Last week I mentioned The Weekend Australian’s Food Detective column (17-18 February) in which Elizabeth Meryment warned restaurateurs to be ‘wary of diners taking notes and what seem to be more (sic) than happy snaps at the table.’
The column renewed its attack on online food writing at the weekend, warning of a ‘similarly concerning trend: the proliferation of online restaurant guides, particularly those which allow diner reviews’.
What's so concerning about diners writing about their restaurant experiences online? Food Detective exemplifies, quoting a diner who posted the following review at an online restaurant forum:
' "What a shame great food is ruined by amateur service ... When paying nearly $50 for an aged steak it is an indulgence. One that should be rewarded with attentive and professional service ... (but) the waiter had little knowledge of the menu and by her own admission had had no orientation to it despite having worked there for several weeks. She spent so much time dealing with complaints from other customers she not surprisingly had little time to look after our party of four".'
I don't quite see Food Detective's point in quoting this. She ripostes with a gibe at the name of the restaurant the anonymous diner had chosen to review: ‘Detective’s not quite sure why anybody would pay $50 for a steak at a place called Ribs & Rumps ...’
Ouch! OK, so Ribs and Rumps is a hokey name. But the place appears to take its meat seriously. From its website: King Island has become world renowned for producing the finest beef ... rolling green hills and pastures that stretch as far as the eye can see. The high salt content in the air gives the pastures a very special quality which in turn flavours the beef ... because of the island's isolation from the mainland there are no growth stimulants, chemicals, arial spraying or tick dipping that would affect the composition of the beef ... total unpolluted ecology ... the climate is cool and the rainfall perfect ...
If the steak is that good, I don't care if the place is called Uncle Joe's Greasy Spoon. If I were the chef at Ribs & Rumps and someone sneered about my work like that in a national newspaper, I’d throw a pan across the kitchen. Maybe two.
Yet another piece on food bloggers appears in Tuesday's Herald Sun. It's not online - you'll have to stump up for a hard copy. The story focusses on the anonymity of food bloggers in reviewing retaurants. Here, it should be noted that both Food Detective (February 17) and Mike Bruce in the Herald Sun article mention or interview Ed Charles as a food blogger. Ed Charles is a very good food blogger but he is also a writer for both The Australian and the Herald Sun. (Food Detective disclosed the connection, Bruce did not.) To me, this reads as lazy journalism.
For the record, I read many online food writers and many newspaper food writers. The quality varies greatly in both camps.