How do you judge restaurants, other than the food?

I went over to Richmond recently, just for a day out, and it reminded me of a fish dinner I had there a few months back (before I started le blog) which struck me as a nice meal, but with a poor experience. It got me thinking a bit about what one looks for in a restaurant, beside the food itself. Obviously there are a number of easy things, like how friendly the staff are and how comfortable it is. But there are, if you set your mind to think about it, a HUGE amount of things that the subconcious registers when you dine in a restaurant that affect your overall opinion of the place.

So, long story short I wrote a list of things I can think of that you consider (whether they be obvious or things you’re less cogniscant of) when you dine. Would be interested to hear from you if you have things you notice when eating out…


  • What’s the decor like? Garish, boring, over-done, dated, dreary?
  • What’s the lighting like? Is it very bright, can you see the menu properly; are candles dazzling you?
  • Is it clear where the toilets are? Or do you have to ask like a child?
  • How clear is the menu? Is the menu to complex?


  • What’s the level of noise like – is it intrusive or too quiet?
  • What kinds of sounds are they – relaxing or banging and scraping of chairs?
  • How close are other diners? Are you able to talk reasonably privately, should you wish to?


  • What smells are you getting? If there are plants, are they too scented?
  • Is the air pleasant, can you smell appetising food being prepared?
  • Is your wine served at the right temperature/how warm is the room. For example, if it’s a red, can you smell it when it is uncorked?


  • Is it drafty?
  • What’s the temperature like?
  • Is it easy to move around the place? Door easy to open? Space to get past people?
  • Are people brushing you on their way past?
  • Are the seats comfortable?
  • Is it clean?


  • Are the staff knowledgeable? Or do they have to go and get help to answer questions? Does it become a hindrance to ask another question?
  • How appropriate is the timing of the service? Are they trying to force wine down your neck and get you out the door?
  • How fast do they present you with the bill once you ask?
  • What’s the culture of the staff – is it a fun environment? Are the staff engaging and friendly?

2 thoughts on “How do you judge restaurants, other than the food?

  1. The wine temperature: nothing ruins a good Chablis like a warm glass or bottle. This is something all good restaurants should be well aware of, and a good way of judging the competence of the waiting staff is their reaction when you send back your tepid glass of white wine – whether they apologise and run off to get you a replacement at the right temperature or look at you in miscomprehension. Grafton House in Clapham got it spot on, and as a result their restaurant is one I would highly recommend.

  2. Good point Lydia. Also rate a restaurant which knows which red wines should be chilled, especially a nice Pinot Noir. Almost my new favourite wine.

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