Reading through menus is a common way to choose a restaurant. / SUR

Warning signs

A good restaurant should have a single page menu - it's when we come across vast menus with dozens of choices that we need to start worrying

ANDREW J. LINN

Do we choose restaurants for the wrong reasons? Although we have access to reliable restaurant guides, it is still normal to wander from one doorway to another, reading the menus posted outside. Deciding to eat in an establishment based on such cursory investigation is probably the worst method of choosing.

There are restaurants that prepare the dishes in their kitchens, and those that farm out all the preparatory work, so the published menu is no indication of what to expect. We would be shocked if we could see inside the 'kitchens'.

Most are little more than machine rooms with fridges, freezers, microwaves, plate warmers and washing-up appliances.

The actual cooking areas are almost non-existent.

The freezers are the main feature, as these store the packs of flash-frozen, ready-cooked, dishes that many restaurants and fast-food places rely upon.

A good restaurant should have a single page menu featuring something like four salads, two soups, four or five appetisers, eight main courses and five desserts.

When we come across vast menus with dozens of choices, we need to start worrying.

Not even the most capable chefs can work with a 50-item menu, regardless of the size of the work force, so the conclusion must be that the food is not freshly cooked, or not cooked on site; ('dark kitchens' come to mind).

Multiple fried dishes is also a give-away, as even in the best places these may have been prepared months in advance.

Nor should we applaud fast service, as nothing happens quickly in the best kitchens.