If you go to a restaurant these days, you will be served by an assortment of waiters and waitresses. Perhaps I am choosing to go to the wrong places or getting unlucky, but every time I have been out to eat in the past year, at least, I’ve been served by multiple people. I am sure it used to be different; I am sure it used to be customary for a table to have one waiter or waitress who said ‘Hi, I’m Lucy’ (or whatever their name actually is) at the beginning of the evening and stuck with you for a whole meal. In a helpful way, not a creepy way. That used to be a thing, didn’t it?

Now, you go out to eat and one person takes your order, another brings you drinks, a third puts your food on the table, and so on. This seems to me to be an infinitely worse system. Firstly, you don’t have one person responsible for your table – if you need service, you don’t know whose eye to catch, and if you want to praise or complain about the treatment you’ve received, there is no one person that’s accountable. Secondly, it is hugely inefficient. Stupidly often, someone will come to take a drinks order when you already a placed it with another person five minutes ago, or three different people will check if your food is okay, or no one thinks to look in on you for twenty minutes while you’re desperately trying to find someone to ask for the bill. Thirdly, you don’t build up a rapport with anyone. If you have the time and are feeling social, it’s nice to chat to your waiter or waitress throughout the meal as they come and go, and you end the evening knowing them by name and feeling rather fond of them and more willing to leave a large tip. This doesn’t happen if you’re visited by five different people in passing.

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For all these reasons and more, it seems like it would make far more sense to simply assign each table in a restaurant to one dedicated server and have everyone look after their own patch. I literally can’t think of a single reason why the haphazard approach of having multiple people serving one table has become the norm. But I suppose there must be a reason, or all these restaurants wouldn’t be doing it. What is the reason? Why don’t tables just have one server any more? This isn’t rhetorical – I really would like to know, so if you have the answers then please enlighten me.

I am writing this because we have just been out to lunch in London at a moderately fancy restaurant where the food was lovely and the service was poor. I mean, I’d much rather that than having service that was lovely and food that was poor, but still. When you go out to a restaurant your main focus is obviously (probably) the food, but you’re paying for a whole package of food and service and atmosphere, surely?

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Rant over. Time for cupcakes.

I was asked to bake a couple of things for a charity event last weekend, and the idea of a blackberry and coconut cupcake popped into my head, doubtless because blackberries are everywhere at the moment. I’ve never really noticed it in previous years for some reason, but this August I can barely walk past a hedgerow near where we live without stopping to marvel at the abundance of the soft, bounteous berries, blushing through shades of deep crimson to dusky purple and black.

Notes: These cupcakes are soft and moist from the coconut cream and oil, dense and lightly scented. They will keep reasonably well and stay moist for a couple of days, especially with the jam in the middle and buttercream on top.

Ingredients:

for the cakes

3 eggs
175g caster sugar
120ml coconut oil
70ml coconut cream
175g self raising flour, sifted
50g dessicated coconut

for the frosting

100g softened butter
200g icing sugar
3 tbsp blackberry jam

to decorate

blackberry jam
12 blackberries
handful of dessicated coconut

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and line a cupcake tray with twelve cases. Pop your eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk for two minutes. In a measuring jug, combine the coconut oil and coconut cream (it will separate and look weird, but don’t worry, it will all be fine), and add this to the eggs and sugar. Mix until just combined. Keep your mixer on a low speed, and gently add your flour and desiccated coconut to the batter.
  2. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one (or any old spoon if you don’t), divide the mixture evenly between the cases: they should be about 2/3 full. Bake for fifteen minutes, or until well risen and golden (it could be more like twenty minutes in a different oven). Put the cupcakes on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
  3. Once the cupcakes are cool, core them. I have a set of cookie cutters, and I use the smallest one to core cupcakes, which works perfectly. You might have a proper cupcake corer, or you can just cut out the centres with a knife. Spoon blackberry jam into the holes.
  4. Make the buttercream. Beat the butter until soft, and then sift the icing sugar over it. Mix the icing sugar in roughly with a spatula, and then use the electric whisk to beat the buttercream until completely smooth and fluffy. Beat in the blackberry jam – if you want a completely smooth frosting, sieve the jam first. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes using a piping nozzle with a star tip, or simply dollop it on to each cake if you’d rather.
  5. Top each cupcake with a blackberry and sprinkle with coconut.