Grate-gate: would you pay £1.50 for parmesan in a restaurant?

An Italian eaterie caused something of a Twitter storm after it was named and shamed for charging a cheese supplement

Name: Parmesan.

AKA: Parmigiano reggiano

Age: First recorded in the 13th century and likely far older.

Appearance: Hard, straw-coloured wheel, block or wedge; alternatively, a tub of very expensive sawdust.

Yes, you pay more for your cheese when they grate it for you. Especially at Ombra in Hackney.

Is that a fancy Italian deli? No it’s a restaurant where the waiter grates fresh parmesan over your pasta at the table, if you want.

Yes, please. And then they charge you for it.

For the cheese or the grating? Both. Food writer and chef Rosie French asked for some on her tagliatelle and was surprised to see a £1.50 “parmisan (sic) supplement” on her bill.

Charging for cheese flakes? That’s an outrage. That’s what French thought.

Did she complain or just refuse to pay? Neither. She tweeted a picture of the bill to food critic Jay Rayner.

Sorry, for a moment I forgot what sort of times we live in. Did Rayner reply? He asked in which restaurant the charge had been levied and French told him.

Offending establishment named and shamed! Certainly the former, if not the latter. Ombra chef Mitshel Ibrahim pointed out that the supplement was printed on the menu, and that French’s tagliatelle dish came with parmesan already on it. He likened it to asking for more gin in a cocktail. “Surely you wouldn’t expect that for free?” he said.

Yes, but gin is expensive. The parmigiano-reggiano Ibrahim uses is aged for 36 months and costs £22 a kilo.

Since when is this humble hard cheese so prized? It always was – Samuel Pepys famously buried his “parmizan”, along with his wine, to save it from the Fire of London in 1666. And Ombra does not appear to be the only eatery in London with a parmesan supplement.

OK, now I’m starting to feel outraged on the chef’s behalf. How dare people expect extra free parmesan! But it transpired the supplement printed on the menu was just £1 (it had been reduced, but the till hadn’t been updated), so French was technically overcharged. Ibrahim has offered to refund the 50p difference.

This is turning into one complicated scandal. It certainly is – they’re already calling it Grate-gate.

No they aren’t. They will be. You wait.

Do say: “Keep shaving, my friend. And press a little harder. I’m paying for this.”

Don’t say: “Don’t worry, I brought my own in this handy little shaker.”

The GuardianTramp

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