OPINION: You will pay dearly for a posh location, overpriced food and smoky ambiance

This past weekend I partook of a late dinner that destabilised my budget for the month.

I have accepted that there are certain restaurants that charge you more for the location and the fancy hand soap in the ladies'.

I was in the company of a lady colleague when we randomly chose the nearest visibly open place after a great night of jazz music.

I was hungry, mildly intoxicated and operating on a fair budget for a girls' night out. This particular spot did not immediately scream "upper-crust posh" on entry.

Also, we were seated at the far corner of the smoking area due to the buzz brought about by the jazz event across the road.

I was just happy to have finally found somewhere to sit and eat, but nothing could have prepared me for the numbers on the menu.

See, I love food and understand the economics of preparing a good serving - but this place demanded R175 for spoon of tripe.

Not that I had any inclination to chew on tripe a few minutes to midnight, but my attention was drawn to it because it was the lowest price there. I knew right there and then that I was about to be ripped off in the name of "dining in Sandton".

This was not my birthday. I couldn't possibly justify spending this much money on a single serving, but I was too lazy to get on my tipsy toes and walk out, and I didn't have enough English to confront the waiter about the absurdity of the prices.

After a little prayer of "numb me, Nelson Mandela Square. Numb me", I ordered a chicken meal.

I personally have ill feelings towards both the stuffed cleavage and the couscous, which really is nothing more than wet, grated phuthu. However, after intense mathematics, that meal proved to be somewhat lower, middle class and within my means.

There is something immediately sobering at the sight of a three-digit price tag for a single glass of wine. Then, as if to spite your financial weakness, the waiters are trained to not fill the darn glass to the brim.

In fact, the lady in my company had a moment of confusion there, having missed a zero on the price and rejoicing at the sight of something affordable.

We had to correct ourselves after realising that we had, in fact, opted for the most expensive wine on the selection. So, our next best option was to share a bottle to minimise the costs.

By the time we chose a bottle of wine, I had accepted that I was not the target market for such establishments. I knew that by the time we left the establishment I would be bankrupt.

I was spending my entire savings, child-support money, girlfriend allowance, parking coins and all my English diction too. It was all so consuming!

I understand that businesses have running costs and what not - but even their utility bill can't be high because the ambience was dim and smoky and they sell water to patrons.

To console ourselves, we accepted that we were mostly paying for the upkeep of the waiter's lifestyle - what with his northern suburban English and crisp white shirt - he is definitely high maintenance. So we added a miserly tip and left with literally empty purses.

I love good food. I love the lure of a beautiful space and the appeal of white table cloth, menus riddled with French and Latin, and well-dressed waiters.

However, the way my finances are set up, I will stick to experimenting with googled recipes in my own kitchen.

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