Sunday, 28 August 2016

2. Lists.

  I notice that The Good Food Guide has just published its list of Britain's 50 Best Restaurants for this year. What a load of tosh!

  How is it possible to list the best 50 dining places in a country which has 1000s of restaurants? It's all a matter of personal taste. It's a very reasonable thing to describe one's personal experience at an eating establishment and even to give it a personal score, if one has that sort of obsessional personality. But once it gets to making lists then the whole thing is going too far. And it has such important, potentially tragic, consequences. A restaurant's reputation can be ruined, destroyed, obliterated for falling out of a list. Restauranteurs have enough to cope with what with stars or macaroons or whatever you want to call them without worrying that their actually quite excellent restaurant has slipped, say, 26 places down a list with all the negative publicity associated with such a decline.

Tripadvisor lists are appalling entities. A dining place has only to upset three or four semi-literate, easily offended, inarticulate Tripadvisors and its local rating falls off a cliff as, irrespective of how good the food is, if a waiter is perceived as looking at a customer in the wrong way or food is not delivered to the table less than 26 seconds after an order is placed, then the vindictive self-appointed critic will wield the sword of awarding the restaurant one Tripadvisor spot and the restaurant will plunge down the local listing and never be read about again with the resultant loss of customers.

  So what about this Good Food Guide list? The West Midlands fares very badly in it. The highest placed restaurant in our area is Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, a solid purveyor of mainly classical French dishes which really isn't at the cutting edge of gastronomy in the middle part of the second decade of the 21st century, which is placed at number 13. 
  Then you have to plunge down to number 35 to find Simpson's in Edgbaston which has entered the list this year. A recent visit there resulted in my companions and I finding the service to be mildly chaotic and inexact and the dishes not as exciting as we might have hoped for which means that I am rather surprised to find that those who draw up the list chose this year to place the restaurant in it. After dining there, I had even wondered if Simpson's had lost its vroomph to such a degree that it might lose its Michelin star (just a month to go to find out!)
  Adam's in Waterloo Street in Birmingham, surely currently considerably superior to Simpson's, languishes down at number 41. And that's that. No sign of Purnell's in the list or any of our other restaurants.
  It looks like the compilers of the Good Food list need to spend a little more time in Birmingham than they do in London (20 restaurants in the list) and they might learn something.

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