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Restaurants serving ice water

What is it with restaurants pushing ice water lately? I was looking at a photo blog about the most famous fine dining restaurant (El Bulli in Spain) and it appeared that all I could find in the photos were glasses of ice water. I've noticed in at least 3 places I've been recently that Servers were more interested in bringing me more water then getting me soda or wine. One French Bistro I had lunch in recently didn't even ask about drinks - just brought us these nice glasses of water. Is water the latest trend in fine dining?

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  1. There are so many posts on CH complaining about lack of water refills that maybe the restaurants are being proactive to avoid the perception of poor service. I drink a lot of water and would be pretty disappointed if I didn't get any. Right now there's a glass of water right next to my wine.

    1. Perhaps it's just the fact that it's summertime? ;)

      1. That would be bliss...

        1. I'm surprised about ice water in Spain. It is unusual in Europe. In hot Italian summers, waiters would cheerfully bring us pitchers of chilled water - but nary an ice cube.

          1. One can only hope that restos are once again understanding that many of us drink water. it would be wonderful when jfood does not receive the "Look" when the server asks if he would like something to drink and the requested beverage is iced water.

            1. There's been a dearth of bottled water snobs lately, as you must know. Many restos are trying to get away from the packaging associated with water consumption which, ironically, has an environmental inpact of its own. The other finer point is that most major urban centres want you to drink the local eau almost as a way of advocating their water utilities. Toronto ranked very highly in North American taste scores recently. As for people pushing the local water on you and not providing the service of other bevs - well they're just not doing their jobs properly.

              1 Reply
              1. re: stick1918

                Not a "dearth" AFAICT...more like a "GLUT"!

              2. I just don't get drinking icewater in general. First of all - it makes me freeze. Okay on a really hot day, but crazy in the winter. Secondly - it often gives me a headache, similar to an icecream headache. Thirdly - freezing your stomach is said to interfere significantly with digestion, so having this with a meal sounds like a really bad idea.

                Anytime I ask for room-temperature water at a restaurant, the server gets VERY confused. Strange.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bellywizard

                  The ice water doesn't freeze your stomach. The water is quickly diluted and its temperature changes pretty fast. The water is not even the temperature of ice (the ice itself is around 0-10F when it's placed in the water), it's usually in the mid-30sF, and by the time it's had a minute in your stomach, it's pretty well warmed up.

                  As for the freezing, that's an individual response. I always love icewater, even in mid-winter. It's refreshing.

                  Iced beverages are very American, since it was an American (Frederick Tudor of Boston) who was the first global mass marketer of ice (Fresh Pond in Cambridge, MA, being one of the early sources for this wonder) and Americans have relished ice in everything ever since. For which I am grateful. The Europeans are welcome to their tepid water and soda. But the sweetening in American sodas is designed for cold temperatures, just as British ales and many wine are designed to have the best balance of flavor at cellar temperatures (which temperatures were easier to find in Europe before modern internal climate control...).

                2. Restos in Europe have been trending more toward what the French describe as "table water" - what in the US would be tap water. Usually served in a pitcher or a nice big glass bottle. It's been in response I'm sure to several factors including demand for water as a beverage of choice, people cutting back on alcohol consumption, and reducing the environmental impact of bottled water (a pending catastrophe here in the US). I welcome the cold water, and it's nice not to have to beg for it. And yes, it speaks to the fact that the water is safe to drink (I had some acquaintance ask me recently if the water was safe to drink in Munich of all places).