Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Maschler Bites Back; as One of the Capital's Biggest Restaurant Names Savages 'Spiteful, Alcoholic' Critics, Our Own Reviewer Serves Him Up His Just Deserts -

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Maschler Bites Back; as One of the Capital's Biggest Restaurant Names Savages 'Spiteful, Alcoholic' Critics, Our Own Reviewer Serves Him Up His Just Deserts -

Article excerpt

Byline: FAY MASCHLER

FAY MASCHLER IN A current supermarket magazine, Luke Johnson, chairman of the Signature Group, which owns The Ivy, Le Caprice and J Sheekey as well as the Strada and Belgo chains, lets rips at restaurant critics.

As well as being biased, envious and alcoholic, he says, critics are also corrupt and spiteful, revelling in the downfall of the restaurants they constantly attack. This is something they like to do in the small amount of time left over from going to opening parties and enjoying free meals.

He compares critics' stamina unfavourably with that of restaurateurs. But wasn't it Luke Johnson who couldn't hack it while working as a waiter for a day in Belgo for the BBC2 series Back to the Floor? Muddling orders, forgetting items like bread, he screeched "Stick your camera" to the crew before flouncing out.

Mr Johnson is not the first restaurant owner to rail against that pesky thing, a reviewer who has the temerity to find fault. When I started writing for the Evening Standard more than 30 years ago, there were few other objective restaurant critics.

Many articles that appeared in newspapers and magazines were linked to advertisements and could easily be confused with paeans of praise.

Companions were always thrilled with their choices, both parties usually almost too stuffed to plump for a sinful pudding and meals were invariably washed down by an ample quantity of excellent vino. Everyone was happy.

The first threat of a lawsuit that I received came from a restaurant proprietor who didn't seem to realise that the rules can change. He was outraged that the pastiche French food he had bullied his customers into believing was the real thing could be criticised. And by a woman. The world of chefs and restaurateurs is a male-dominated place, a sort of minor public school where the ability to browbeat counts for a lot.

Richard Shepherd, owner of the now execrable Langan's Brasserie, wrote to me in response to an affectionate but sad review of Odin's - another establishment he inherited from the talented Peter Langan - to say triumphantly that I was now banned from all his restaurants.

To be stopped from going where you don't want to doesn't prove a great hardship.

Sir Terence Conran writes to me (and others) more in sorrow than in anger, to point out where we have gone wrong. I carefully file the missives-away.

Jonathan Meades, Adrian (AA) Gill and I think that one day we may publish the collected letters.

Nico Ladenis rang me at home to damn me to hell for criticising his wife's decor.

YEARS ago, Marco Pierre White said that I gave him a bad review because he wouldn't sleep with me - a calumny tricky to deny without digging yourself in deeper - and Gordon Ramsay and I have only in the past few years put behind us my description of the sauce for his dish of kidneys as looking like "toxic scum on a stagnant pool". …

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