Mr Taro owns two restaurants in the West End. Whilst the restaurant on Old Compton street frequently provides me with authentic but affordable Japanese fare of an evening, the original Ramen Taro on Brewer Street is the Taro establishment of choice for lunch with my co-workers. Although smaller in size, this microcosm of oriental sustenance permits you the delightful experience of being greeted and seated by Mr Taro himself.
Today, myself and seven other Nathan Barley extras presented ourselves at said locale in keen expectation of prompt and generous service. Hindsight reveals a certain level of optimism, as the place was fucking rammed. Mr Taro was as friendly as ever, but seemed rather flustered by our arrival, and his eyes scanned the room in search of a place to accommodate us.
A long wait ensued. One where you half-heartedly force some banter with your fellow hungry and anxious would-be diners whilst fidgeting and moving in and out of people’s way. The sight of eight people blocking a door always agitates me, particularly when I’m one of the eight people.
Eventually, I see a group of men with loosened belts who have recently completed a financial transaction with one of Mr Taro’s able waitresses. Their table has been cleared, they’re paid up, there’s obviously people waiting to be seated, so there’s no reason for them to stick around. Except they look as if they’re settling in for a postprandial chit-chat, their parched throats perhaps to be lubricated by further pourings of complimentary green tea from the enormous oriental teapot.
If I ran a restaurant, I would lose sleep over how to get rid of people occupying dead space. I can imagine only too well the ‘reserved Englishman’ conversation –
“I say, dear – those chaps seem to have finished, but have demonstrated not a dashed bit of interest in exiting the establishment.”
“Well, ask them to leave”, says my imaginary (but long-suffering) wife.
“And risk causing a scene? Plus they might never come back. No, no, best leave them to it, and if that group of eight get sick of waiting and leave before having the opportunity to give us a hundred quid, so be it.”
The only alternative would be telling them to fuck off, and smashing the teapot over the biggest guy’s head if they expressed disinclination to comply. This is why I don’t deal with the general public.
Mr Taro, having spotted the difficulty, gracefully approached the table, leaned forward and uttered some mysterious words. His brevity matched his charm, and the men, as if mesmerised, arose and departed with jaunty smiles and friendly waves.
What the christing fuck did he say to them? To get people unwilling to leave to leave with smiles is a miracle of diplomacy, and exactly the kind of skill I don’t have. Get people to leave? No probs. I’m your man. Do it politely? Insert spluttering noises here. I was almost tempted to ask him, but I bet it’s a trade secret.