So I’m down in London for a stag do (bachelor party) catching up with an old friend. It’s due to be an expensive weekend so we decide to keep our evening meal cheap, and I know just the place – a vegetarian Indian restaurant that does all-you-can-eat.
What should happen with all-you-can-eat deals is that you have the same amount you normally would and then say ‘great – that was only £4.50’ (US $7). What you actually do is go on some mad stomach-packing spree, like you’re intending to go into hibernation. It’s as though the more you eat, the better value your meal has become. When I say you, of course, I mean me.
When I lived in London, my friend John and I used to do exactly that, behaving like Paul Newman in the egg scene in Cool Hand Luke. We’d eat three entire plates of food each before calling it a night, then complain the next time we saw each other that we’d unable to sleep that night due to sheer stomach-fullness. At which point we’d agree we needed to do it again soon.
But the reason I’m writing about this is not to boast about my offensive levels of gluttony (or at least not solely to). It’s because of the curious situation that occurs when places are BYOB (Bring Your Own bottle/booze/beer). This place is unlicensed, with signs on the wall stating that you can bring your own alcoholic drinks in at no extra charge. The guy on the counter happily points out the location of the nearest off license (a UK shop with the licence to sell alcohol).
Great – my friend decides he’s going to get some. But the situation suddenly takes a turn for the peculiar: because the restaurant sells non-alcoholic drinks already, we’re told we’re not allowed to bring those in. And their non-alcoholic beers are a pricey £2.95 (US $4.60) each, which is not far off the cost of the meal. Okay, I could have a can of cola or similar, but that’s not what I like to have with Indian food.
We go to the off-licence, and the beers are in the order of £1.20 (US $1.90) a can. So from an economic sense, it’s going to cost me two to three times as much to go non-alcoholic. I have this brief image of people falling off the wagon to save money, or slyly switching the labels between Beck’s regular and Beck’s Blue. If money is a defining factor – and clearly it is because we’ve gone for a cheap restaurant – then the only logical thing to do becomes to drink alcohol.
I doubt this is the intention of the restaurant owners. They have chosen for whatever reason(s) that they don’t want to sell alcohol. But the outcome, and it’s one common to BYOB restaurants, is that it’s not in my financial interests to purchase a non-alcoholic drink.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but something’s not quite right. We take the hit all the same, and I have a bottle of Schloer – non-alcoholic grape juice.
Ironically, the next morning I awake to the news that the ‘social responsibility levy’ has been introduced in Scotland, with South Wales possibly in line for something similar. This is done on the basis of a link between alcohol consumption and price.
I don’t know about that, but what I can report is that there is a definite relationship between restaurants doing all-you-can-eat and me having a bloated stomach the next morning.