American chef Grant Achatz courted controversy last month when he tweeted about a couple who had taken their infant with them when they dined at his Michelin three-star restaurant, Alinea, in Chicago. As is often the case with babies, it cried, disturbing other diners, all of whom had been required to book and pay in advance for a meal that cost about US$265, not including service charge or drinks. In his tweet, Achatz wondered whether he should ban children from the restaurant.
Some news reports said the parents claimed their babysitter had cancelled at the last minute, so rather than lose out on their prepaid meal, they took the infant with them. Alinea allows you to sell or give away your ticket, but does not seem to have a policy on refunding customers who need to cancel at the last minute because of babysitter problems.
Achatz told the Chicago Reader newspaper the couple did not call the restaurant to explain they had this problem, so he doesn't know if the report about the babysitter cancelling on them is true.
While some people did try to defend the couple, the majority of those who responded online to the news articles were emphatic that babies and children have no place in a fine-dining restaurant.
The problem with this is that it is more an issue of manners, rather than infants. You certainly can't blame the baby - the parents were the problem: they were terribly rude and inconsiderate. They should have taken the baby out of the room when it started to cry so that it would not bother the other guests, then returned with it and continued their meal when the infant had quietened down.
Such rudeness, however, does not justify the nasti-ness of some of the anti-baby brigade, who used words such as "breeders" and "vermin" to describe parents and their offspring.
I have been in expensive restaurants with parents whose babies and toddlers were so quiet for the entire meal that I hardly noticed they were there. In some instances, children have been so beautifully behaved, I have made a point of going up to the parents to compliment them. I have also been to restaurants - both expensive and cheap - in which boorish adults have been so loud and raucous that it has disrupted the meal for me and everyone else around.
Childish, rude and inconsiderate behaviour is not necessarily the sole domain of children.