Diner spots surprise $10.50 charge on bill for high-end Sydney restaurant

A man who “splurged a bit” on a “nice dinner” at a high-end Sydney restaurant over the weekend has ignited a debate after highlighting a surprise $10.50 charge on his bill.

The diner said he visited Aria — a fine dining restaurant overlooking the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge — “for a special occasion”.

However, when he received his $455 bill at the end of the night, the man was stunned to see it included a $10.50 charge for a bottle of still water.

“We don’t really go to these high-end restaurants often,” he posted on Reddit.

The inside of Aria restaurant in Sydney and the diner's bill.
The diner visited Aria in Sydney for a special occasion, but was surprised when he received his bill. Source: Facebook/Reddit

“I can understand the charge for sparkling but is it normal to charge $10.50 for still water at restaurants at this price point?”

A photo of the bill shows two $10.50 charges — one for a bottle of sparking water and another for still.

Some Reddit users slammed the price of the still water as “ridiculous”.

“So dumb. It’s not uncommon for nice places to even say sparkling is complimentary. That’s how it should be,” one person wrote.

“They knew what they were doing. That’s really sneaky. To be fair though the markups on beverage items for restaurants is what keeps them afloat,” another person said.

Always ask for tap water, others warn

Others argued it is common practice at “swanky” venues.

“Yep, that’s right. When the waiter asks ‘sparkling or still’ you need to say ‘tap’,” one person said.

“A friend of mine is a manager at a fancy restaurant and yes this is standard practice at high-end places,” they continued.

“I got caught on this a few weeks ago. They asked ‘sparkling or still?’, and I asked for tap water. They countered with ‘do you mean still?’, and my brain in cruise control said yes — $11 per bottle,” another person wrote.

“I got burnt by this once, when they asked sparkling or still, I assumed the still would be free. I now know to ask for tap,” a third person chimed in.

“Ah yes, you fell for the old ‘didn’t ask for tap water’ trick. Always ask for tap,” someone else said.

A woman who said she used to work as a waiter claimed staff would receive 50c for every bottle of water they sell.

“One of the other waiters would automatically bring out a bottle of still when the table responded still (often meaning they wanted tap),” she said.

“It’s tricking the guest and putting them in a situation where it’s embarrassing for the guest to correct them.”

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