Picture this; You walk into your favourite restaurant, the one you visit so often that you’re familiar with the designs on their menu cards. The moment you step in, the dim lights cast a shadow on your face and the aroma of all the different dishes hits you like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle. You are greeted by an employee, a friendly face that smiles and leads you to your table. You pass by all the other guests sitting and chattering away about their lives. You overhear some conversations, happy and sad, in the midst of clinking cutlery and erupting laughter.
With each step, you smell the delicacies being made in the kitchen. Right from the pungent smell of spices to the charred scent of a barbecue, each one tempting you towards your meal. You recognise the tune being played in background, a soulful sound, often on loop here. You reach your table, sit down and start scanning the menu when you come across a few new additions that you’re curious to try. Not more than a couple of minutes in, a waiter walks in and takes your order. You know what you like on this menu and so does most of the staff, since you’re here so often.
While you wait for your food to arrive, you strike conversation with your dinner guests. The highlights of their day, the sorrows of their lives, everything is discussed on that table. When the food arrives, everyone’s faces fill with glee and while taking a bite of your favourite meal, you get to listen to your closest friends, family and even aquaintences share their lives with you. The subtle music, beautiful lighting and the intricate decor are aspects of dining out that you enjoy while sharing your time with the people you love. You finish your meal with a smile on your face, and leave the restaurant with a happy heart.
This is what a restaurant experience encapsulates. The comfort of good food and company, served in a pretty package of twinkling lights and fancy crockery. We spend a lot of time dining at the best restaurants but we often overlook the importance they have in our lives and social connections. Every meal shared on a dimly lit restaurant table helps us get closer to our near and dear ones. Restaurants play a key role in urban life, and cities that tower over us with giant buildings, full of hope and ambition, often leave a trace of lost personal connection. In the modern world, all of us are constantly running. Either to catch a train, to get that promotion, or towards our overachieving expectations.
In the midst of all this running, restaurants encourage us to sit down and have a meal without the stress of our future towering over us. They give us an environment where we can breathe, think, feel and connect with the people around us. They encourage us to share our lives with other human beings. Restaurants are the only place where we stop running for a split second and enjoy where we are. The experience of eating at a restaurant is essential to our urban society. They are places where we form our strongest bonds, share our deepest experiences and build our communities.