September 2004
 
A guide to restaurant reviewing

Greetings once again. As I get older there may come a time when I can no longer pilot the Rolls around London 's restaurants. At which point I will become obliged to stay at home, either in our agreeable Mayfair flat or in our modest mansion in the country. There I will survive on a diet of Waitrose and Marks and Spencer meals all brought to me by my latest young male assistant via the magic of the Interweb. I have a large and commodious cellar of wine, some bottles therein so rare and fine and that I don't know anybody good enough to share them with, which will sustain me through the winter nights.

At that time I will have to abdicate from my position as King of the Gourmets. My silver tasting knife will be sheathed, my fine palate garaged and my enormous longing tucked away. Many a chef will breathe a sigh of relief.

But who will replace me? My peers, though never up to my standards anyway, grow old themselves. They will no doubt join me on God's pass as he sorts the fine meals from the stale fish. I see no young foodies who can follow in my Lobb shod footsteps. I feel it is time, like King Arthur passing on his sword, to reveal some secrets of this decadent trade.

1. The non review

Many reviewers faced with yet another restaurant serving adequate but unremarkable food blanch at the sight of the empty page. How to fill it? The editor will take no prevarication. The review must be written. At this point despair quickly sets in. But nil desperandum as our old Latin teacher used to say before his imprisonment. Simply write about something else for the first 75 percent of the review. Talk about your holiday, your spouse, your new car. Then as the final required word count looms into sight make some spurious link with a dish served at the restaurant, press Apple + Save and collect your cheque.

2. The digression

On mentioning a type of fish, for example, wander off into a lengthy digression about similar fish you have eaten, their precarious or otherwise existence (global warming is good for 200 words) and how in any case they simply don't taste as good as they used to.

This technique allows you to portray yourself as a bit of a liberal who would not willingly eat blindingly pricey meals at other people's expense (not when so many people in the world are starving etc) were it not for your burning desire to see justice done and green politics triumph. Best employed in leftish leaning newspapers.

3. The pad

Hit the thesaurus hard. Make lists. Never use one well chosen adverb or adjective when you can possibly use half a dozen, approximate, ones This can make a short review seem extremely long to an editor who does not actually read a word you write but merely assesses it by how much space it takes up, Additionally this technique will make you appear extremely well read to people whose idea of intellectual rigour is The Observer colour supplement.

4. The easy target

If you hear of a restaurant that is truly awful, go, With pen dipped in vitriol you can have enormous fun laughing at the chef's failure to boil an egg successfully, the waiter's sublime ineptness, the terrible furnishings, the dirty cutlery, the Basil Fawlty-ish Maitre d. It really does write itself and the beauty of picking an Aunt Sally like this is that you may catch the editor's eye. Editors cannot write for toffee themselves, their job is to try and find people who can. This being far too much like hard work they tend to employ friends and children of friends and anyone who for a second seems interesting. Your 'hilarious' review will make them take you off the restaurant beat and invite you to write a 'first person' column for a Sunday magazine. There, if you are female, you will tell everyone how useless your mate is (even though, invariably, he is also writing a column in the same paper) or if male you can practise Jack the Lad isms whilst cooing over your nasty, spoilt children. For this you will be paid handsomely. And you will have me to thank.

Well I think my bottle of Blue Nun is properly chilled now so I shall go back out into the garden. I calculate that this has earned me enough to put some foie gras on the table tonight!

A bientot mes braves. F