1. HKLP (Holds Knife Like Pen) is a habit so derided that it has a commonly recognised abbreviation, but that doesn’t stop diners (including people I count as friends) ineffectually sawing at their food as if dissecting a hitherto undiscovered species of hummingbird. There isn’t a watertight argument as to why HKLP is unbearably naff, but it is a dainty affectation comparable to embroidered bogroll covers, raising your little finger when drinking and putting circles instead of dots above the letter ‘i’.
2. Lavatory attendants, and more specifically, their little metal dishes for the placement of coins, drive me to the sort of anger you associate with Wolf from Gladiators. The idea that I would tip a man whose job is to make sure I don’t snort coke from the bogroll dispenser or invite my dining companion for a quickie against the cistern is nothing short of preposterous.
3. Apologising to waiters is unforgivable unless you’ve done something extremely gauche (holding your knife like a pen, for example). If you have inconvenienced a waiter you should leave him a bigger tip, but never imagine you will be friends. Like proctologists and tramps, you want waiters to be friendly, not matey.
4. Deliberating over whether to see the pudding menu is a needless wrinkle to a social occasion. I never refuse even when uncomfortably distended because I can’t bear the awkward eyebrow semaphore required, when a waiter is present, to find out whether your dining partner secretly wants a plum duff but is concerned not to appear greedy.
5. Short of “Is that a meal?” when you ask for a burger without chips in a fast food chain (correct answer: “Not in any meaningful sense of the word”) the most irritating question in a restaurant is: “How is your meal?” It is a wrong-headed attempt at improving service in the most disingenous and cosmetic way. Normatively, the kitchen should be so confident in its output that the question is unncecessary, and a good waiter would have anticipated any subsequent requests when he brought the food to the table. Positively, a chef that doesn’t make sure his dishes are satisfactory when they leave the kitchen won’t give a stuffed fig about their condition when they are half-eaten.