Too many people put up with poor food and bad service because they are not sure of how to effectively complain in a restaurant. It is a sobering fact that in this country we have never really mastered the art of complaining. Our natural British reserve means that we are reticent about complaining, especially in a very public place like a restaurant. The problem now though is that it’s almost impossible to eat cheaply in any sort of half decent restaurant, so when we do push the boat out and dine out in style it makes quite a dent in the old finances.

How sad then that although we can set off full of anticipation for a good evening out we often return home disappointed and considerably poorer than when we left home.

Why then should certain restaurants on the one hand be able to cane our wallets but on the other hand offer mediocre food and abysmal service in return? And more to the point why on earth do so many of us shrug off what in reality is an effective and perfectly legal form of highway robbery? Yes most of us moan afterwards in the comfort of our own surroundings but how many of you can put your hands up and declare that after being thoroughly ripped off you complained there and then until justice was done.

Or was it just you that was done? Never mind – try reading our ‘British Bulldog’ guide to the art of complaining.

Some unscrupulous restaurants will take your booking and then when you arrive for a relaxing dinner casually announce… ‘We are holding two sittings tonight so we will need your table to be vacated before 9pm’. Don’t ruin your evening by feeling under the pressure of throwing down an expensive meal as quickly as possible. Simply put your coat back on and proffer the dignified reply ‘That’s quite all right. In fact you can have it right now’ and then sweep out the door.

If the restaurant insists on handing you the wine list even when you already firmly rejected the offer of any alcohol simply hide it under your chair – face down or better still take it into the toilets and leave it there.

Have you ever been to one of those restaurants where you sit at your table working your way through several cocktails while you wait and wait and wait for someone to take your order? So what can you do? Easy – walk out, while you shout ‘Thanks for the drinks.’ The only drawback to this hilarious ploy is that is you never get to see the amazed looks that follow you out the door.

There is nothing worse than being jammed close to other diners when three-quarters of the restaurant is empty with inviting freshly laid tables. Next time this happens to you just move as soon as the waiter disappears. When he returns look completely settled as if you were there all the time. He is unlikely to say anything. In fact if you can encourage other people to do the same so much the better. Remember restaurants only do this for their convenience – not yours.

Loud music blaring away in the background has spoilt many an otherwise enjoyable meal. If it’s ruining your peace don’t tolerate it. Ask if you can have it switched off or at least the volume turned down. (Usually it’s on for the benefit of the staff who seem to crave a mindless rhythm while they work.) If nothing is done after a few minutes find the volume switch and deal with it yourself – you will probably get a round of applause from the other diners.

If you fancy just a pleasant, inexpensive little wine to brighten up your meal but the sommelier goes out of his way to make you look an ignorant cheapskate, explain in a morbid tone that your family owns so many French chateaux and vineyards that your body now suffers from a rare form of wine allergy and you can only tolerate cheap wine.

If there is a particular venue where you are always forcibly ejected from the comfortable bar to be dumped for the next half-an-hour at your table, with just a basket of stale bread and near frozen pats of butter to nibble, try this wheeze to draw attention to yourself. Set an alarm clock for ten minutes – this is the longest you should be left unfed and then let it ring and ring until your first course arrives. Of course the restaurant will demand you switch it off but you simply fluster around pretending it’s not your clock and someone must have put it in your bag/case for a joke but you’ve no idea how to actually stop it. However you could point out that some food might help you figure out how!

Next time your waiter doesn’t speak proper English or has to make many repeat returns to the kitchen to check what the soup is, or how the dish of the day is prepared, jump up from your seat and offer to accompany him to the kitchen to save time. If he misunderstands your sarcasm and lets you breeze into the kitchen with him, so much the better – at least it will keep the chef on his toes.

If the main course meal arrives much too rare, when you had particularly requested it be very well done, take out a (toy) gun and shoot it on the plate saying that you like your meat dead. An old chestnut we know but still effective in the right company.

Can’t catch the waiter’s eye? Hardly surprising as many of them have selective sight down to a fine art. Try crawling about pretending to look for something on the floor, between all the other tables. When the waiter finally notices you and asks if you have lost something say: ‘Yes, the will to live!’

Some restaurants serve the main course smothered in a selection of brightly coloured flower heads instead of a proper dish of fresh vegetables. If this happens to you call over the head waiter and tell him sweetly how much you enjoy gardening and that you appreciated the flowers but could he now remove them and bring you something from the vegetable garden.

If you are charged getting on for £100 for a couple of minuscule lamb chops ask for a large doggy bag. As the puzzled waiter removes your cleared plate saying ‘Certainly sir, but what exactly would that be for? Explain, with a perfectly straight face…. ‘It’s to put the rest of the carcass in’.

If you are dissatisfied with your food ask to see the manager and then send it back. You won’t be expected to pay for a dish that is not up to scratch but don’t wait until you’ve eaten it before you complain, for short of sicking it up again, the restaurant will take the view that with no visible evidence you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Big plates with very small portions are becoming a common problem in some of the more fashionable restaurants, which claim that it’s done this way in the name of good health. Rubbish – it’s done so that restaurants can charge a hefty bill while using less quantities of expensive ingredients that are prettied-up with three or four decoratively cut vegetables with an insultingly tiny ‘drizzle’ of sauce.

If this happens to you call over the restaurant manager and explain that you are a perfectly healthy human being, with a normal healthy appetite, so would they like to take your plate back to the kitchen but this time fill it properly with a normal adult-sized meal. You can bet the busy kitchen staff couldn’t work day after day, existing on such minute meals.