A critic’s revelation: not all dishes are to all tastes

Japanese breakfast boxFew clichés in food criticism are as vacuous as this observation commonly applied to exotic cuisines:

Not all dishes will be to all tastes…

The last to use it was Matthew Norman of The Guardian in his Weekend magazine review of the London Szechuan restaurant My Old Place.

I challenge him or anyone else who’s ever shared this revelation to name 20 restaurants – no, make it 1 restaurant – where all dishes will in fact be to all tastes.

Guardian critic likens squid to a Durex

In his review of The Wine Theatre on London’s South Bank, the Guardian’s Matthew Norman quotes the expert opinion of his dining companion, who says the squid salad “was like eating a well lubricated Durex.”

Is Norman overestimating his readers? The analogy is of limited value to those lacking the worldly knowledge of his companion, a music critic with 30 years of experience under his belt. I, for one, have never tasted a Durex, lubricated or otherwise, nor has my tongue ever met latex. Come to think of it there was that one night in Madrid….

The Guardian’s Matthew Norman is either derelict or diabetic in his duties

My first objection to Norman’s review of The Crown Inn in the London commuter county of Buckinghamshire may sound like a quibble, but it does illustrate his propensity to base his pronouncements on thin evidence. He samples but two of the mains on offer (6 on the menu + daily specials), yet claims to have backed “the main course winner”. Sorry, Matthew, but you cannot follow just two horses in the Grand National and be confident that one of them is THE winner.

My second objection is the greater neglect. [Read more…]

Do you have to be fat to be a great cook?

In his review of Corrigan’s Mayfair in London, Matthew Norman devotes the first 285 words to a single hypothesis: The best professional cooks are, like Norman himself, portly:

Just as you can’t put too much faith in a bald barber or in a psychiatrist whose jacket does up from the back, so you cannot fully trust a professional cook with a Body Mass Index anywhere near whatever nonsense the powers that be classify as “normal”.

The premise is neither amusing nor original nor valid. A thick rim of fat might be a requirement for dart players, judging from last week’s World Darts Championship at Lakeside, but Heston Blumenthal, Joël RobuchonFerran Adrià, Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller prove you don’t need a body like the Michelin man’s to gather his stars. [Read more…]