My Dining Hell (Penguin Specials)

» Jay Rayner

Penguin : Penguin Specials
ePub eBook : 25 May 2012

£2.50

Synopsis

I have been a restaurant critic for over a decade, written reviews of well over 700 establishments, and if there is one thing I have learnt it is that people like reviews of bad restaurants. No, scratch that. They adore them, feast upon them like starving vultures who have spotted fly-blown carrion out in the bush.

They claim otherwise, of course. Readers like to present themselves as private arbiters of taste; as people interested in the good stuff. I'm sure they are. I'm sure they really do care whether the steak was served au point as requested or whether the soufflé had achieved a certain ineffable lightness. And yet, when I compare dinner to bodily fluids, the room to an S & M chamber in Neasden (only without the glamour or class), and the bill to an act of grand larceny, why, then the baying crowd is truly happy.

Don't believe me? Then why, presented with the chance to buy this ebook filled with accounts of twenty restaurants - their chefs, their owners, their poor benighted front of house staff - getting a complete stiffing courtesy of the sort of vitriolic bloody-curdling review which would make the victims call for their mummies, did you seize it with both hands?

Interview

The legendary food critic and author Jay Rayner shares with us his experiences of dining hell and tells us why we all love to read a terrible restaurant review. My Dining Hell by Jay Rayner, exclusive Penguin Short ebook only £1.99 is published 1st June.


"I have been a restaurant critic for over a decade, written reviews of well over 700 establishments, and if there is one thing I have learnt it is that people like reviews of bad restaurants. No, scratch that. They adore them, feast upon them like starving vultures who have spotted fly-blown carrion out in the bush.

They claim otherwise, of course. Readers like to present themselves as private arbiters of taste; as people interested in the good stuff. I'm sure they are. I'm sure they really do care whether the steak was served au point as requested or whether the soufflé had achieved a certain ineffable lightness. And yet, when I compare dinner to bodily fluids, the room to an S & M chamber in Neasden (only without the glamour or class), and the bill to an act of grand larceny, why, then the baying crowd is truly happy.

Don't believe me? Then why, presented with the chance to buy this ebook filled with accounts of twenty restaurants - their chefs, their owners, their poor benighted front of house staff - getting a complete stiffing courtesy of the sort of vitriolic bloody- curdling review which would make the victims call for their mummies, did you seize it with both hands?”



What was your absolute worst dining experience?

After 13 years as a restaurant critic there are a lot to choose from, but if I had to name but one it would have to be the Buddha Bar in London: food you wouldn’t feed your cat combined with nose-bleeding prices and the appropriation of religious icons in a way that made you want to punch someone. The London branch has closed.


What was your worst dining experience from childhood?

At primary school a very long time ago, they would occasionally serve lamb burgers which were so cold by the time they hit your plate that the fat was white and congealed. They went down but came very close to coming back up again.


What are the five things that would guarantee you did have a ‘lousy night out' at the restaurant?

The receptionist who doesn’t look up from what they’re doing when you arrive; the failure to give you a menu the moment you sit down; a waiter who says ‘can I explain our concept to you’ – if it’s beyond ‘we give you a list of dishes, you chose, we bring’ I don’t want to know; any menu of Pan-Asian tapas; any unreasonable wait; the waiter who says ‘who’s having the lamb? Remembering who’s having what isn’t a Mr Memory test; the waiters who ask ‘how is everything?’ just as you’re getting into your stride... hang on, that’s seven and I’ve only just got into my stride.


Ambiance Vs Food? What's more important?

The boring answer is that it’s a combination of the two and obviously it is. But... much as I hate to admit it, I suspect people are more willing to put up with mediocre food in a great room with a great buzz, than they are willing to put up with great food in a dull and boring room with no atmosphere.


Why is there such appetite for bad restaurant reviews? Are we all inherently cruel and callous? Do we enjoy criticism?

Bad stories are more compelling that good ones. ‘Everything was lovely, I had a nice time’ may be good to know but it doesn’t make for a good read. ‘Everything was awful, the toilet exploded, the waiter had halitosis, and the steak was so overcooked I could have walked home on it’ sounds fascinating. We want the details. We’re like rubber-neckers on the motorway trying to take in every grisly detail of the car crash as we pass. And we’re grateful that somebody else went through it and then took revenge. People who read bad restaurant reviews do so for vicarious displeasure. They feel the reviewer is taking revenge for every bad restaurant experience they have ever had. And of course, we are also all inherently cruel. Or that may just be me.


Which is easier to write, a good review or a bad review?

Anybody who tells you it’s harder to write a bad review is lying through their teeth. Bad experiences are always more entertaining and the language to describe calamity feels broader and more welcoming. Plus there’s a better emotional arc. Happiness is happiness. It’s very straightforward. Misery comes in many colours. All that said, you have to be sparing. I very rarely seek out a restaurant that I know will be awful. (Given how many I find without looking for them, I barely need to). If you seek them out it becomes easy and obvious. A really good negative review has to come from an emotional truth. You have to be genuinely cross, and it’s hard to do that if you knew the restaurant was going to be a sickly puppy that needed to be put out of its misery before you got there.

Product details

Format : ePub eBook
ISBN: 9780241963203
Size : 0 x 0mm
Pages : 50
Published : 25 May 2012
Publisher : Penguin

My Dining Hell (Penguin Specials)

» Jay Rayner

£2.50


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