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Man

Is Jay Rayner the best UK restaurant critic?

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Oh I'm also pleased someone mentioned terry durack. He was (is) an excellent food critic and writer, of a very similar stature to mr rayner.

If you ever see his collection of columns Hunger in the bookstore do snap it up. There is done superb writing in there.

J

Maybe, but I was traumatised when he wrote of Sardo that it was a fantastic Italian restaurant to which he would return every week for the rest of his life. Honouring that promise would have been a cruel but fit punishment for such a silly review. I like to think that he escaped to the other side of the world precisely to avoid honouring it.

(For those who don't know, Sardo is a London restaurant specialising in Sardinian cuisine that, in my opinion, epitomises the perfect mediocrity of much Italian food abroad and thus would deserve to be swept away by the deserving ones such as, just to make a name, Bocca di Lupo, where a team of Brits through competence and serious work does for the reputation of simple Italian food more than thousands of Italian emigrees. Sorry for the rant, I tend go get overheated about this topic).

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Andy Hayler. Only one I actively look for and read every week. From my limited experience of visiting places he holds in high regard we seem to have similar tastes which is important if you only eat out somewhere swanky a couple of times a year and don't want to make mistakes.

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No-one has mentioned the execrable John Lanchester yet ..

Oops, I just did!

If 'execrable' means 'dull' I agree with you. :smile:

(when in my OP I wrote 'evanescently bland' I had him as an ideal-type...)

But I rather like the non-food stuff he writes.

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Andy Hayler. Only one I actively look for and read every week. From my limited experience of visiting places he holds in high regard we seem to have similar tastes which is important if you only eat out somewhere swanky a couple of times a year and don't want to make mistakes.

I'm sorry but with all respect to a fellow boy from Bridge, Andy Hayler - NO NO NO and NO again. Notority for Eating in 3* Michelin restaurants, yes. A blogger yes, a critic hmmm I'll hold my tongue. Put it this way the sooner they pull him from master chef pro the better. Just a touch pompous in my view. If they need a blogger get doshermanos on instead I say.

By way of background a year or so back I ate at Nathan Outlaw the same evening as Mr Hayler and he panned a Crab risotto with orange, or should I say by his own admission "was not convinced by" Whilst I concede food is subjective thing he was just plain wrong on that one.

Marina hmmm again much loved I know but I share the Koffmann feeling upstream

Anyone who hates AA Gill (and there are many) should read Table Talk for the review of the rainforest cafe alone - It made me look at his reviews in a different light and I can ignore his welsh hating for the quality of his writing even if his loves lean a little towards the Corbin and King establishments and their type.

I'm not sure if Tracey Macleod has been mentioned ? I think she is underrated by many but again her views are pretty on the money. As an aside I enjoyed the minor Twitter spat with Gauthier (he not her)Gauthier Spat Nice come back I'd say

And finally for Jay yep without trying to sound sycophantic he is usually pretty spot on even if he does have a strong bias for all things porcine and Szechuan - not a criticism I hasten to add. He was the first critic I started to follow regularly so there is that but I am appreciative mostly perhaps for a throwaway comment he once made about stealing a Calvin Trillin quote. This in turn introduced me to Calvin Trillin's writing - I would like to think I'd have stumbled across "An attempt to compile a brief history of the buffalo chicken wing" Calvin Trillin Buffalo Chicken Wing eventually ....

but what if...and for that Jay many thanks

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As an aside I enjoyed the minor Twitter spat with Gauthier (he not her)Gauthier Spat Nice come back I'd say

Funny! I hadn't noticed this, thanks. I must say, my esteem for Gauthier as a person rose after the urbane manner in which he came back at us after we wrote a negative blog post on his Soho place. I always respect people who, in any field, are more aggressive with the the big guys than with the litlle ones.


Edited by Man (log)

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I read Rayner in part because I’m an incorrigible Guardianista, but also because I admire his commitment to a wider range of restaurants than some reviewers will try. And also, he’s prepared to broach the M25 and schlep around the regions. An example: he’s reported on perhaps five places around me in East Yorkshire in the last four or five years. Contrast this with the near deafening silence of some other critics on the regions and it’s another point in favour of JR.

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You know, I've been reading this thread, and really, I have no choice. I just have to agree. I really am brilliant. Right. You can all carry on now.


Jay

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Not sure about best restaurant critic, I can't say I can imagine the criteria for such a title to be honest. I certainly enjoyed his book 'The Man Who Ate The World', well written and certainly inspiring. Definitely worth a read!


Sommelier at The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye, UK :: www.oscarjmalek.com

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Not sure about best restaurant critic, I can't say I can imagine the criteria for such a title to be honest. I certainly enjoyed his book 'The Man Who Ate The World', well written and certainly inspiring. Definitely worth a read!

Right, trying to make the whole discussion less personal and stop embarrassing poor JR, what are the criteria for a good restaurant critic? Personally, on reflection, they are four:

Writing skill. The ability to write in a lively, vivid, non-cliched way (this for me disqualifies e.g. A. Hayler, as well as some official critics). But writing skill no matter how excellent cannot compensate for the lack of other qualities: it's more of a minimal (though high) threshold feature. Food critics don't need to be full-scale novelists.

Focus. Especially without photographs, they need to be able to describe accurately dishes, flavours and impressions without falling into the trap of writing a novella abouth thier own life experiences, relatioships and philosophy that strays too far beyond the food and the restaurant. (this for me disqualifies e.g. Gill, and partially G. Coren).

Balance in judgement and responsibility. Some people seem to pursue their own agenda and express ridiculous, extreme judgements for the sheer sake of sensationalism. Robust opinion is OK, but ultimate measure and fairness is fundamental. It's also a matter of respect for the professionals in the kitchens. (this for me disqualifies e.g. M. Norman, as well as Gill again).

Competence. This is a tricky one of course, as they are supposed to be the experts, not us! But we all have our own particular areas of expertise. Judging the performance of a critic in those areas, we can go on and try to infer his general level of competence. IN my case, this is Italian cuisine. It is hard for me to listen seriously to what someone has to say on anything else if I notice that the guy hasn't done his basic research and spouts nonsense on an Italian restaurant, because it reveals to me that he is not a serious professional (T. Durack with Sardo remains for me the emblematic example - damn, if you are paid to review a Sardinian restaurant make at least the effort of reading some information on Sardinian cuisine beforehand, so you can e.g. tell the difference between culurgiones and ravioli!).

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I think Giles Coren is a great writer but there really is no need for him to be writing about food, they should just give him a column or five and get someone more akin to JR writing the reviews.

There's no doubt Jay Rayner is by far the best of the known critics. The balance of restaurants covered and the beautiful balance in the writing of each review mean he's the only one whose reviews I can't miss. Pretty flawless judge of good food in my opinion and without doubt the one who cares the most about the food world from top to bottom.

The only nagging doubt is due to Marina. She writes very well like JR although her opinions on restaurants don't chime with mine as often but then you read reviews like those of Koffmann's and the Delauney and you realise that JR could never have those experiences (notwithstanding reviews like the revamped Caprice - as he said himself goodness knows how badly he'd have been treated that day if he'd been 'normal'). She really is incredibly valuable I think and I don't believe that other critics booking under a pseudonym does any more than ever so slightly mitigate the effect of their being well-known.

I read an interview with Mr Rayner a little while ago and he was thoughtful but a little dismissive of anonymity, while mentioning his great respect for Marina.

I guess my point is that variety among reviewers is what makes reading about food so enjoyable and for me: Rayner's class, Marina's sardonic style and unique viewpoint, Coren's writing and Hayler's clinical and forensic reviews give me everything you could need pretty much along the lines Man outlined above.

Some of the others, as implied above, offer next to nothing of value to either the restaurant-goer or the casual reader.


Edited by Man In Transit (log)

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Welcome and i hope your transit is prolonged!

I think a certain reader of this fourm is going to buy himself a little frame for this :smile:

There's no doubt Jay Rayner is by far the best of the known critics. The balance of restaurants covered and the beautiful balance in the writing of each review mean he's the only one whose reviews I can't miss. Pretty flawless judge of good food in my opinion and without doubt the one who cares the most about the food world from top to bottom.

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The thing that i take from this thread is that like restaurants themselves, the best critic should really be titled the best critic for you.

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