Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Restaurant Critics

Restaurant Critics
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly…
(And in no particular order)

What can a restaurateur say about the restaurant critic? We court the critic through press releases from our PR companies with announcements of grand openings, grand rebrands or any event to catch their eye.

So here we go, put the worm on the hook and hope they bite……………………….

Sometimes we land one and the review is glorious. We wallow in this glory like pigs in shite for weeks and we have even been known to frame this hard earned spectacular stamp of a food critic’s approval and hang it on the restaurant wall for all to see.

Sometimes we land one and the review is a stinker, everything was wrong. We fling the lid and rip it up while shouting “what the F**K do they know about restaurants and food.  
So, Rule No. 1, Be Careful What You Wish For!

Over the years we have had great reviews and a couple of terrible reviews. You would generally know that a review of your restaurant had taken place because the newspaper will contact you to arrange a photo to go with the review. So now that you know its coming you start to panic. Is it good or bad is all you can think of? I have had sleepless nights knowing that a review will hit the papers the next weekend. I have driven around Dublin at 3am in the morning trying to get a copy of the morning paper. I remember on one occasion getting my hands on the Sunday Indo late on a Saturday night. We had only opened Ouzos in Dalkey, Paolo Tullio, Tom Doorley and Ernie Wally had all given us great reviews and now it was Lucinda O’Sullivan’s turn. It was 2am when I showed the review to the staff. We had opened two months earlier. Neither the manager nor I had had a day off in 10 weeks and we were exhausted. Our hearts sank as I read the headline “All at Sea in Dalkey” Lucinda went on to slag everything in the restaurant, the colour, the shape of the restaurant, the food and even got around to slagging the customers. Both I and all the staff just got a good kick in the head from this woman.
So, Rule No. 2, Get a Good Nights Sleep & Wait Till Morning!

I reacted to Lucinda O’Sullivan’s bad review by writing to the Sunday Indo and telling them exactly what I thought of her and the things she had said about my restaurant. Needless to say, it got me nowhere. Three years later, I have apologised by email on two occasions to this critic for loosing the head. Both emails remain unanswered. I even invited her to be a judge at last years Dalkey Lobster Fest, Master Chef Final, she arrived, I offered my hand which she shook while keeping her eyes on the ground. She even ignored the opening of Ouzos Blackrock and has refused to write anything about Ouzos. I recently discovered that she had blocked me from following her on Twitter, Who does that??? I didn’t even know that you could do such a thing!!!
So, Rule No. 3, Never Criticise a Critic!

To quote the great Gordon Ramsay
“I’m now being judged by individuals that know less about food than I do”

 At Ouzos we have been operating our own fishing boat and catching, processing, cooking and serving lobster & crab for over ten years. We know a lot about crab and lobster.

Now imagine this, Katy McGuinness, food critic of what was The Sunday Tribune comes and reviews Ouzos Dalkey and pronounces “the crab claws were definitely frozen” needless to say I went berserk. Ouzos is probably one of few restaurants in the country that goes to the trouble of landing its own crab, we never need to freeze or buy frozen crab. To add insult to injury, she reviewed a famous restaurant in the city a couple of weeks later and declared the crab meat was “spanking fresh” The thing is, we had helped this restaurant out by introducing them to a supplier in Northern Ireland who was supplying them with….YES You’ve Guessed It…… frozen crab meat. So nice one Katy……We invited Katy McGuinness to come fishing with us and learn how we at Ouzos catch, process, cook and serve our crab, she has yet to take the opportunity.
So, Rule No. 4, Don’t Believe Everything the Critic Says!

So what does it take to become a food critic and what qualifications do you need? That’s a big question and after 25 years at their mercy I have no idea.

The only advice I would offer to anyone barking mad enough to open a restaurant is, when you get a great review, take it to bed with you and have a great nights sleep. When you get a bad review just relax, slowly rip it to pieces and shout out loud “what the F**K do they know about restaurants and food” I found it helped me.   


  1. F**king brilliant! Laughed all the way through. So much of what you said rings true to all service industries, including the beauty business. Have my own regrets about how I handled one particular bad review but I've learned, like you have, that you must take the good with the bad - take it on the chin publicly and curse the day they were born privately! Looking forward to your next post. P.S I'm one of your most frequent lunchers in Blackrock - fabulous food and staff. Hubby, baby and I were also shocked at how accomodating your manageress was in Dalkey on Christmas Eve when we arrived without a reservation. A credit to you P.

  2. Cool blog! Really enjoying it. Look forward to reading more. Have also really enjoyed eating at Ouzos Blackrock.

  3. Fair play to you for this blog. It must be so annoying when everyone works so hard to produce quality food and then get beaten down by a food critic. Who is to say they might be having a bad day, or some other reason. All very well to say take it on the chin, but when you have worked so hard to achieve good food it has to be very hard to take. Stick the lot of them in a kitchen for a night and see what they can produce!

  4. That's a great idea Pauline...I'm going to work on that and get back to you!

  5. Just come across this. Laughed out loud. The tables turned for sure. Qualifications for being a critic? No idea what Katy and Lucinda's background is, but Paolo's and mine would be fairly similar. In my case, chronologically:-
    1. A mother who could cook well and who gave me an interest in food that endures to this day.
    2. Working 7 years of school holidays in restaurant and hotel kitchens belonging to various aunts.
    3. 2 summer vacations working in the wholesale fish market in Manchester and 1 on a King's Lynn trawler.
    4. Lucky break! Invited to write on wine and undertake restaurant reviews by editor of a newspaper I was working for. This was in 1978.
    5. Three years running and cooking in my own café/restaurant
    6. 7 years working for Food & Wine Magazine. Three-and-a half as editor.

    Does that meet the spec?
    Ernie Whalley