Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What are the signs of class and elegance for you?


Gifted Gourmet
 Share

Recommended Posts

Looking for words to describe an anniversary meal I had last night at a local very elegant hotel, I found the general sense I came away from the experience was classy ... a number of subtle touches which were well conceived and added up to a magical impression ...

Other words which might best describe this experience might be: chic, exclusive, fashionable, high-class, posh, sharp, superior, swank, tony, uptown, elegant, luxury, opulent, rich, ritzy, smart, trendy ...

Why did I receive this impression? The little touches which, when combined, made for an overall impression of elegance without elitism ...

Only a very few examples, if I might:

The tea service after the meal ... delivered with aplomb by the waiter from a mahogany teacart ... gleaming white canisters of leaf teas which were offered, the glass infuser in the glass teapot, the flame lit in the hot plate burners ... pouring the tea for you in white porcelain cups ... overall? classy! Nary a teabag in view ... all done deftly and elegantly ...

The chef coming out into the dining room after the meal to greet and chat with the clientele ...

The calligraphy printed menus on vellum of what was on your tasting menu .. hand-signed by the chef, the maitre d', the sommelier ...

The little buttery sweet madeleines packaged so beautifully in an envelope to take home for the next morning's breakfast ...

The replacing of a new, fresh knapkin when one left the room for the restroom ...

Of course I do not normally dine in this fashion, but just once in a while, a restaurant makes efforts which stand out in bas relief against the everyday mundane dining experiences ...

Now for my question (of course well disguised until the end!) What are the touches which make for a classy dining experience for you?? :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Looking for words to describe an anniversary meal I had last night at a local very elegant hotel, I found the general sense I came away from the experience was classy ...  a number of subtle touches which were well conceived and added up to a magical impression ...

Other words which might best describe this experience might be: chic, exclusive, fashionable, high-class, posh, sharp, superior, swank, tony, uptown, elegant, luxury, opulent, rich, ritzy, smart, trendy ...

Why did I receive this impression? The little touches which, when combined, made for an overall impression of elegance without elitism ...

Only a very few examples, if I might:

The tea service after the meal ... delivered with aplomb by the waiter from a mahogany teacart ... gleaming white canisters of leaf teas which were offered, the glass infuser in the glass teapot, the flame lit in the hot plate burners ... pouring the tea for you in white porcelain cups ... overall? classy! Nary a teabag in view ... all done deftly and elegantly ...

The chef coming out into the dining room after the meal to greet and chat with the clientele ...

The calligraphy printed menus on vellum of what was on your tasting menu .. hand-signed by the chef, the maitre d', the sommelier ...

The little buttery sweet madeleines packaged so beautifully in an envelope to take home for the next morning's breakfast ...

The replacing of a new, fresh knapkin when one left the room for the restroom ...

Of course I do not normally dine in this fashion, but just once in a while, a restaurant makes efforts which stand out in bas relief against the everyday mundane dining experiences ...

Now for my question (of course well disguised until the end!) What are the touches which make for a classy dining experience for you??  :rolleyes:

Adding on to your points about the chef coming to check on your happiness and the miraculously replaced napkin, I always enjoy:

1) The waiter greeting us by name

2) Dark/Light napkins matched to the clothes we're wearing

3) Little surprises like amuse's (if that's the plural :smile: ) even when not eating off a tasting menu

4) Waitstaff who have sampled everything on the menu and can offer recommendations with panache and rationale

5) Proper etiqutte in service (right/left, scraping crumbs, etc)

6) I really like it when everyone is served their main courses in unison by as many servers are required to pull it off.

7) A cheese course and fine apertifs.

There are many specific things depending on the specific restaurant and cuisine, but in general any establishment can raise it's classy factor by adding the above.

Edited by Bill_H (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The bread should be served hot. As much emphasis as is placed on serving the courses at a certain certain temperature - I am pleasantly surprised albeit a rare occurance when the rolls are served the correct temperature. Lukewarm rolls are after all lukewarm. So maybe not exactly denoting the presence of a classy dining experience but the absence of heat not only knocks even the classiest time down a notch or two for me it's presence raises the bar on the most mundane fare.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The chef coming out into the dining room after the meal to greet and chat with the clientele ...

That's not service, that's gratuitous sycophancy. Chefs are there to cook, not to swan about in an impeccably clean jacket afterward.

If you need to come out to the dining room on request, do so, but we have enough primadonnas in this industry.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Waitstaff knowing who ordered what without asking

Decent linen, cutlery, crockery and glass

Not more than two courses of cutlery on the table at any time - the rest brought with the service plate

Good breads

Comfortable chairs with enough distance between tables for some privacy

Right temperature room, with silent air conditioning

Good carpet

Good soap, and plenty of clean towels in clean elegant washrooms

No musak (maybe a live classical string quartet in the foyer, or a sung grace on formal occasions, so long as its not sung by the waitstaff)

Wine correctly handled - decanted properly with a candle if need be. For some places just having reasonable wine, at the right temperature, not excessively priced, and with a proper description including grower and year.

Service compris

Edited by jackal10 (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's not service, that's gratuitous sycophancy.  Chefs are there to cook, not to swan about in an impeccably clean jacket afterward.

You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but many may disagree. For some, dining is an 'event' and part of what interests people may be a little time with the person who crafted the menu. I have been at restaurants when chefs were in the dining room to chat. Times it has been instructive and interesting and times it was irritating puffery. Depends on the personality of the chef and their personal goal in interacting with diners.

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Waitstaff knowing who ordered what without asking

That has to be my number one criteria for "class." It is the difference between feeling like a "customer" and a "guest." On only a very few occaisions do I recall a runner being able to correctly figure out who had ordered which meal, and even then I was sure it was a lucky guess or at least the waiter/witress drew them a good map.

The other thing I enjoy is the apparent invisibility of the service staff. Like GG mentioned when her napkin was mysteriously replaced, I've experienced cutlery switched while I was mid-sip, wine replenished while mid-bite and bread replaced mid-conversation. All stealth-like and unobtrusive. At the same time, the waiter was able to anticipate when he was needed without hovering.

A.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In addition to what others have said:

- Sufficient light to read the menu, see the food and my tablemate(s), but no glare or sparkly reflections

- Chairs that move easily on whatever the floor surface might be

- Fresh flower/botanical arrangements well out of smelling distance

- No distracting artwork on the walls

- Silence in the dining room save for the murmur of conversation and the clink of flatware hitting plates as customers eat

- Check-less coat check service, in which they know which is mine without my having to receive and then return a little stub of cardboard or plastic

- Tables large enough to accomodate everything, including share plates

- The automatic offering of share plates, when we have already indicated when ordering that we will be sharing; offering to split dishes or at least providing implements to do so ourselves under the same circumstance

- Tablecloths, if used, should have sufficient undercloths so that plate and flatware placement is silent; however, the surface shouldn't be so puffy that a champagne flute is in danger of tipping. (But tablecloths are not an absolute requirement.)

- Flatware and glasses that are a delight to hold: well-balanced, and the proper size/shape for my hands

- Waitstaff who really know and appreciate food and drink, even beyond the mandatory knowledge of their own menu, so that they can understand and relate to my points of reference

And thank you, slbunge -- I would very much like it if the chef were to come to my table, knowing what we had ordered, to answer our questions about the food.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And thank you, slbunge -- I would very much like it if the chef were to come to my table, knowing what we had ordered, to answer our questions about the food.

That happened when I visited Manresa as well ... Chef David Kinch came out to talk to us about his concepts and get our input and it was quite positive for both of us ... I like that 'touch' and will long remember the good feelings and warmth exhibited .. it gave the entire evening a certain "closure", meant in a good way here!

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course, if the chef is in the dining room or bar and perhaps not immediately recognizable, you might get a situation like my friend who asked Charlie Trotter for a light on her way out of the restaurant. He obliged.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

Link to comment
Share on other sites

- Check-less coat check service, in which they know which is mine without my having to receive and then return a little stub of cardboard or plastic

Great idea, but I'd like to know how you propose they do that in a 150 seat restaurant.?

Derek

Link to comment
Share on other sites

- Check-less coat check service, in which they know which is mine without my having to receive and then return a little stub of cardboard or plastic

Great idea, but I'd like to know how you propose they do that in a 150 seat restaurant.?

Pretty easy actually. They take coats after you have visited the host who knows where you will be seated. Then they hang a tag on the hanger indicating table number. If you are wating for a table at the bar, the tag initially has your name on it (again, you checked with the staff) which the host converts to a table number after you are seated.

Have seen it done this way several times.

Edited by slbunge (log)

Stephen Bunge

St Paul, MN

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here I thought I was making it up! :raz:

So much of what makes a "classy" experience relies on communications -- among the various parts of front of house, between FOH and BOH, and between the customer/guest and the establishment as a whole. The physical environment certainly helps (or hinders :sad: ) but I think overall classiness comes down to all parties treating each other with respect and intelligence. Do unto others and so on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

- Check-less coat check service, in which they know which is mine without my having to receive and then return a little stub of cardboard or plastic

Great idea, but I'd like to know how you propose they do that in a 150 seat restaurant.?

Pretty easy actually. They take coats after you have visited the host who knows where you will be seated. Then they hang a tag on the hanger indicating table number. If you are wating for a table at the bar, the tag initially has your name on it (again, you checked with the staff) which the host converts to a table number after you are seated.

Have seen it done this way several times.

Fantastic idea!! I love the fact that after 20+ years in the industry, I still have alot to learn. Thanks.

Derek

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From a recent dining experience at Chez Panisse, these were the things that stood out:

Willing to make substitutions, even though the menu is set. The server asked if the menu looked fine to us, and was more than willing and knowledgeable enough to answer questions, even going as far as bringing us a Jerusalem artichoke from the kitchen when my husband asked what one was.

Invisible, or at the very least unobtrusive, management of things like plate removal, wine refilling, or crumb scraping.

The coat thing (mentioned above) was also a very nice touch.

"I just hate health food"--Julia Child

Jennifer Garner

buttercream pastries

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fantastic idea!! I love the fact that after 20+ years in the industry, I still have alot to learn.  Thanks.

Which is precisely why they call us The eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters .. we are all here for the learning offered in a wide variety of ways! :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Along with all the previous suggestions and impressions, I feel that if a restaurant shows consideration and a genuine care for the customer's enjoyment of their experience, that is class. It does not have to be a starred restaurant--the essence of hospitality is the way someone feels once they are on their way out your door. At least to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So many specific and very salient points already made.... I'll approach this from a very general standpoint. If I leave a restaurant having been consciously ware only of a sensual/visceral experience of food consumption and the nature of my personal interaction with my dining partner.... it means they really did their job with class and elegance. When the surroundings, the service and other elements are in such a seamless and well structured array that my awareness seems to be focused only on the key elements, I feel that I've been in a place that defines class and elegance (for me - YMMV!).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I feel that if a restaurant shows consideration and a genuine care for the customer's enjoyment of their experience, that is class.

Caring, certainly .. make the customer feel special and unique, cherished and valued ... sounds a bit too simplistic, no? But in this often brusque, hurried, oh-so-busy world, it is too easy to be less than sensitive to the customer and his/her individual needs ... does spending a lot of money insure the "caring" and "attention" each of us longs for? :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Class" is the inconspicuous absence of unpleasant distractions.

Sort of like the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story:

Inspector Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"

Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

From "The Adventure of Silver Blaze" by Arthur Conan Doyle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

does spending a lot of money insure the "caring" and "attention" each of us longs for?

Unquestionably not. I've gotten that kind of caring in very unexpected places. Last fall I went on a cruise for the first time. It wasn't my idea... I did it to please my GF and was prepared for the possibility that I'd find everything about it to be cheesy, tacky and throughly unenjoyable (excepting her delightful company).

The food was better than I expected it to be - generally acceptable and occasionally surprisingly good. What really startled me was the level of service - I felt genuinely welcomed everywhere I went and my needs seemed to be met in such an unobtrusive and seamless way that I felt really pampered in a way I never had before. All that for one week for about what dinner for four with wine would cost at Per Se.

I've also had that experience in some very humble dining places where the genuine desire of the owner/chef and staff was so focused on my enjoyment that it felt as though I were a privileged guest in someone's home.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although I know (at least I figured I know--Look Out) what Melissa meant initially---like that extra special little touch, I have to confess to being much more touched by hospitality than elegance. I have had quite a few elegant touches at different styled venues, but although they do impress, I still feel much more warmed at the core by sheer hospitality and goodwill from my purveyor. I am reminded of the most basic rules of mankind--civility to a guest. I guess I am just hoping for a quiet place to rest my weary psyche these days.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

- Check-less coat check service, in which they know which is mine without my having to receive and then return a little stub of cardboard or plastic

Great idea, but I'd like to know how you propose they do that in a 150 seat restaurant.?

Pretty easy actually. They take coats after you have visited the host who knows where you will be seated. Then they hang a tag on the hanger indicating table number. If you are wating for a table at the bar, the tag initially has your name on it (again, you checked with the staff) which the host converts to a table number after you are seated.

Have seen it done this way several times.

Some restaurants even have checkless valet - car warmed up and waiting for you at the door as you exit. Now, I've never eaten there (Canlis, Seattle, WA, specifically), but I understand they have lots of the other virtues discussed here as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...