June 16, 2006

Haggis Risotto?

ONE OF THE ENJOYABLE things about reading the English quality press -- heh, I love that phrase -- is that their writers don't pull any punches, especially in the area of professional criticism. That is to say, you can always count on an English restaurant, film, theatre or literary critic to disparage, humiliate and mock unfortunate creative efforts wherever those efforts may surface.

This morning, I noticed several particularly fun restaurant reviews which excellently illustrate the aforementioned principle. First, in The Telegraph, I note Jan Moir's review of The Tolbooth restaurant in Stonehaven, Scotland, which is described as an alleged seafood restaurant. As Ms Moir writes in her review, this supposedly award-winning restaurant does not cook its lobsters to order at supper. This is a sin of cookery so foul that words cannot express how disgusted I am at the very thought. Even more amazing, the waitress told Ms Moir and her husband she would need the table back in two hours! God Almighty, not even the staff at the lowest hamburger shack in Massachusetts would say such a thing!

But according to Ms Moir, things get even worse from there:

On the menu, there are a few meat options, although the focus is firmly on seafood. However, many of the dishes listed don't make sense and seem gastronomically distraught, as if dreamed up by an alien who'd been given a bunch of disparate ingredients and told to have a go on an intergalactic cookery show.

How else can you explain scallops served with asparagus and lavender risotto and a saffron and Arbroath smokie broth? Or pork belly dusted with Chinese Five Spice, glazed with a caramelised honey sauce and served "on a haggis risotto"?

Haggis risotto?

Moving on, I would encourage all Loyal Rant Readers to read The Sunday Times' review of The Bell restaurant in Sapperton, Glos., which is delightfully and supremely vicious. Mr A A Gill's review includes phrases such as: "this was an even more repellent and pointless sacrifice of pig;" "a viscous gruel of curdled liquid ran out," and "Christ, what's that?"

Upon reading the last item, I nearly fell out my chair laughing. For the restaurant owners, however, it does not get much better. Mr Gill, who awarded the place zero stars, writes:

Main courses are about £15 and starters about £7. For the middle of nowhere, this is hideously expensive. The service was slow, forgetful and careless, even by the standards of the West Country. They stress the importance of local ingredients, but the staff all come from New Zealand and South Africa.

The Bell won South West Dining Pub of the Year last year, which, frankly, doesn’t surprise me. It is replete with everything that makes eating out in the muddy bits of England such a hideous torment.

Perhaps, but such fun to read about as well!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at June 16, 2006 01:02 PM | TrackBack
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