Turning water into wine (or my beef with Wine & Beef)

Wine & Beef  is a bistro in central Geneva that specialises in, well, wine and beef. Like a few other places around town, the idea is that you decide only how you want your steak cooked and what to drink. I planned to go there for the first time yesterday, having taken a half day to spend some time with our visitors. We did eventually eat excellent steak, but at Café de Paris. Here’s why…

We took our seats, ordered three saignant steaks, a bottle of red wine and, as the waiter was closing his notebook, a carafe of water. He said they only served bottled water. I explained that we wanted tap water – that the water in Geneva is excellent and there was no reason to drink l’eau plate from a bottle in this town. He still refused.

Et si j’insiste?” I said. Nope. It was a business thing, he said; it was completely normal in Geneva he said; there’s no legislation forcing him to serve tap water, he said. I offered to pay for a bottle of water if he would bring us a carafe of tap water. Nope. He simply would not serve tap water. Taking his cue from that biblical tale, he  even offered to, in effect, turn our water in wine, saying he’d give us a free half litre of wine. After checking with my cousin and her husband that they were in agreement, we got up and walked out. As I said, we had a wonderful lunch just up the road in Café de Paris, where they had no problem serving us a carafe of water.

An overreaction? Perhaps. I certainly do drink bottled water from time to time, and if the people I’m eating with have ordered it I don’t create a scene, but I believe it’s my right to be served tap water if I ask for it. And there are lots of reasons why drinking tap water is a better idea in general…watch the video below.

So my beef with Wine & Beef is their refusal to serve tap water to a customer that had just ordered over 150 CHF worth of food and drinks from them. It’s a very stupid and shortsighted attitude to have. I won’t be eating there in future.

On the other hand, I have to acknowledge the irony of the fact that, according to this infographic (which looks fantastic, by the way), 15,400 litres of water go into the production of a single kg of beef. That kind of dwarfs the bottle we refused to order!

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