Inspired by a tweet yesterday by Guardian restaurant reviewer Marina O'Loughlin: "Love being told, when I point to better table, 'Sorry madam, that one's booked.' I BLOODY BOOKED TOO." - we decided to find out from some of our favourite front of house people in London, just how to secure that perfect table for two in London's best restaurants. And, just as importantly, how to react when you don't get the table you're after.
Know the room: If you know the restaurant you're going to, let reservations know if you'd prefer a smaller or larger table, or one by the window. "We have a snug table here that's too quiet for some people, but others really love it and make a point of asking for it." Jon Spiteri
Keep details on tables you like: "I know myself that I like certain tables in restaurants I go to a lot, so I make a point of asking for that table number." JS
Loyalty helps: "If someone is a regular client, coming two or three times a week and prefers a certain table, then we'll always do what we can to make sure they have it. We want to keep them loyal." JS
As does a good reason: Mention to the booking staff if there's something special behind your visit. "We do want to look after our regulars, but it's also just as important to make sure that someone who's travelled all the way from Sweden just to try your food is happy with where they're sitting." Daniel Willis
It's not personal: But, sometimes not even the most accommodating of restaurants can help: "If they'd prefer another table to the one they're being shown to then 95% of the time we can change it, unless someone else has already expressed a preference for it.' JS
There is a plan: "Without wanting to be too precious, how we seat people detemines the rhythm of the room. When we fill up the dining room at The Clove Club we don't want to sit everyone right next to each other on one side and leave the rest of the room empty. It's also an issue for the waiters; we need to balance the room out for them too." DW
Be flexible (and polite): "If you want a particular table, it's better to book in advance and be prepared to compromise on the time ie 9pm instead of 8pm for example." Fred Sirieix
Patience: The right table may come up if you have the time to wait it out. "If you walk in and want THAT table, be nice about it and be prepared to wait a little in the bar until it becomes available." FS
And good timekeeping: Be prompt for your booking or that table you've been looking forward to may be given away." FS
But as Fred points out: "What is a good table? The worse table could well be the best if that is the only one available at the time."