According to the dissertation research of social anthropologist Caspian Ancién (University of Cambridge, 2013), the hideous practice of bottle service first emerged in New York City. For those of you still fortunate enough to remain blissfully unaware of this travesty, bottle service refers to getting a table in a posh dance club and, instead of having the competent bartenders who work there make you delicious cocktails with top-shelf ingredients, as is their job, getting served a bottle of crap vodka and a selection of low-grade mixers so that you can make for yourself and your party the same crappy screwdrivers and greyhounds you made in college, only now at a two-thousand-percent markup. Bottle service was sold as the height of luxe sophistication; idiot stockbrokers with too much money jumped at the chance for a new, ever-more-moronic form of conspicuous consumption; and soon enough the idea swept the whole country. These days, there are actual clubs in Las Vegas where you simply aren’t allowed to sit down–not at all, not anywhere–unless you’ve purchased bottle service. If you’re a woman and your date isn’t willing to spend $450 on a bottle of Absolut, you better be ready to stand to pee.
On this trip to New York, I was horrified to see that a similar idea has made its way to the restaurants. They call it platter service. Now, instead of having well-trained, gifted, experienced chefs actually cook for you, you can spend a few hundred dollars on a platter of cold cuts, Wonder Bread and mayonnaise and make sandwiches for your whole party. At a small bistro not far from Central Park, I peered at the table behind the velvet rope, where a hedge-fund manager in a $7000 bespoke suit prepared bologna-and-american-cheese sandwiches for the three leggy supermodels competing for his attention. One of the women caught me looking, glanced at the immaculately prepared wasabi-crusted New York strip steak and flash-roasted vegetables on the plate in front of me, and rolled her eyes.