November last year I went to a very average restaurant in Cape Town and had to ask the waitress five times for a glass of water. Finally, she asked: "Still or sparkling." We all answered tap.
She gave us the 'are you from Mars?' look and disappeared. Our coffees came, no water... we asked again, our food came, no water... we asked again and during the meal we asked again and again. Eventually we decided that maybe we are from Mars because she seemed not to understand this request.
I have double standards when it comes to water snobbery. When I pay more than R100 for a main dish, I expect the water-from-tap option, not to be on offer. I suck it up like most of us do and add that extra R30 for the bottled water to the meal. (After all, I don't want to look cheap!)
The hardest I've ever been hit for water was R50 for 750ml of water. I am sure that it was shipped in from a Himalayan spring and blessed by the Dalai Lama. Ultimately it was my mistake, I must have missed the 'water list' at the back of the menu because then I could have chosen a vintage from a fine mountaintop from the Ceres Valley.
So where do we draw the line? Is it fair to ask restaurant owners to give us something for free or should we see water as part of the salt, pepper, condiments and general 'free stuff' that are already included in the bill?
If we follow the lead of some of the top restaurants in the United Kingdom and America, the days of paying for bottled water are numbered. Alice Waters, one of the most influential chefs in America, has banished bottled water from Chez Panisse because its wasteful to the environment. While Giles Coren, a prominent restaurant reviewer from the London Times rates restaurants on the availability of tap water or water purified on the premises.
What do you think, should we pay for water or is it time to force the tap issue?