You Ask the Questions: Jonathan Meades ; (Such As: So, Jonathan Meades, What Made You Decide to Give Up Restaurant Reviewing? and Why Do You Always Wear the Same Black Suit in Your Television Programmes?)

Article excerpt

JONATHAN MEADES, the author, television presenter and self- appointed "cardinal of atheism", was born in 1947 in Salisbury. He attended King's College in Taunton, Somerset, before moving to London in 1968 to study acting at Rada. In 1971, deciding he was "not good in tights," Meades began writing for the now defunct Books & Bookmen. Between 1975 and 1980 he wrote for Time Out, The Architects' Journal and The Observer before moving to edit Event, an unsuccessful London listings magazine. In 1982, while working as the features editor of Tatler, Meades wrote several short stories about "rural lowlife" for Harpers & Queen. These were collected together as Filthy English.

He joined The Times as food critic in 1986, and three years later published Peter Knows What Dick Likes, a collection of stories and journalism. Since then Meades has become best known as the black- suited, shades-wearing presenter of the BBC2 series Further Abroad and Travels With Pevsner, and the recent surrealism documentary tvSSFBM EHKL.

Meades' first novel, Pompey, was published in 1993. A new work of fiction, The Fowler Family Business, and a collection of journalism, Incest and Morris Dancing, are published next month. He has four children and lives in Borough, London.

What made you give up restaurant reviewing? Can you remember the moment you decided to pack it in?

Mark Forrester, by e-mail

I am presently correcting the proofs of a collection of my reviews. It becomes pretty evident that disenchantment set in with the turn of the century/millennium. Whether that disenchantment was calendrically prompted is moot - but it's possible.

To write about something with which one is out of sympathy is to write in bad faith. And my lack of sympathy derives from my inability or unwillingness to move with the times: I don't much like the direction that restauration is going in. I had hoped, 10 or so years ago, that the example of cooks such as Gary Rhodes might be pursued, that this country might achieve a sustainable cooking based on indigenous products, rather in the way that Belgium manages. Didn't happen. Indeed, so didn't happen that Rhodes-style English cooking is truly exotic and much rarer than Thai or Bangladeshi or Cantonese or...

Barry Norman claims he is unable to enjoy watching films in his leisure time any more. Do you feel the same way about eating?

Rory Munroe, London

Mr Norman has a point. I guess that satiety is a state which inevitably afflicts critics whatever it is they are writing about, whether it is film or theatre or restaurants. Since I am no longer obliged to go to restaurants, I am in the happy position of only going to those that I like, and even then of not going to them particularly frequently.

I once went into a pub in Norfolk and they had assembled a little "shrine of hatred" devoted to you, apparently after you had given them a particularly bad review. How does it feel to inspire such passionate loathing?

Helen Keel, Kettering

You must send me the address. Are you sure it was Norfolk and not Suffolk? A Suffolk restaurateur and brewer developed a heightened animus against me after I had written about his establishment. I guess it goes with the territory. The restaurant trade is notoriously unself-critical and does not enjoy being taken at anything other than its own estimate - which is one of the several reasons why it is so complacent.

Ramsay or Oliver? Delia or Nigella? And why?

Carla Hulford, Cirencester

Ramsay and Nigella - their talent, their looks, their very being.

All that rich food, yet I

read somewhere that you have lost a lot of weight recently - how did you manage it?

Delia Waterman, London

No carbohydrates, no lactic, no fat.

Have you ever thought

of opening your own restaurant?

Barbara Stamp, by e-mail

Yes. …