Dish of the Day: Rushed to review?
I couldn’t help thinking about the drama over new restaurant openings this week, the rush to be first in the door, the critics and bloggers boasting opening day or week reviews, food enthusiasts on the phone as soon as reservation lines are opened.
I experienced it first hand; not only at Duck & Waffle but also at any restaurant I’ve been working at during the opening. My thoughts were not of the adrenalin a chef receives in that first three or so months (not knowing who may be reviewing or writing) but of how I feel it’s a great shame that few restaurants post first year actually get reviewed.
I loved seeing Chris Pople recently write up River Café, despite the fact I didn’t necessarily agree with all he said. I have great respect for not only his writing, but for the fact he isn’t only writing about newly opened restaurants two days in. It’s not that’s it’s unfair to go so soon; my opinion is if you’re charging full price, you’re open to criticism. Yes, we all evolve and get better, but it’s all about here and now.
Some critics do visit the stalwarts of years gone by, but – in my opinion – not enough. Is Scott’s the same as it was when it opened? After all, how many Head Chefs have they gone through? What about 1 Lombard Street? That’s been 15 odd years in the making, who’s cooking there? Is it any good? I appreciate that it’s not possible to re-review every restaurant, but I think more reviews of places 3-8 years in could actually be great for the industry.
The reason I say that is because I think the constant attention of new openings brings a certain instability among restaurant staff. Put it like this, if there is no way anyone is going to be touched by any significant press, and seeing the buzz around Chiltern Fire House, for example, the logical thought can be “I need a new opening”. Ideas start running, chefs take a job, the team follows, same for front of house, and what’s left is Restaurateurs without Head Chefs and Restaurant Managers, not to forget the team beneath them. It can also tempt people to ‘re-launch’ or ‘rebrand’.
I think more attention to established restaurants is necessary, but I also feel this is the job of the restaurateur to keep their senior team engaged, whether it be in future projects or by stimulating them with tasks out of their realm. Personally, I’m very happy where I am, and like to think beyond a review by Jay Rayner, but not everyone thinks like that. If the buzz continues to be about new openings, that’s where the people will want to be, potentially leaving our established restaurants in a sticky patch.
Just a little food for thought.
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