To uncap at the table or not

20 02 2014


There’s a steakhouse we go to every few months, and they have this strange policy — they don’t uncap your chosen bottle of wine at the table in front of you. Instead, they uncap it at the bar and bring you the opened bottle with no cap on the side.

How their system works: I choose the wine I want either from the minimal wine list or from a locked display cabinet and let the server know which one. Out of sight of the customer, the server unlocks the cabinet and gets the wine, or gets it from the bottleshop that is attached to the venue, or gets it from somewhere else. The server then opens the wine behind the bar and brings the opened bottle to the table with the wine glasses.

Why is this of concern to me, you might ask? Here are some potential issues with this:

  • How do I know that the wine is from a new, full bottle and not a half empty bottle from behind the counter that they’ve topped up with another (cheaper?) wine? A wine that was potentially paid for by another person and now is being resold a second time,
  • How do I know that no-one has ‘doctored’ the wine with a foreign substance?
  • How do I know that no-one has dropped a sedative drug into the wine?

So when we were paying our bill at this restaurant last night, I asked why the wine was not uncapped at the table by the server. No-one could give me a logical, reasonable response. Instead I got ‘it’s policy’, ‘that’s how we do it’, ‘we don’t give you the cap because it might be put back on the bottle and then the bottle used as a weapon’, ‘it’s licensing regulations’ and the like.

I particularly liked the ‘used as a weapon’ response — this from a place that serves big juicy steaks and that has HUGE steak knives sitting on every table when you walk in. I’m talking 6″ plus steak knives with a 1″ wide blade and a decent serrated edge and a solid wooden handle. You want to prevent people from using a bottle as a weapon? Then reconsider the placement of massive steak knives at every place setting. And weapons? In a family restaurant in a country town frequented by your typical middle class couples and family groups? Highly unlikely.

If they had wines with a cork, would they also uncork the wine at the bar, or uncork it at the table? If they would uncork it at the table, then why not use the same procedure for Stelvin caps?

All their excuses are very lame. And I doubt licensing regulations have anything to do with this ‘policy’.

I’m still concerned that they won’t uncap a wine at the table in front of the customer who has paid for that wine.