Two men eat lunch

Two men sit down. One is in his twenties, dark hair and he sits on the banquette, looking out into the room and one in his sixties, white hair, and he sits facing the wall. The other waitress, a supervisor, serves them a bottle of still water. Shortly after this, I take them the wine list and asked if they would like anything to drink. “We have something to drink,” says the dark haired man, suggesting the question were unnecessary. The white haired man then asks me to turn the music, that was already very quiet, down further. I do so. I go to see them again a few minutes later to take their order. “What is Onglet?”, the man with the white hair asks. It is a cut of beef taken from near the diaphragm, I reply. It is cooked medium rare, any more and it would become tough, due to the texture of the muscle tissue. “Can you go next door and buy some sirloin?”, says the man with the white hair. He means to the butcher. I hold his look, waiting for him to smile, to indicate that this was a joke. It does not happen. He says it again: “can’t you go next door and buy a sirloin?” Umm, not really, I say, it would result in a significant hike in the price. Is he for real? I also reflect that I am not looking forward to serving him for the next hour or so. The black haired man (who could be the white haired man’s son, the age gap seems about right) says he wants to order the aubergine and then the onglet. He says that he doesn’t want the onglet to be bloody. I say that it was well hung meat and would be well rested, so it wouldn’t be running with blood as such, but that it would be very pink. He asks if it could be cooked more, more like medium. I repeat what I had said that it would become tough if cooked more. He says again, please could he have it cooked more. I say yes. The other man, the one with white hair, orders the same dishes and then says, could he have bread and olives? He asks what kind of bread it was. I say it was sourdough made on the premises and that it is very good. He asks if we have focaccia. I say no, we have sourdough. His face contorts into a disappointed and disgusted expression. The black haired man re-assures him that sourdough was good. He still looks disappointed and disgusted. I say that bread was free and he could have it anyway and that olives were three pounds. He then says he would have those. Could he have lots of bread as it was free, then he says could he have loaves to take away? I say what, do you mean are the loaves for sale to take away? He says no, could I just take loaves away for free. I say no, other customers would eat the bread. I bring them bread and olives, with an extra slice of bread than usual to silence him. I tell the chef about the cooking of the beef and he says, do they realise that it will be tougher and I explain that yes, I had told them it would be tough and he says, fine. We both disapprove. I am anxious that they will not like their starter but they ate all of it. Even though they have been strange and difficult I am still concerned that they like the food I serve them. I wondered whether eating the food, which is always good, would ease their nervous, strange behaviour. Then I bring them their main course and I am anxious that they will complain, especially about the beef. The dark haired one comes to ask for salt and pepper. I give them to him. After five minutes I check on them. The white haired man says that, “it’s fine, it’s good”. Fine is so damning, I think. When I return twenty minutes later to clear the plates the dark haired man says that it is the best beef he has ever eaten in his life. I am astonished. I ask the chef where it had come from. It came form Yorkshire, I tell the dark haired man this fact. Then I ask if they want dessert. The white haired man requests the cake with cream and orders a coffee. The other waitress makes the coffee and serves it to him, five minutes later the dessert arrives. The white haired says he wants a new coffee because he wants his coffee with his dessert, he has drunk none of his coffee. I make him a new coffee and serve it. At the end, they argue over who will pay and the white haired man pays in the end. His credit card is branded with Christian Aid. They do not say goodbye.


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