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PhilD

Critics

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Giles Coren gives St Pancras Grand quite a glowing review in todays Times, whilst Jan Moir really pans it, and then Dos Hermandos quite like it.

We tried Jamie Oliver's new Italian in Bath and were underwhelmed, yet the critics loved the first one in Oxford (Bath is the same format and menu).

Whose advice should I follow?

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Giles Coren gives St Pancras Grand quite a glowing review in todays Times, whilst Jan Moir really pans it, and then Dos Hermandos quite like it.

We tried Jamie Oliver's new Italian in Bath and were underwhelmed, yet the critics loved the first one in Oxford (Bath is the same format and menu).

Whose advice should I follow?

None of them, you always need to find out for yourself!!

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As Lizzy says-this applies to everything, not just restaurants. Many are goodish, but for me Jan Moir is very often not to be relied upon.

ETA-looking at that Times piece I'm glad Mr. Coren notices and condemns the vile and despicable practice of not tailing the green beans!


Edited by muichoi (log)

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Jay Rayner and Terry Durack are generally reliable. Durack particularly good on Asian stuff given his pac-rim background.

Over the years I also find that I generally agree with the Time Out reviews (with obvious exceptions such as Bacchus). Because they employ a team of reviewers often the review will be done by someone with particularly familiarity in a particular area of dining.

Most others I am fairly ambivalent about.

Jan Moir I am finding increasingly erratic. AA Gill and Giles Coren are completely useless for gauging how good a restaurant is (but highly useful in gauging the extent of their egos and the limitations of their pens).

Bloggers as a whole are a reliable guide - if only because their articles are more substantiated. Because they generally don't need to spend two thirds of their blog writing about the extent of their ego, they have to pad it out with discussions about why the food actually is or isn't good (radical I know...). The only problem comes when they haven't a clue what they are talking about, but to honest this is a problem you're far more likely to find with a newspaper critic than a genuine blogger.

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Jay Rayner and Terry Durack are generally reliable. Durack particularly good on Asian stuff given his pac-rim background.

Over the years I also find that I generally agree with the Time Out reviews (with obvious exceptions such as Bacchus). Because they employ a team of reviewers often the review will be done by someone with particularly familiarity in a particular area of dining.

Most others I am fairly ambivalent about.

Jan Moir I am finding increasingly erratic. AA Gill and Giles Coren are completely useless for gauging how good a restaurant is (but highly useful in gauging the extent of their egos and the limitations of their pens).

Bloggers as a whole are a reliable guide - if only because their articles are more substantiated.  Because they generally don't need to spend two thirds of their blog writing about the extent of their ego, they have to pad it out with discussions about why the food actually is or isn't good (radical I know...). The only problem comes when they haven't a clue what they are talking about, but to honest this is a problem you're far more likely to find with a newspaper critic than a genuine blogger.

J

Rarely have I read a post that I can so completely agree with.

Regarding A A Gill and his ego, I have had conversations with several people on his penchant for spending 600 of his 1000 words on nothing to do with the restaurant experience at all. As a food lover this is a real turn off. I really don't feel I sould have to wade through endless discussions of the Blonde and her diverse habits. Thinking about it, the Blonde must have plenty of time on her hands to develop those habits while waiting for Gill to get to the point.

I am sure it may not please some, but I can't think of the last time I disagreed with the views of serial irritant Michael Winner in his Winner's Dinners column in the Sunday Times. Invariably it's the first article I read in the paper.

H

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Speaking of AA Gill, did anyone else see his review of Richard Dawkins most recent program on channel 4, saturday times culture magazine i think. I don't know if the fact that he has forayed into TV review is indicative of his straying off the food, as in, a restaurant critic writing other things (come to think of it, im sure i've seen Rayner do other things), I certainly know it was a very annoying review. Then again, it would for obvious reasons.

It all comes down to trying them yourself really. If a restaurant has been given straight 5/5 etc. then its obviously worth a go, and personally, I prefer the word of the GFG, not least for the relative anonymity of its writers, or public written reviews, either on various websites sprung from a google search or even better, here where people know what they're talking about. More so than restaurant critics perhaps.


Edited by CalumC (log)

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I also agree with Lizzy. And I am glad I am not alone in loathing AA Gill. I dont mind Jasper Gerard in Sats Telegraph, although he has a habit of awarding everything 7/10 or 8/10, so everything is equally good. But at least he does actually get outside of London, not afraid that he might fall off the edge of the world.

I'd rely on well trusted friends and the odd guide for inspiration. Like everything, eating out is subjective, so go and make up your own mind.

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Out here - in the back of the beyond of the apparent civilised world - the national critics are a nice read but little more. I am unlikely to visit even a tiny proportion of the, mainly, London restaurants reviewed.

So, I tend to rely on word of mouth in my own area (or taking a punt at somewhere on the off-chance) and assorted guides and/or websites when travelling. Discussion boards and blogs tend to be more helpful as one can form a good impression about the writer(s) - as "ordinary" punters, do they like to eat in the sort of places that I like to eat, etc.

Currently we are working our way through places listed in the GFG within a hour's drive of home (plus others, as indicated earlier, that crop up that take our fancy). We're finding that we are often harsher critics than the GFG inspector and have been very un-wowed at a few places (including one cooking 4). The quest continues.


John Hartley

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I don't think anyone actually enjoys AA Gill's articles but once you've waded through the silliness he's a particularly sound judge of food.

Winner is good too.

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I don't think anyone actually enjoys AA Gill's articles...

Try asking people who appreciate writing as much as they appreciate food :biggrin:


Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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I don't think anyone actually enjoys AA Gill's articles...

Try asking people who appreciate writing as much as they appreciate food :biggrin:

I think the majority of restaurant critics main ambition and drive has always been journalism/writing (secondary gain of fame/money/power/appearing on market kitchen) before food.

That is why I have always trusted those individuals who have dedicated much of their life to eating out for the sake of pleasure, experience and the love of food.


Edited by RDB (log)

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Tim, I always liked the short reviews in The Guide on a Saturday, why did they ditch them?


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Tim, I always liked the short reviews in The Guide on a Saturday, why did they ditch them?

Don't know I'm afraid. It's a different part of the byzantine structure of the Obs/Guardian/Unlimited structure.

I don't do reviews but it strikes me that the poor buggers that do are on a hiding to nothing. Everybody outside of London hates them for being metropolitan elitists, a self-selecting group of pro/am restaurant appreciators online feel that critics opinions are not as relevant as their own (they're right, of course).

If I was looking for a rec for a restaurant I'd ask someone who's opinion I personally rate and who knows what I like... that's about half a dozen people on and offline (a couple of whom, to be fair, happen to be restaurant critics) but if I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who happily pay for a paper and go to restaurants occasionally, I'd be happier to read an entertaining review by a good writer than one which would be accurate enough to pass the online Star Chamber.

A restaurant review is so much more than a forensic description of the food and a rating of value for money - Christ, if that's what you want, read Time Out - and the personality of the reviewer is surely part of the picture. Amongst non-reviewing foodwriters I love Steingarten, MFK, Elizabeth David... would I be interested in reading them if they expunged their personalities from their work?

Giles Coren, for example (who, BTW, I think is good) might not be Jim Harrison but he's not writing for 'Which' either.

AA Gill is one of the most consistently funny writers operating regularly in the UK today. He's erudite and doesn't dumb down. Coren might not be there yet but he's good and he's improving all the time. Jay is witty and as fair as he is brutal. Marina is hysterical.

Frankly I'm glad they're writing about food and raising the game. Christ they could be writing about cars or fashion and then where would we be? We be left with Michael Winner and Fay Maschler.

A review written by someone we'd all acknowledge as a knowing more than us about every aspect of food wine and service, which covered each dish fairly, which measured each restaurant against a rigorously fair scoring system and contained no aspect of the writer's personality would be wrist slashingly dull....

...and we'd still bitch about it.

Sure, things would be fairer if they were all anonymous anal-retentive inspector/hacks but that's what Michelin is for - besides which, reviewing restaurants in a country as small as this doesn't pay anyone enough to feed their family. You can have reviewers who appear on telly or you can have reviewers who don't need to get paid... if you want that sort of reviewer read Tatler.

I sometimes despair of the online food community. If we don't want entertaining people writing about food what the fuck do we want?


Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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I sometimes despair of the online food community. If we don't want entertaining people writing about food what the fuck do we want?

We want cunts sucking up to Egullet mods of course, why else do we all read this shite?

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Bravo. I applaud whichever comment ends up being directly above this one.

(My recurring nightmare involves getting stuck in a lift with the type of person who thinks AA should be telling us about the food.)

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Tim, I always liked the short reviews in The Guide on a Saturday, why did they ditch them?

Don't know I'm afraid. It's a different part of the byzantine structure of the Obs/Guardian/Unlimited structure.

I don't do reviews but it strikes me that the poor buggers that do are on a hiding to nothing. Everybody outside of London hates them for being metropolitan elitists, a self-selecting group of pro/am restaurant appreciators online feel that critics opinions are not as relevant as their own (they're right, of course).

If I was looking for a rec for a restaurant I'd ask someone who's opinion I personally rate and who knows what I like... that's about half a dozen people on and offline (a couple of whom, to be fair, happen to be restaurant critics) but if I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who happily pay for a paper and go to restaurants occasionally, I'd be happier to read an entertaining review by a good writer than one which would be accurate enough to pass the online Star Chamber.

A restaurant review is so much more than a forensic description of the food and a rating of value for money - Christ, if that's what you want, read Time Out - and the personality of the reviewer is surely part of the picture. Amongst non-reviewing foodwriters I love Steingarten, MFK, Elizabeth David... would I be interested in reading them if they expunged their personalities from their work?

Giles Coren, for example (who, BTW, I think is good) might not be Jim Harrison but he's not writing for 'Which' either.

AA Gill is one of the most consistently funny writers operating regularly in the UK today. He's erudite and doesn't dumb down. Coren might not be there yet but he's good and he's improving all the time. Jay is witty and as fair as he is brutal. Marina is hysterical.

Frankly I'm glad they're writing about food and raising the game. Christ they could be writing about cars or fashion and then where would we be? We be left with Michael Winner and Fay Maschler.

A review written by someone we'd all acknowledge as a knowing more than us about every aspect of food wine and service, which covered each dish fairly, which measured each restaurant against a rigorously fair scoring system and contained no aspect of the writer's personality would be wrist slashingly dull....

...and we'd still bitch about it.

Sure, things would be fairer if they were all anonymous anal-retentive inspector/hacks but that's what Michelin is for - besides which, reviewing restaurants in a country as small as this doesn't pay anyone enough to feed their family. You can have reviewers who appear on telly or you can have reviewers who don't need to get paid... if you want that sort of reviewer read Tatler.

I sometimes despair of the online food community. If we don't want entertaining people writing about food what the fuck do we want?

Agree with most of that. Pure objectivity is fecking boring.

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I sometimes despair of the online food community. If we don't want entertaining people writing about food what the fuck do we want?

We want cunts sucking up to Egullet mods of course, why else do we all read this shite?

Larry David moment?

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I always used to find Jonathan Meades entertaining, erudite and spot on with his food views, which struck me as a very good combination. Haven't found anyone to replace him in my estimation since he packed in... Far too many dabblers whose opinions on food are worthless in my experience, especially in the Scottish papers...


PS

Edinburgh

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especially in the Scottish papers...

One huge issue here is the number of colums that end along the lines of, "but we were too full to eat the pudding." For this reason alone, I see Giles Coren as a kind of hero, who I can trust to go in, eat the meal, order extra plates if necessary, and make some sort of proper effort to tell me what's being served in the restaurant.

Catherine

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I pretty much agree with Jon Tseng here, I prefer to read the blogs and public review sites and get an impression of what regular diners thought. I review every restaurant I visit for one such site and I read others' views on restaurants before I go. Although unless there is a huge negatove majority I will generally visit the restaurant anyway and make up my own mind.

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I love Giles Coren, I think he's a fabulous writer. And while AA Gill can veer a little too much into randomness for my tastes, I still think he's a great writer. Although I don't agree with him about everything, such as his dislike of freebies and fiddly things from the kitchen. But that's by the by.

I think the key is finding someone whose tastes align with yours and whose knowledge etc you trust, and relying on their opinion, if you feel the need to do so, whether they be friend, critic, blogger or bloke who works in the kebab shop.

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Speaking of AA Gill, did anyone else see his review of Richard Dawkins most recent program on channel 4, saturday times culture magazine i think. I don't know if the fact that he has forayed into TV review is indicative of his straying off the food, as in, a restaurant critic writing other things (come to think of it, im sure i've seen Rayner do other things), I certainly know it was a very annoying review. Then again, it would for obvious reasons.

AA Gill has written about TV for donkeys years, and travel. It's certainly not a recent thing.

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I think Gill's and Coren's reviews are wonderfully written and great fun to read, but their reviews are just about useless if you're trying to get an idea as to whether you'd actually like to eat at one of the restaurants they've just reviewed. I used to find Maschler's reviews helpful for that sort of thing 6-10 years ago, but it seems like she spends far more time now on reviewing how she was treated and whether she was properly acknowledged than on whether the restaurant is any good. I do like Marina's reviews - I think she strikes a good balance between the pants-wettingly-funny descriptions of the room and the service, and actually talking about the food.

I'm not sure whether Charles Campion falls into the category of reviewer or blogger, since I only periodically see the dead tree edition of the Standard/Metro/etc., but I do find his online stuff useful - maybe because our tastes seem pretty congruent, maybe because it always seems that I end up reading his latest when I'm hungry.


"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard

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I tend to agree with John - have yet to have a bad meal on Jay's recommendation (although my meal at Theo Randall was not quite up to the meal he wrote about) - he tends to be very balanced in his judgement. I always find Marina a good gauge as well - she is incredibly fair and to the point 98% of the time not to mention bloody hilarious! Other than that I think it is a combo of giving it a go yourself and relying on people both online and off that over time you have found have similar taste buds to you!


If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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