Sexist ‘ladies fillet’ sounds like the sort of thing Al Murray would serve
PUBLISHED: 13:25 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:56 13 February 2020
Can you believe that in 2020 a restaurant in this country is offering a ‘ladies fillet’ on its menu - and it’s not being ironic. Andy Newman rolls his eyes
The comedian Al Murray's Pub Landlord character is a parody of the kind of old-fashioned chauvinist that was once to be found throughout the hospitality industry - in fact, throughout society. We laugh at his overt xenophobia and his sexism ('and a glass of white wine for the ladies…') because it is a caricature, something from the past which has no place in today's rather more enlightened society.
At least, that's what I thought. But news this week of a Twitter-storm caused by the menu at a Liverpool restaurant which could have been written by Murray's Pub Landlord himself suggests that such outdated attitudes are still alive and kicking.
The Manhattan Bar and Grill in that city offers a 'ladies fillet' steak. It is so-called because it is slightly smaller than others on the menu, presumably so the little ladies can keep their figures slim enough to satisfy their men. I'm not making this up - it is really happening in the 21st century.
There is nothing wrong in offering smaller versions of dishes for those who don't have a gargantuan appetite, but why does such an approach have to be served with a side dish of rampant sexism? Are they saying that women shouldn't be allowed larger plates of food? Or that if a man fancies something a bit smaller, he is compromising his masculinity?
I don't usually have much time for those who take to social media to bash those trying to earn a living in the precarious restaurant trade, but on this occasion the Manhattan Bar and Grill deserves every criticism it gets - particularly as the owner has been quoted in the press as saying he does not really see there is anything wrong in the menu description.
Aside from the awful misogyny, there is a rather more important issue here, that of excessive portion sizes when we eat out. The 'ladies' fillet' - the smallest on the menu, remember - weighs in at 225g (8oz). From there the steak sizes go up and up, with the largest a whopping 575g (20oz) ribeye.
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All of which is fine if you have the appetite, but why is half a pound of meat considered such a small portion that it's only suitable for 'ladies'? This really should be the default size for a steak, not the extra-small version.
Serving super-sized steaks to anyone who has a normal appetite is simply wasteful, given the amount that gets left on the side of the plate. In a world where we are more aware of the impact of everything we do on our environment, such waste is unforgiveable.
Talking of portion sizes, a restaurant in Caister has taken some criticism this week for not allowing a 30-year-old man living with Down's syndrome to have a half-price children's carvery portion. It is easy to condemn the restaurant - and plenty have - but the situation is more nuanced, because the restaurant has bills to pay, and let's face it, no one is making a fortune from the hospitality industry right now.
The whole question of smaller portions of restaurant meals has led to considerable comment online about how these dishes are priced. Why, goes the question, does a meal which is half-size not bear a price which reflects a 50 per cent discount on the full-sized dish?
This is to misunderstand how restaurants work; the cost of the ingredients is actually quite a small proportion of what you pay. No matter how much food is on your plate, you still need a chef to cook it; you still need someone to bring it to your table, a plate to put it on, someone in the kitchen to wash that plate up after you have finished.
Most of all, you are still occupying a chair, and that means the restaurant is paying rent and business rates on that space, no matter how much you eat. Councils don't give a discount on business rates for establishments catering for people on a diet, just as you can't pay staff less than the minimum wage just because they are delivering children's portions.
All of this means that if you order a half-sized meal, you should really only expect the price of it to be 15 per cent or so lower than the full-sized meal. It may not seem fair, but this is the economics of running a restaurant.
That said, offering smaller portion sizes on the menu is a good idea. I just don't see why there is a necessity to label them as 'children's' portions, or even worse, 'ladies' portions'.
Just accept that we all have differing levels of hunger, and give us the choice.