That Sir David Tang is a true boffin. In the Weekend Financial Times today he tells the truth about restaurant critics.
Q: I have noticed that restaurant critics invariably neglect water, bread, coffee and toilets. A gently sparkling mineral water, warm and crunchy bread, a concentrated and aromatic espresso and clean and spacious toilets seem to me conditions sine qua non for a good “restaurant experience”. What is your take?
A: Frankly, I couldn’t care less about what restaurant critics write, and I think we all exaggerate their importance. If I go to a restaurant, I will return to it if I enjoy it; and not if I don’t. Therefore, my relationship with the restaurant has got nothing to do with restaurant critics. Indeed, when I used to take note of what critics wrote, I always found myself in disagreement. That shouldn’t be surprising as gastronomic experiences are intensely personal. I like chewing tender duck’s feet, which my wife finds totally disgusting. But I abhor wobbly mozzarella, which she hugely enjoys. She doesn’t mind waiters interrupting our conversation, whereas I go completely berserk whenever they do. So relax and stop being over-fastidious about reviews, because eating cannot be vicariously enjoyed.
I’m with Sir Dave on this one, especially when the waiter interrupts one of Alex Dale’s off-colour jokes – the one about the Pope, the Chief Rabbi and the young boy involving mooning the listeners, which makes missing the punch line doubly frustrating. But if Sir Dave is disappointed in restaurant critics, how does he feel about wine critics. Especially those with more conflicts of interest than a chameleon sitting on a box of smarties who damn a wine as reductive when it isn’t? Of course the question is academic as Allan Mullins’ observation many years ago, that no one listens to SA wine critics, still applies, with knobs on.
In fact if editors realized that producers advertise independent of content and certainly with no regard to quality, there would be no wine writing at all. Or am I being too cynical?