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Giles Coren


LGF
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I've recently started reading the restaurant reviews in the London Times. I'm in the U.S., so read them online. Giles Coren gives William Grimes a run for his money. I like his wicked sense of humor, but guess that he's probably not universally loved. Am I right in thinking this? And, is he primarily a restaurant reviewer, or does he do other food writing as well?

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I am not going to sit on the fence here as I truly despise this man's writing and his style of reviewing

He may well be an estimable man who buys his famous father flowers and that, but he should not be allowed to put pen to paper

And I loathe him more, for that in low simplicity, he is ludicrous enough to have his gurning image on the header of his column.  Smart heh?

Critics on the whole are in the "first against the wall" category.  Some, like our own Mr Rayner are brave enough to acknowledge the incosequentiality of their "craft" and also have proved their worth buy writing other books ( I am forced to say that Jay's new book is an excellent piece of work - BUY BUY BUY)

This man, however is a sap, sucker and ne'er do well.  A poltroon of the first water

S

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I agree with Simon. In my mind, Giles Coren lacks substance as a reviewer. Other ancillary, but irritating, aspects of his reviews include: (1) tasteless illustrations that occupy at least 1/3-1/2 of a page (perhaps Web viewers are spared this aspect of the column), (2) provision of ratings to two decimal points (why that level of precision?), (3) a pretentious writing style, and (4) a "try too hard"-looking photo included with the column (the same one, unlike Winner, sic, who at least has different photos each week). I like reading A A Gill's column, although my favorite London food reviewer had been Jonathan Meades.  :wink:

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LGF -- While my dream would indeed be to eat fabulously for free, I don't have jealousy issues with respect to restaurant reviewers. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that I am not qualified to be a restaurant reviewer, and I don't strive for things of which I know I am incapable.  A stark problem is that I lack knowledge about Italian, British, Indian, etc. cuisine. Even on French cuisine, I lack an understanding of actual techniques and cooking methods, although that is currently the subject of another thread.

Also, I adore French cuisine, and it might be frustrating over time for me to review a range of restaurants.

My above post appears full of conviction because I do not think the reviewer knows his stuff. Or at least, if he knows his stuff, the way he writes about food doesn't seem to showcase his appreciation of it.  Perhaps that's an unfair assessment, given that I have not eaten at many of the restaurants he has reviewed.  :confused:

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He suffers by coming after Jonathan Meades who, whatever his failings, had a certain depth of knowledge of French restaurants and in consequence whose judgements could be appraised. Meades also writes in a curious, if slightly tortured, way.

I do not believe myself that a smug & sarcastic means of self-expression is a useful stylistic feature for a writer, or only for very brief web-based comments perhaps.

Wilma squawks no more

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cabrales - while i think you're being far too modest about your abilities, you air a question raised ages ago by a a gill, vis: was he a food critic or a restaurant critic.  he had the - most unaccustomed - modesty to say he was a restaurant critic, that most insubstantial of beasts, a food critic being a profoundly knowledgeable type of chap.

if i were to be absolutely truthful, i prefer the restaurant critic approach (not giles coren however).  when i choose where i'm going to be spending my money, i want to know about atmosphere, clientele, service, fun potential - and food.  

perhaps i'm not a true foodie, but i'd rather have a reasonable dinner in a brilliant place that mind-boggling food in a temple of hushed reverence.

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While I don't claim to "like" Coren I do find it hard to work up any passion about restaurant reviewers (not "critics",Circeplum) one way or the other. Having been a reviewer myself on a London listings magazine in the 70s, I can assure Cabrales that the job is an absolute piece of p..s.requiring no skills or knowledge whatsoever apart from a willingness to down a lot of mediocre meals (at that time at least).

Its also great for pulling-"would you like to come to XXXX with me tomorrow night-I'm reviewing it" being one of the world's most successful chat up lines,so the job should be reserved for single people only in order to avoid upping the adultery and divorce rate.

The reviewers I prefer are those who do not pretend to have any arcane knowledge(I always thought Meades a tad snobbish and arrogant)and who don't allow their personal foibles to intrude too much into their reviews(Maschlers hatred of tomatoes colours her reviews-she either forgets or doesn't care that the rest of the world may not loathe them as much as she does)

That of course leaves----why our very own Jay Rayner of course.

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Note to self: feign arcane knowledge of something pronto so that finch bloke starts hating reviews.

Just to disappear up my own fundament for a moment...

I've always said that the job of the newspaper restaurant reviewer is to sell papers. Which is another way of saying that the job is not about serving the trade or obsessive foodies. That means appealing to the greatets common denominator vis a vis the subject. Personally I think the only real quality you need is an obsessive interest in and like for restaurants. Lose that and it doesn't matter how much knowledge you have. Your columns will always be shite. Oh yeah. And do a bit of reporting.

I'm not certain yet whether Giles likes restaurants. As in likes them enough to want to waste his spare time battering around with you guys on this bulletin board.

Jay

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Three questions:

Is this Coren fellow any worse than that chick, Deborah Ross, who writes about food for the Spectator? She appears to revel in her complete lack of interest in the subject.

Do any English restaurant reviewers attempt to remain anonymous? Mr. Rayner, is your mug next to your column as well?

Does a famous parent more or less guarantee you a cushy newspaper column in England? I hear that Camilla's son now writes about food as well. Wasn’t he planning a trip to New York to show Americans what food is all about?

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The "illustration" in this week's Coren column is more gratuitously graphic than most prior ones. It depicts a woman, covered partially by a large version of a fan-shaped wafer, but otherwise without other clothing, sitting on a dessert trolley.  While the contents of this week's column (on The Connaught, which, apparently is expected to have deep burgundy and olive color schemes when it reopens) and writing style were a bit better than average for a Coren piece, the column continued to have a gimmick-like quality to it.  :wink:

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Lesley C: Re famous parents, my understanding was that if you had one you were guaranteed the editorship of a national newspaper at some point. Is this not the case? Please could somebody break it to me gently.

On anonymity, no I do not have my photograph next to the column. They wanted to include one during the latest re-design and I lobbied hard for it not to be included. I've been rumbled only one during a meal (GR @ C, as it happens) and, while most of the places I am likely to review wouldn't recognise me from a by-line pic, I don't really want to take chnaces. I do always book under another name though I also always feel foolish doing so; it seems such an act of gross presumption. Like who would have heard of me anyway?

Jay

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It still feels a little unfair judging on one visit particularly if its new.  A new restaurant is a new business haemorrhaging money on all sides.  The business is founded (hopefully) on the abilities of the chef - of second importance is their ability to manage.  When have you ever gone to a place where they say great management but OK food?.   It can easily take a month for things to settle down & a routine to establish.  Also - you've go a bunch of people who may not have worked together before and teething troubles will happen.  If they unbelievably awful & experience tells that they're never going to make - fine.  But restaurants can die with a bad review and it seems only fair to give them a chance to put right any wrongs.  You are playing with livelihoods whether you like to admit it or not.  

On a slightly separate note - it is good to know about new places & roughly what to expect but I'd often be more interested to know if an established place has deteriorated or if they are maintaining or increasing standards.

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Then why don't more restaurant take up the idea of charging preview prices until those 'teething troubles' are ironed out.I don't think I've ever heard of it being done.

As Jay says ,if they're charging full prices allowances cannot be made.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think you should e mail him as he suggests at the bottom of his column, go out for dinner with him then punch his lights out.

Mentioning H block hunger strikes for cheap laughs in a restaurant review is stooping pretty bloody low, don't you think?

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A recent edition of Caterer mag. on critics(reviewers, take your pick!) provides an example of the fallout of such dirge.David Moore, proprietor of Pied a Terre, recounts that Coren's antipathy cost his restaurant a decline in business, apparently it was a wine issue.The 5.33 ranking(I think the fractional marking scheme could be an E.U initiative) may have been warranted had the sommelier's suggestion for alternatives been ignored.Coren does admit the cooking merited 8(I think at least 8.34) but the effect of the review adversely persuaded potential customers to have voted with their feet(I suppose the letter F would be more appropriate in this circumstance than X)."Critics should be educating the public," insists Moore(he should qualify the statement further in terms of culinary education) "If something goes wrong, why not say something, & then at least we have a chance to do something about it." I fully agree because surely this provides for a more wholly accurate  assessment of a dining experience as sometimes things go awry & the measure of good/bad restaurants is how they deal with them.I hate it when reviewer's drag along their groupie friends & waste print on their inconsequential(as far as the review is concerned)foibles/anecdotes,blah,blah,blah....I do not buy the Times either.

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  • 7 months later...

Finally a British restaurant critic has reviewed El Bulli (albeit with an inexplicable time lag). Coren's review is a badly written, but well intentioned, attempt at the impossible; that is, to devote nearly his whole 1000 words to a meal at El Bulli.

I say good luck to the boy, he seems to be the only critic in the UK to realise the seminal importance of this place and how key it is in making sense of the what passes for creativity in the higher profile joints of our sceptered isle. I shall be reading him more regularly from now on and hope that some of the pompous fat wankers who call themselves restaurant critics will do the same.

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Coren was interviewed on Radio 4 on Wednesday saying that he will not accept an open invitation to review Sketch because he thinks the prices are outrageous.

He said that he hoped that lots of people claiming to be him would phone the restaurant and make a booking and then not turn up, leaving them with an empty table and out of pocket for the evening. The point of such a wheeze would be to hasten its demise, which he hoped would happen as soon as possible.

I can't decide whether this raises or lowers him in my estimation.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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Finally a British restaurant critic has reviewed El Bulli (albeit with an inexplicable time lag). Coren's review is a badly written, but well intentioned, attempt at the impossible; that is, to devote nearly his whole 1000 words to a meal at El Bulli.

I say good luck to the boy, he seems to be the only critic in the UK to realise the seminal importance of this place and how key it is in making sense of the what passes for creativity in the higher profile joints of our sceptered isle. I shall be reading him more regularly from now on and hope that some of the pompous fat wankers who call themselves restaurant critics will do the same.

I don't really understand what "mould" (hope that was intentional, 'cause it was funny) or mold - for that matter - he is breaking? That he deigns to review a restaurant in another country?

Because while he devotes marginally more than the usual (his own and the standard) amount of space to El Bulli rather than to himself, his family, himself, his friends, himself, his love life or the myriad other topics most restaurant critics seem to rabbit on about (anything but the hard toil of writing about the food itself - in their introductions - read: 50% of an article), it's only because he seemed to find so much more to write about El Bulli than other restaurants. From what I gather, it definitely has that effect on people. But yesterday's review was more of the standard - mouldy/moldy - ilk. In defense of the reviewers, I know they all have editors and it's the editors' jobs to make the reviews the best they can be. And if an editor says 'oh, I don't give a toss - let's just fill the space', so be it. But I am interested in why you think Coren is onto something, and what it is?

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Coren was interviewed on Radio 4 on Wednesday saying that he will not accept an open invitation to review Sketch because he thinks the prices are outrageous.

Then he's a fool, and an arrogant one at that. I don't know what kind of hobby-horse he thinks he's riding, nor to whom he is appealing for support in this view, since I don't even know where he writes. But that is classic "I wouldn't spend that sort of money so I'm buggered if anyone else should be allowed to do so".

Coren is entirely at liberty to go to Sketch or not, but his promotion of the unethical (and arguably illegal) campaign of false bookings says a lot more about Coren's standrads than it does about Sketch.

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Totally agree. Suppose he wants a bad boy image with that memo he fired off to a poor sub and now all this. He's prob jealous Victoria went to Amsterdam to make a porn film and not him!

I actually thought for the menu Sketches prices were quite reasonable. Have only lunched there last week so far and popped upstairs to scan the menu and see the dining room but dinner is coming up soon.

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Is Coren's review online?

Couldn't find it, but I did find an email from Coren to his editor that's funny. Background: Coren began a book review with the following sentence:

"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Very clever. All 26 letters of the alphabet in a 35-letter sentence."

An editor later changed the sentence to "The quick brown fox jumps over A lazy dog," now a 33-letter sentence.

Coren's e-mail to the editor at the Man Guardian (you'd never see this type of swearing in the poncey NYTimes, that's for certain):

http://media.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,7...,776983,00.html

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LML...

Re: Mould; I suggest you consult a dictionary of British English, i.e. not Webster's.

Thanks for your gentle suggestion, I stand corrected.

Buried among the several definitions (in my Chambers English Dictionary), the last of three lengthy entries, in fact - after 'loose soft earth' etc. etc.; and 'wooly growth on bread, cheese or vegetables' etc. etc. - is indeed the alternate spelling of the US word "mold". However, that the English word for template, and the one for fuzzy growth are one in the same strikes me as even funnier than before.

Re: Coren; does it not strike you as extraordinary that of those who presume to write with authority on

restaurants....

Does he presume this? I imagine whomever hired him presumes it, and perhaps those who read his reviews.... I also imagine that the guy's job - as it is for all restaurant critics for UK newspapers - is to review, with only a few exceptions per year, restaurants in the UK. And the few exceptions most likely are a result of the critic being on holiday.

As for whether Coren is 'unique in visting the most important restaurant of out times' - are you saying you have *never* seen a review of El Bulli in a UK publication?

I am sure I do not read as many restaurant reviews as you, but I seem to recall reading one on El Bulli in the Independent not too long ago, and one in the Observer Food Monthly. Surely there are more. So whose review would you most like to read?

Re: perhaps you think arrogance, ignorance and pomposity are necessary conditions to pursue this office in the UK.'

Surely not.

But I do agree with Mrshugget's comment that given the time, money and effort involved in his trip to El Bulli, it's a bit rich if Coren refused to review Sketch on the grounds of expense.

Edited by magnolia (log)
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I am sure I do not read as many restaurant reviews as you, but I seem to recall reading one on El Bulli in the Independent not too long ago, and one in the Observer Food Monthly. Surely there are more. So whose review would you most like to read?

Preferably first hand reviews rather than 'articles' cobbled together from secondary sources, or written by architects who tour the facilities but don't dine.

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