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08 June 2012

My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways to Have a Lousy Night Out

It may be the height of vanity, but I have always wanted to appear in a book. It was a simple wish I thought would never be fulfilled.  I never really gave much consideration to whether it would be fiction or not, I'd be the hero or villian.  

It never dawned on me I might be named in a compilation of a restaurant reviewer's worst meals.  That wouldn't be great. And yet my dream has come true in My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out, Jay Rayner's latest offering.

I think it must have been vanity that drove me to such inky dreams because even with this ignomy heaped upon me, I am still thrilled to be there.  It was with a tingling sense of doom that I came to the Blooms review.  I had been guffawing at the awfulness of his meals at some terribly misconceived restaurants, and then it dawned on me that I had been with him on that fateful night in Golders Green.

In the introduction to the book Jay notes the perverse delight of bad reviews.  He is right, they make for good reading.  Perhaps that is because we're not the ones doing the eating, or the paying, we can vicariously enjoy someone else's disaster.

So much comedy is reliant on cruelty, but for it to be funny rather than gratuitous takes careful scripting and delivery.  A bit like a review.  In this little compilation of his Observer reviews, Rayner delivers.

No doubt, if you're a restaurant on the receiving end, you're unlikely to get the humour and will forever be haunted by this appalling critique of your love and joy.  Although that assumes the owners of the disasters care. 

Every one of the twenty reviews has a common feature, bad food.  Service, decor, location all vary in quality and Jay's appetite for them, but if you serve him bad food, prepare to be ripped apart.  And so it should be.  It takes a very particular masochist to willingly hand over money for an awful meal.

A word on the format.  I think that some will complain about only being able to buy this as an ebook.  Others will wryly note that they can get all Jay's reviews for free from the Observer, so why fork over £1.99.  To address the former, no doubt it is because you can get them for free that they are chosing to limit the cost of publishing this compendium.  And to the latter misers, I'd point out that journalism costs and this is Jay's career so fair enough he should be paid for it.  I assume that the Guardian Media Group get some sort of cut as they must own the copyright to the reviews, but I also assume that the sums of money involved are not huge.  A feature of journalism today.

So don't moan.  Download the book and enjoy the fact that you didn't have to eat those meals, but someone with a decent way with words did.  If you are a restaurant owner then read and learn the simple lesson that if you serve your customers good food, you will avoid being mentioned in volume two.


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I'm in a book, one of @simonmajumdar's. Didn't get a namecheck however, I am "friend over from London".

Oh the fame...

Gav, I'm delighted to say I didn't make it into Simon's book as I served him such a lousy meal.  I blame the fact that it was the first time I'd cooked that dish (cholent) in that oven.  And I'm acutely aware what they say about workmen and their tools.

I'm going to down load that now - sounds hilarious!

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