There was a heated debate on our social media networks recently following a move by some restaurants in Kigali to ban the use of laptops in their premises. Though I haven’t gathered enough information to write authoritatively about this issue, a well-travelled person I know raised this concern; “Sandra, do we have ‘fine dining’ restaurants in Kigali?” This was after one of the concerned restaurants responded that they banned the use of laptops only in their “fine dining” restaurant.
Kigali eating offers have indeed grown and, looking back at what it used to be some years ago, this is a milestone that needs to be celebrated. Today, we have so many choices and specialties that one could eat a different cuisine every single day of the week. The restaurants offers range from cafes, fast foods, brassieres or bistros, buffets, à-la-carte menus, cafeteria, coffee houses, pubs, Teppanyaki-style, offered by some of the Asian restaurants in Kigali.
Because these offers vary from one place to another, their classification helps one to better understand what to expect. Obviously, a casual dining set up is completely different from a fine dining offer, and is seen in the kind of food they serve and clientele they attract.
If you want to experience upscale dining, you will not go to a place just to fill your stomach with calories. You will choose a formal place that offers “fine dining”. Here are some characteristics for fine dining restaurants.
In a fine dining restaurant, the menu, often gastronomic, offers exquisite flavours, uniqueness in the choice of proposed products…Chefs are usually very creative and will not prepare the veggies the same way as what is offered in a casual restaurant. Usually, a five-course menu, it will include an appetiser, soup, salad, entree, cheese platter, dessert, tea or coffee, cognac, brandies and many others.
Though the proportions of food in a fine dining restaurant may look smaller compared to a normal casual restaurant, the quality of the food and the uniqueness in their preparation is what matters in such places. Obviously, if you are not an adventurous person, eating snails, liver, salmon, sea foods, Carpaccio (raw beef), etc, a fine dining place might be a challenge.
Décor and ambiance
As it is said, we usually first ‘eat’ with our eyes before our stomach, the general ambiance, subtle lighting, the décor, the smooth music (rather classic or jazzy) are a requirement. Loud music in such an environment is not convenient. Decoration in a fine dining restaurant is done with great taste and with quality materials. Do not expect to see plastic flowers in such a place. Dress code is a key element in a fine dining restaurant as one cannot go in Jeans or T-shirts. Usually, clients understand and follow the dress code. I have been to a restaurant, where the concierge could lend out a tie or jacket to customers who were not dressed appropriately.
You cannot call yourself a fine dining restaurant owner when you are using plastic tablecloth. The high quality of the tablecloth, the way it is starched, pressed and laid are simple pre-requisites. The attention to details concerning the glassware, Chinaware, cutleries, sometimes over 20 pieces for only one guest, gives the customer a holistic experience of the dining. No detail is ever too small to pay attention to.
The first time I experienced a fine dining, I was impressed by the fact that we had to book a table three months in advance. As at today, I still remember the service of the butter used for the appetisers. In a fine dining restaurant, you might have a chauffeur service for parking your car.
Service in such places is like watching an old movie of the 18th century. Crumbing the table in between courses, escorting patrons to their tables, holding the chair for women or having a Sommelier for your food and wine pairing, shows how that experience is usually a life-time one.
In some cases, well-trained waiters are dressed in tuxedos, offering unique items that patrons wouldn’t find at any other restaurant. In such places, service goes far beyond taking an order and delivering food.
Most fine dining restaurants do not even indicate the cost of the food or drinks on the menu. And as you can imagine, usually, they are very expensive. Context is as important as the style and form because much as a coke might cost you Rwf500 in a snack next door, the same might cost Rwf500 more in such an environment for the same coke.
Alain Ducasse, a great Michelin French chef, says food is one part of the experience; and it makes up between 50 to 60 per cent of the dining experience. But things, like the mood, the ambience, the music, the design, and the harmony between what you have on the plate and what surrounds the plate, also matter.
The author is a customer service consultant, trainer, and the publisher of The ServiceMag