Skewering – yet witty – food reviews.
For 20 unrepentant years, the late, great A.A. Gill was the renowned TV, travel and restaurant critic for The Sunday Times. His scathingly honest reviews often landed him in hot water or the courts, where the subjects of his roasting – from celebrity chefs to food fads to Michelin-starred restaurants – tried to salvage their reputations. Or whatever was left of it.
His stylishly malicious and unapologetically brutal reviews were a master class in the art of skewering. When someone asked him why he don’t do constructive criticism, he replied, “There’s no such thing. Critics do deconstructive criticism. If you want compliments, phone your mother.” For these zingers, he earned international fame as one of Britain’s most celebrated journalists. For the rest of us, morsels of his legendary wit live on:
1. On the paté at the beloved Paris bistro, L’Ami Louis
“It tasted like pressed liposuction... But still, it’s undeniable that (L’Ami Louis) really is special and apart. It has earned an epic accolade. It is, all things considered, entre nous, the worst restaurant in the world.”
2. On the shrimp and foie gras dumplings at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Asian restaurant
“(They tasted like) fishy, liver-filled condoms, with a savour that lingered like a lovelorn drunk and tasted as if your mouth had been used as the swab bin in an animal hospital.”
3. On the Tribeca eatery 66 that claimed it fused modern design with haute-Chinese cuisine
“To say the food is repellently awful would be to credit it with a vim and vigour and attitude it simply can’t rise to. The bowls and dishes dribble and limp to the table with a yawning lassitude. A vain empty ennui. They weren’t so much presented as wilted and folded to death. It was all prepared with that most depressing and effete culinary style. Tell me, off the top of your head, what two attributes should hot-and-sour soup have? Take your time. It was neither. Nor anything else much.”
4. On London’s Café Royal that was once affiliated with the equally premium sounding Hotel Café Royal
“The most depressing and uncongenial meal, in an anaemic, echoey building, made even more wrist-slashingly ghastly by the sad and silent ghosts of a century of culture and élan and bibulous brilliance.”
5. On Tiroler Hut in London’s trendy Notting Hill that claims to offer the most intensely Austrian dining experience possible
“I tasted a steak, a schnitzel, a bait of herring; all inedible, unless you were as drunk as everyone else in the room, or on death watch at an old people’s home.”
6. On Gordon Ramsay, when he was yelling in kitchens and not on TV
“A failed sportsman who acts like an 11-year-old.”
7. On Ballymaloe House, the spiritual home of Irish cooking
“A dining room that had possibly once been epic and was now just adequate... sad and expensive.”
8. On super-chef Theo Randall’s eponymously named haute-Italian restaurant
“It looked as if all the ingredients had been fed through an office shredder with half a pint of water and kept under a hot lamp since lunchtime.”
9. On the always over-booked Gauthier, London
“We ate almost everything: tomato capellini in green soup; an olive-oil tart with vegetables; cold broad bean soup, with beans arranged around a mash of something that might have been peas, but also might have been goats’ earwax.”
10. On the Daylesford, the epicentre of all things organic in London
“It’s staffed by sad women who have been employed because they look like Victorian scullery maids, and almost curtsey when you come in.”
It would have been perfect to end on Gill’s opinion of advertising. But, thankfully, I escaped from finding it — short of one barb for our cousins in greater media.
On PR people: “I have never acted on a press release or gone out to dinner with a PR. I think PR is a ridiculous job. They are the head-lice of civilisation.”
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE and CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.