If you read just one food and drink review this weekend…

One of my pet hates in local newspapers is bad restaurant and pub reviews. Bad as in ‘not good for the reader.’ These tend to be the ones where the reviewer ‘is too full for pudding’ (imagine saying ‘I missed the verdict because the legal argument was boring’ in a court story) or remarking on the ‘wide range of beers on tap’ in a pub (not dis-similar to commenting on the fact there were 22 players on the pitch at a football match).

Obviously, reviewing things is a tad more fraught at a local level than, say, at a national newspaper. Jay Rayner’s recent take-down of one of Paris’s best-known eateries – another word which normally hints to a rubbish restaurant review – was brilliant and presumably without significant comeback for the author.

Locally, however, a bad restaurant review – as in, not enjoying the meal and saying so, or commenting on the poor service – can have all sorts of ramifications. Threats to pull advertising are the most obvious one, but campaigns in response on social media can be another, not to mention awkward moments when you bump into the owner of the restaurant. Life is local, sometimes a little too local.

That doesn’t excuse bland reviews, of course. So full credit to the author of the Pub Spy column in the Brighton Argus this week, who reported exactly what s/he felt when they visited the County Oak pub recently.

The social headline – asking if this is surely Brighton’s worst pub – gives you a sense of what is to follow.

I won’t give the column away here  – you can help support local journalism in Brighton by clicking the link, but here’s a taste:

I’d already fought my way through the scaffolding yard masquerading as a car park by the time a huge beast lurched out of The County Oak and threw up over my feet.

By the time the fully track-suited barmaid, with a bandage on her right hand, served me a pint of Kronenbourg I realised this was Shameless meets Celebrity Juice – but without the class of either of these programmes.\

And that’s just for starters. Like any good review, it then delivers a main course and ‘afters’ … and brilliant honesty. If a review is worth doing, surely it’s worth doing well – just like this one!


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