After reading a damning review in the Times of Jason Atherton’s new venture last week, I was left wondering what purpose is served by a bad restaurant review.
Certainly they’re funny, as long as they’re well written. It gives us a delicious sense of schadenfreude, as we shudder to think about the poor chef whose livelihood is about to go up the spout because someone didn’t like their steak. But are they really fair?
In English lessons we were told that no opinion was ever wrong, because literature was subjective to the reader. One man’s Hardy is another man’s Jilly Cooper. Surely the same thing can be said about food?
Admittedly, it’s unlikely that anyone is going to argue that bad service, or a cold main course, or a forty minute wait for a cocktail is ever acceptable. But when restaurant reviewers begin to criticise the dishes, is when I begin to question the point of the review.
So what if you don’t think that vanilla salt goes with a chocolate pudding? Or if you don’t like the size of the sharing plates. Evidently someone did, which is why they’re on the menu, and who knows, maybe quite a lot of other people like it too. It’s hardly fair for one person’s taste, simply because it’s put into print, to influence the number of people that it can.
And chefs, like everyone else, are subject to human error. Imagine you had a bad day at work, and somebody wrote a double page spread about how hopeless you’d been. And since reviews are mostly about new openings, imagine that this was your second week in a new job. It’s not really on, is it? Surely it’s far better to say nothing at all?
Of course I’m not suggesting that if restaurants serve sub-standard food, or have waitresses who look at you like you might possibly be leperous they should be allowed to get away with it, I simply think that people should be able to form their own opinions.
So, in the spirit of that, I welcome yours.