Check Please!

Posted on February 12, 2011


My friends know only too well how much I adore quality food and wine. It’s a passion that has been a near obsession for the last 15 years and it’s one that the Northerner shares. He’s not a meat-and-potato-pie kinda man, well……not everyday of the week (and it depends who’s made it and if there’s gravy). He’s a chef and a bloody good one at that.

Yes, he does cook for me when he’s not toiling away in his own restaurant/deli until the wee hours. Brace yourself….blatant plug coming now….but if I need reminding what a class act he is, I just head over to The Fat Delicatessen in Balham, south-west London. He and his business partner (also a chef) serve up some of the best tapas you’ll find outside Barcelona and San Sebastian.

The Fat Delicatessen, Balham, London.

One of the most important aspects of dining out for me, no matter whether it’s a budget dinner or a slap up meal, is service. I like staff who are attentive, not intrusive; friendly not fake and I especially enjoy talking to waiting staff that are knowledgeable about the food they’re serving up.

But one restaurant, I will never set foot in is the sake house, Kayabukia Tavern in Utsunomiya, north of Tokyo in Japan. The 60-something owner, has quite literally changed the face of customer service and it’s horrifying!

He employs two monkeys to wait on tables. Yes you did hear me correctly. Apparently they are his pets and they willing started to help out and copy him one night.

A dear friend, the Actress, alerted me to the story, and at first I thought it might be an urban myth, but this was not the case. Sadly for these monkeys this is one role play that will last until they die.

Animal rights regulations in Japan mean the premises have been visited to ensure the creatures are not being mistreated. They continue to work and the owner is believed to be training more infant macaques. How is on earth are there laws like that in this day and age?!

The macaques (Macaca) are called Fukuchan and Yatchan and these primates are dressed up every day, one wears a robe and the other wears a mask and a wig.

Yatchan the waiter

Fukuchan the waitress





Not only does their presence in the restaurant raise serious issues about health and hygiene but it’s positively disgusting to think what they may have been put through in order to be a crowd pleaser. I cannot stress enough that primates should never be pets. They are wild animals and are not bred to be domesticated.

Their social group is likely to have suffered or have died in order for poachers to wrench free the infants to be sold into the pet trade. The trauma these infants suffer is often irreversible and it does impact on their behaviour as they develop.

Macaques live in large social groups in the wild. They should not be separated from their troop, let alone “employed” to work effectively for peanuts, to get bums on seats. They are quadrupedal moving animals (walk on all fours most of the time). In this sake house, these poor creatures are near enough upright (bipedal – walks on two legs)  all the time while they are working.

What disappoints me more than anything is the sad comments from ignorant travellers on the net, who think it’s a cool gimmick and can’t see past the novelty factor for what it really is – animal cruelty dressed up as entertainment. Judge for yourself.