal. That's just gross.
10. If you are splitting the bill between the group, bring cash (and not just 50s) so that the staff don't have to deal with multiple card payments.
11. Tip. Tip generously (12.5pc upwards is the guideline). 'Tis the season and all that.
12. Don't overstay your welcome, and leave when you're asked. If you've been told that you have the table until a certain time, don't argue when your slot is over.
PS And please don't sing.
BONSAI BAR BITES
At Dylan McGrath's new Bonsai Bar above Rustic Stone in Dublin, snack on nibbles such as wagyu beef brushed in sweet miso with crispy onion flakes and bonito, and pair them with Japanese-inspired cocktails. I like the sound of the Tokyo Fizz, made with pear vodka, spiced rum and pear purée.
CHRISTMAS AT AVOCA
This year, Avoca's chefs and bakers will make 4,300 Christmas puddings, 3,000 Christmas cakes and 90,000 almond pastry mince pies. And that's just the start of their festive food offering, which includes everything from free-range geese to showstopping desserts; avoca.com
BUTLERS STOCKING CHOCS
The dinky little packages of six chocolates in Butlers Chocolates' Signature Line Collection come in 25 varieties and make perfect Christmas stocking fillers. (If anyone's wondering, I'd like the Pink Himalayan Salted Caramel.) €4.50 per packet/three for €12, from Butlers Chocolate Cafés.