The new, improved, sustainable, organic, free-range, line-caught, locally sourced rules of restaurants. This revised list was designed primarily for Australians travelling within Australia, but most of the guidelines work equally well overseas.
1. Never eat in a restaurant that revolves or floats.
2. A restaurant with a pepper grinder on every table is likely to be good (as opposed to a restaurant where the waiters thrust a metre-long pepper grinder into your ear).
3. The longer the menu, the lesser the quality – except in Chinese restaurants.
4. A restaurant in which one wall is covered with signed black and white photographs of celebrities is unlikely to be state of the art, even if one of the celebrities is Kyle Sandilands.
5. A restaurant where the waitstaff are required to wear archaic costumes is unlikely to be state of the art. Particularly pirates. And medieval serving wenches.
6. Never eat in a restaurant that is recommended in any free publication you find in your hotel room – even if the ad for the restaurant appears on a different page from the recommendation.
7. Restaurants that advertise themselves as “dinner and a show” could now actually be fun.
8. Given the choice between a Mexican restaurant and a Thai restaurant, and in the absence of other information, go Thai. Unless you are in Mexico.
9. Restaurants more than 100 kilometres from the coast are unlikely to specialise successfully in seafood.
10. A restaurant that offers a “two-for-one deal” on a piece of paper handed to you in the street is unlikely to be state of the art.
11. A recommendation on Tripadvisor that is expressed in the same language as the restaurant’s advertising should be treated with caution. Especially if that language appears again in three further recommendations.
12. A restaurant that is part of a chain promoted by a celebrity chef is unlikely to have enthusiastic service (and also unlikely to be there the next time you’re in town).
13. Never eat in a restaurant that has a souvenir shop attached.
14. A restaurant with a pun in its name and puns all over its menu may take its cooking equally seriously – except for Thai restaurants, where a pun in the title is mandatory.
15. Restaurants that display their menus outside (or online) are likely to be more interesting than those that don’t (and also make the application of the next few guidelines much easier).
16. The number of spelling errors on a menu is inversely proportional to the quality of the cooking.
17. When it takes longer to read the menu’s description of a dish than to actually eat the dish, expect the food to be overpriced and underflavoured.
18. A restaurant where one form of produce is chemically manipulated to look like a different form of produce is likely to be overpriced and underflavoured.
19. The appearance of the word “authentic” before a dish’s ethnicity does not necessarily mean that anybody of that ethnicity is in the kitchen.
20. The appearance of the word “northern” in front of a cuisine’s nationality may mean only that the food has less garlic or less chilli; the word “modern” before the nationality may mean only that the servings are smaller.
21. A restaurant that lists four pasta shapes in one column and four sauces in another column, and invites you to “mix ‘n’ match”, is unlikely to be run by an Italian.
22. Restaurants that have lots of daily specials are likely to be interesting, but only if the specials are listed on a blackboard or a sheet of paper, so you don’t have to remember the waiter’s recitation.
23. Look through the window. If you see that every plate is decorated with dots, smears, skidmarks, and/or tiny flower petals, you are likely to leave hungry.
24. A restaurant so dimly lit that everything on the plate looks the same colour is likely to have something to hide.
25. If you smell truffle oil as soon as you enter a restaurant, turn around and go out again – unless you wish to time-travel back to the ’90s.
David Dale is a former editor of The Good Food Guide and teaches media at the University of NSW. If you’d like to add to these rules, or debate them, David Dale would love to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org