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Confidential's food reviews: the shocking truth exposed

Impartiality v bought advertorial? There can only be one winner

Published on November 3rd 2009.


Confidential's food reviews: the shocking truth exposed

It happens once a week. Usually it comes from someone in PR. Or other media people. Or restaurants we’ve given bad reviews.

It goes like this: “Everyone knows that Manchester Confidential’s restaurant reviews can be bought.”

That’s simply not true.

So let’s re-iterate, when it comes to scored, rated and marked reviews we’ll say it as we see it. And we’ll let you comment on the way you see things at that restaurant as well. In terms of impartiality this puts us head and shoulders above Cheshire Life, Sugarvine, Onionring, Restaurants of Manchester and so forth. We have critical mass you might say.

Any food or drink review on these pages which is followed by a rating out of 20 is completely impartial. We pay for it and we judge it, without any restaurant owners leaning over our shoulders with a red marker pen saying, “You can’t put that”.

All these rated reviews are the opinion of the writer based on the experience during the review visit. They are not the opinions of the marketing team of the restaurant, nor for that matter of the publisher who has mates working there, nor of the Confidential sales force who are desperate to close a sale.

That writer will be part of a Confidential team of scribblers, which we reckon, are without parallel in terms of experience on any publication in the north of England. (Ok, that last bit was an advertisement. For us.)

But with Gordo, Schofield, Ruth Allan, Emma Unsworth, Philip Hamer, Jennifer Choi and occasionally Thea Euryphaessa, we think the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. And look out for more experienced additions to the food and drink team soon.

And now we have proof of our impartiality. Sort of. A Manchester photographer was backstage in a kitchen recently when he spotted this picture on the wall here.

The message is plain. Kitchen and waiting staff are being told to be mindful of three Confidential writers, Gordo, Schofield and Ruth Allan - as well as other Manchester critics.

To digress for a second, the picture produces a curious mosaic of facial expressions.

Gordo looks as though he’s eaten some particularly good foie gras, Neil Sowerby looks like he’s had some foul wine, Ruth Allan appears to be achieving some form of metaphysical ecstasy, Emma Jean Sturgess looks as smug as Gordo, and Ray King looks like he’s modelling hair for a mature gentleman’s hair salon. Schofield looks rabid as though he’s saying, “Don’t you ever, ever, ever, put mayonnaise on my chips again.”

Now the restaurant in question wouldn’t be putting that up there unless they had something to worry about, would they?

Perhaps the BBC is the problem here. At Confidential we love Auntie and would never want her to change. But in Britain the BBC’s Olympian detachment, supported by a tax, is the benchmark for the perception of the media in the public view. But the truth is that the BBC can afford to be impartial because their staff will be paid anyway.

Because of this it would appear that many Brits think media ‘tainted’ by advertising must be always up for sale and can be always bought. That’s not the case, of course. By being brave the commercial media doesn’t have to suck up to advertisers, it can make itself so indispensible that advertisers want to be part of the media brand instead. In fact we think that being impartial over food reviews, entertainment and cultural comment, over news and politics has, along with our sparkling offers and competitions, resulted in the large readership we have today.

Of course if restaurants decide to give complimentary meals for our guests or to writers then that’s fine. But it will be made clear to them that a review will never result from this. At the same time we won’t go out of our way to be nasty to advertisers. That would be stupid. But we won’t give them a good review if they don’t deserve it. Places have to earn positive comment, they can’t buy it.

We will write nice things about the promotional meals we offer though, such as the meal featured at the River Restaurant at the Lowry on the site today (click here).

This is because we’ve chosen the River Restaurant as one of the venues with which we want to do one of our Strictly Confidential deals. And we’ve chosen it because it’s good. We’ve also worked with the chef, Oliver Thomas, in choosing the menu and we’ve put in the leg work (poor us), by tasting it, sampling it and making suggestions. In this way we hope to give readers the best possible meal from a talented cook at the right price.

So let’s re-iterate, when it comes to scored, rated and marked reviews we’ll say it as we see it. And we’ll let you comment on the way you see things at that restaurant as well. In terms of impartiality this puts us head and shoulders above Cheshire Life, Sugarvine, Onionring, Restaurants of Manchester and so forth.We have critical mass you might say.

There’s a commonplace phrase which goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That, dear readers, is not our way.

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137 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Would Scotee like to name these restaurants that have offered money for favourable reviews to the MEN, or is it just hearsay?If you are alleging that the MEN gives favourable reviews to advertisers, have a look at the City Life restaurant pages. There are 7 places with adverts in the sidebar. I think only one has ever been reviewed by the MEN, and that was probably ages ago.As to the comment that MEN reporters are given reviewing as a treat, consider 2 former MEN reviewers. Jonathan Schofield edited City Life, as a glossy lifestyle mag, therefore, hardly your local hack covering the court pages. Neil Sowerby was involved with feature writing, and has several years experience writing on food and drink.If someone is serving rubbish food, with sloppy service, the presence of a critic who is spotted will have minimal effect. They can't cook all new food, and stop shoddy students pretending to be waitresses become intelligent and motivated. It might do something to help with presentation perhaps.

EditorialNovember 3rd 2009.

Cas, we don't actually. Unless you mean we should send new reviewers in every time. And as for recognising the reviewers that's not always the case, hence the need, one supposes for, these pics in the kitchen. Nor does this apparently better service mean we don't find things wanting, hence the must-try-better reviews we post.

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

Now Scoteee, be nice ;-)

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

Pity that Northern, I liked that dish. I had a take out from there last Saturday, it was great apart from the pork and prawn toasties, they were really rank to be honest.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

anonymous you're right, Cas I apologise. I am in fact a twat!

Another JohnNovember 3rd 2009.

I've just come back from a trip to Edinburgh where we ate at 21212, Paul and Katie "Juniper"'s new place: they use Frosty for beef especially, even up there near the Arctic Circle. If I was half the communicator that I wished I was - or could remember exactly what the menu was that night, now sadly erased from my head by by a leetle to much L-P Rose - then I'd offer up a review. I'd possibly be a little too biased as I'm always a bit star-struck when it comes to good food and chefs. I hardly get the chance to re-review to double check these things.

Jackson BrownNovember 3rd 2009.

OOps. I just looked at Qype as well, it doesn't come near this site, and its full of amateur comments. With Mancon you get the best of both worlds. If i get a bad meal off one of Gordo's reviews I can call him a ****er and give my side, which leads in my opinion to reviews that are pretty much straight down the line. Outraged, you stick to Quyped and we will stick with Mancon. And you have missed the point boyo, show us an article on here (and they are all here, all five years worth) that is biased towards an advertiser.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

how can anyone criticise Frosts? The meat there is very good, I have been going for twenty five years and my old man for fifty?

Terence HungryunNovember 3rd 2009.

I'd like to propose more reviews away from the centre, especially places we can drive to in say an hour and a half. Love the reviews by the way.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

I think your'e being unfair Cas.If Mancon are to review a place they normally give pretty realistic responses to their experience, otherwise it would all be superb reviews the likes of which shite are found on the fabricated and paid for MEN website.Moreover, what restaurant in Manchester is so sharp that they have a gallery of images for all the local and national food journalists on the off chance that one might just show up? Nah, can't see it me-self!

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

didn't Schofield slate the Horse and Jockey

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Cas, I thought M30 was a chick?

KnowledgeableNovember 3rd 2009.

Actually, shit food will always be shit food, whether the kitchen recognise you or not.

ChickNovember 3rd 2009.

Paul Kitchen uses Frost's? They deliver to Edinburgh? Maybe Frosty could verify this, I am sceptical

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

I don't no either, she said something about plastic bottles?!

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

@ Jonathan - sorry to labour the point but I wasn't in any way abusive. You got it wrong.

debsmccNovember 3rd 2009.

How about, for the sake of impartiality a pro V punter style review as is used in certain foodie mags?

Bombay Potato PeteNovember 3rd 2009.

Dear ranters above Bob, he won't let it go will he? Listen Bob, why not ask the editor for an article so you can get this off your chest? Oh just a minute with all these rants you've just done that. Honestly fella we get your points and mostly they are nothing to do with whether the restaurant reviews are impartial which is what the articles about and not about whether they are critical. I'm having take out curry by the way right now....ooooooooooh Bombay Potatoes.

SnapperNovember 3rd 2009.

In answer to Chick. "As for the mug shots pinned up in the anonymous kitchen; I know one food photographer very well and he spends as much time in the kitchen, watching the food being prepared as he does photgraphng it (and eating it!) If he took the photo and we're told it was recently, I can hazard a pretty good guess as to where the kitchen is."Yes, and you are probably right.If you are going to be photographing food regularly, it makes sense to be interested in it doesn't it. Oh, and yes, food photographers do like to 'sample' but we are just as happy to share with staff. If you think feeding the 'tog' helps the review, one place recently got a rave review- and I wasn't even offered coffee!It's funny, but places that are offhand with the photographer, are often the ones that were lacking on the service front when the reviewer was in. If I taste the food (usually microwaved up) once I've finished, and it's rubbish, guess what, the reviewer found the same when he visited.The worst moments are when you produce a picture that makes the mundane look amazing, then it tastes awful.If you are in the trade, when the photographer calls, mine's a Nescafe in a mug, milk no sugar.

Review ReaderNovember 3rd 2009.

... If this was a box asking for suggestions (or I could find one designated for such a purpose) I'd suggest dating reviews. Old reviews are sometimes unfair to new chefs who have made improvements since the date of the review or to readers who find the good review inaccurate after the loss of a good chef and subsequent decline of a restaurant. Right now there is no way of telling how old the review is and I think there ought to be.

ADNovember 3rd 2009.

There are only a couple of questions which havent been answered, particulaly those asked by outragedofM1: Do you give restaurants who are also advertisers a 2nd chance to get things right if they let them selves down when you review them? and if you do are non advertising restaurants geting the same second chance? would mancon care to comment?

SteveNovember 3rd 2009.

M30 yes you'll get reviews from the hoi polloi from Onionring and sugarvine but what use is this when the sites only publish positive reviews??? About as much use as a Cheshire/Lancashire life review eh....ie totally pointless.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Phil, bascially that website and MFDF are run in the same office aren't they? Shamelessly using MFDF to promote a website? ManCon, I suggest you ignore MFDF next year, especially the awards - most do.

AvoNovember 3rd 2009.

Right then. In order to narrow it down, you need to think of the kitchens in Manchester that have white tiled walls, stainless steel fittings and light switches. Hmmmm

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

If we took all of Gordos quotes and saved them, we could all be psychology authors. The man is a genius, geniuses often talk tripe, however I have often gone to a restaurant on his word alone - and loved it. Just looked at Qype and it certainly aint the future.

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

NorthernGeezer, please send me the name of the dish and the restaurant and I will take action. If you want you can email me directly; markg@planetconfidential.co.uknoSpam

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

You're not called Bob? Are you trying to tell me Scotee doesn't has three e's in his name too? That Dig was given that name by his parents? That there isn't a Hazel Blears loving chap with M30 on his birth certificate? I can't take it, I'm going to do my list for Santa.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

I do trust ManCon's reviews, in general, as I like the fact they're not afraid to criticise. The only one that's made me hesitate in the last year or so was Red Chilli (formerly Moso Moso). I've never known a review and subsequent experience to be so far apart! I can only assume there were different chefs and waiting staff working the night of ManCon's review. I consider my food experience to be reasonable and my mind pretty open. But it was truly dreadful. I wouldn't have even given it 5/20.

M30November 3rd 2009.

I'm actually in agreement with Cas on this one. When Gordo or Mr Schofield enters an establishment, it goes without saying that the kitchen, management and waiting staff are going to bend over backwards to ensure they are looked after. I've been to restaurants which ManCon has described the service in glowing terms (Damsons, Mr Thomas' Chop House, Yang Sing etc) and have had service which would have disgraced a boarding house in Fleetwood during the winter of discontent). So, for that reason, when I read a ManCon review, despite them being well written (although the namedropping, sycophancy, cronyism and soliloquies about bottles of wine costing £50 or more piss me off...hence why I've never bothered to try Ramsons) I have to take it with a pinch of salt because of the recognition factor. By looking on a site such as Onionring or Sugarvine etc, you can obtain first hand accounts from the Hoi Polloi, which to me is invaluable. I found the Bawadi Café this way, which is a venue I can't remember seeing ManCon plugging. Whilst ManCon has brought to my attention restaurants I wouldn't normally have considered, it's always worth getting a second opinion.

SteveNovember 3rd 2009.

Bob the butcher...did you know that Gordo and Alan Jackson are family? Blows the conspiracy theory right out the water I'd say.

emma graceNovember 3rd 2009.

To be fair to mancon AD, you know if it's a review or not if they score it at the end. They do make it pretty clear when things are reviews, and when things are just articles...

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

I'm not having a pop, just saying that there can be only one reason why a restaurant would have their pictures on display for staff - and that must be to provide a top notch experience where possible. I am aware though you cannot polish a turd and I would have thought those kind of places have no clue who the reviewers are anyway. I hazard the above photo was taken at a better establishment. I am certainly not having a go at the reviews as I often go to places simply from what I read on this site, very often actually.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

Beano readers? I say old chap, calm yourself i'm having hot flushes!

NorthernGeezerNovember 3rd 2009.

Mark/Anonymous - I dont mind naming and shaming in the rant itself, its an open forum and everyones views are welcome, good or bad.It was the Koh Samui last Saturday night. Based on Gordo's review i went for the King Prawn Toasties as a starter and yes, these were excellent. For my main i had the Baked Mixed Seafood in the clay pot. The seafood was overcooked and rubbery (no pun intended, hehehe) with a distinct lack of a selection of the seafood itself, too much squid and not enough fish. The Vermacelli was dry also, it was as if they had given it 2 minutes in the microwave to warm it up prior to serving it. It wasnt that bad that i would have complained about it, just not good enough to have again, especially as i had it based on Gordo's review.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Here's a revenue generating idea: When I go abroad, or to London, the hotel room desk always has local info. There's always a booklet with restaurant reviews etc in it, some of them are brilliant. I found an amazing Korean near Vendome in Paris that otherwise I would never have known about. Anyway these are also FULL of adverts. Combine ManCon's unsurpassed local knowledge with a fist full of ads and you've got a booklet for the many visiting business people and tourists that helps them, raises you profile, and makes you money. The hotels will distribute them as they don't want to upset you. 10% please ;)

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Can I just say that seeing as they all know who you are, that perhaps you're getting better food and service than us mere mortals - thus making the reviews automatically inaccurate. I appreciate that's an incredibly hard thing to deal with but you must see the point.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

i reckon you may be spot on there cas.This initiative will get filed under B1N along side the famous "cook for us competition" that was the funniest avoidance of actually following up on the deed after realising they couldn't be arsed to turn up at someone's random home and eat their food. Now that WAS a classic!

RestaurateurNovember 3rd 2009.

Phil Jones are you kidding? Your festival is built upon weird sponsorship deals and total partiality. And hey Mancon don't you think it's a bit much this character who runs the flatest, dullest food festival around advertising on here a bit rich.

Review ReaderNovember 3rd 2009.

That's a bit weird. Under a review of Topkapi I write a supportive comment about Man Con's obvious impartiality and then surfing the site find this whole article devoted to such independence. I feel like reiterating my point so I will. Mancon is the only commercially run web-site I know where you can read uncomplimentary reviews of restaurants and I, for one, value it very highly.

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

@ Anon - ha ha ha, what relevant points you make hiding behind anonymity. It's called an opinion. I think Alan Jackson's is better than Frost's. The point is an important one as the article above claims to be all in favour of criticism, yet when a person criticises one of ManCon's friends (as Frosty appears to be) then your comments are deleted. How impartial???

Reader anotherNovember 3rd 2009.

Seriously rather than calling each other names on here, do we think the BBC has produced a biased perception of how the media work in the UK? I think it probably has but it's better that than the wall to wall crap of channels such as Fox in the US. I think Phil Griffins comment's on the Remember Granada article on here are very pertinent to this argument.

PHIL JONES - MFDFNovember 3rd 2009.

Editorially removed. Behave yourself Phil. Mark.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Please tell me he used the phrase 'crime against food' or 'the starter was arresting'? Sorry.

Richard Hector-JonesNovember 3rd 2009.

Here's a thought. Would it be possible for Man Con to publish a large scale limited edition PDF of the image above (charity fundraising of course) so that every restaurant in Greater Manchester can feel like they could be reviewed AT ANY MOMENT? It would look great in my kitchen. Plus the man servant might up his game a bit.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

As has been pointed out here earlier, on sites such as this one and viewmanchester there is a balance to be had between a review by someone with an insight and the rest of the public – both are equally valid. If the reader uses both of these sources they may be able to get a general idea of what these places are like before going and not be blinded by one point of view . Cases in point would include the ‘Oddest bar’ and the horse and jockey ( both in chorlton ). They received excellent reviews from both sites but very poor ones from the public. All things considered I find both mancon and viewmanchester as great sources of info on what to do in and around the city and no review would stop me from going anywhere.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Am I correct that in hindsight, you wish you'd never done this bloody article? Reviews are obviously opinion based, reviews of reviewers just gets damn murky.

ChickNovember 3rd 2009.

Sorry Just a Restaurant Manager, I don't agree. Why would only 'high-end' restaurants do this? If you work in a large restaurant or in a hotel where the staff numbers and turnover are high, maybe. Most of the employees of established restaurants in Manchester know the critics by face if not by name, and many are on good terms with them. Why would you only 'second check' the food and service for a reviewer and not for your customers, regular and new? These are the people who matter, the ones that come back, recommend and ultimately pay the bills. Much as I value the critics, my customers and their opinion are really what matters

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

As an MEN advertiser of around 6 years, I can easily back up what Scotee says. Pay for the big packages, disapear for a bit and try something else, and then the 'editorial' offers begin.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Don't want to labour the point but didnt the horse and jockey get a second chance ?

ADNovember 3rd 2009.

Just re reading the article your quite clear that the review itself is impartial. But how do you choose where you review? Does Mancon accept money from restaurants in return for a review, even if there is absolutely no promise to the restauranter about what you then write? (Just so people dont think I'm critisising, It seems perfectly fair to me for Mancon to take money from people for the pleasure of being reviewed so long as the restaurant in question is subject to the same standard of impartiality as any other non paying restaurant - you are afterall entitled to your business model!)

James TNovember 3rd 2009.

Outraged just tried Qype and was downcast when it describes itself as site of 'user recommendations and reviews of the best things in London' and has a small section on Manchester. The thing is I want to read what a writer thinks who is paid by the magazine not opinions of amateurs. Then I'll make my judgement up about the review when I go. User sites are lazy in that they want the readers to do the work. Often they are full of that text language rubbish as well.

outragedofm1November 3rd 2009.

Too right. It's not that Qype is better than ManCon, or any other site. It's merely that any researcher worth his or her salt will use more than one source of information. And I think reader opinions are well worth considering, having revolutionised the hotel sector (and if you don't believe me, just see how seriously things like tripadvisor are taken). So yes, sites like Qype, viewmanchester, beerintheevening and the like are well worth considering IMHO alongside the reviews of sites like ManCon and the local press.

BlameNovember 3rd 2009.

Rob seems to think so. Makes me wonder if he deserves my patronage.

foodpleasenowNovember 3rd 2009.

Outragedofm1, have you completed the quote? I was once told the same, but the last sentance was that he (Mark Garner) then sent in an uknown reviewer a few weeks later and if the mistakes hadn't been put right he published the original. This, I think, happened to Livebait.

DescartesNovember 3rd 2009.

Off topic I know, but you're quite right; mayonnaise absolutely has no place on chips.

FoodschmoodNovember 3rd 2009.

Am I the only one who values Mancon for everything else it does aside from the food reviews. More of the other stuff please.

lucky-chrisNovember 3rd 2009.

Sticking my neck out a bit, but I kinda agree with Bob. Butcher or not.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Sorry M30, just being sarcastic but your response begs a question.... If the service was so bad why on earth did you go back?

Staff
Jonathan SchofieldNovember 3rd 2009.

I make those decisions Bob and I must have removed it because it was of a personal nature. Keep on topic and that's fine, stray into abuse and I'll take comments off.

NorthernGeezerNovember 3rd 2009.

Whilst i take the views of the professional reviewer with a pinch of salt, i find the rants after the review much more informative, and entertaining. I've eaten out on the strength of a rant off Mancon and not been dissapointed, alternativley, i cant say the same based on a review. Only last week i ate a dish on the strength of a review off here, and i wish i hadnt bothered.

ChickNovember 3rd 2009.

Interesting point Kevin Donald. Last week's restaurant review in the MEN was written by their dedicated crime reportet no less

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

Anon, the bloody photographer won't tell us who it was!

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

Exactly, Avo. By the way everyone who brings up the initially sensible reasoning that if the guys out their know us, we will get better service or food. You would not believe what happens to front and back room staff sometimes. The poor places actually get poorer, they seem to go into meltdown. Some of the top places lose it as well, it's remarkable. The truth is that if you are good as a reviewer, you can see through all these. Also, we have another three reviewers who non of you guys know who report to as well.

Not just AuntyNovember 3rd 2009.

It's not only the BBC doing this. The NWDA, MIDAS, Marketing Manchester all produce magazines and sites which look as though they may be impartial commercial pieces which then turn out to be 'stste-funded' advertising puffs for their activities. They should really give that money to commercial organisations so they can produce the material needed in a recession.

KT SansomNovember 3rd 2009.

I found the article interesting as well as an insight into the way Mancon thinks. I also found it interesting as an insight into the way some of the minority of readers mentioned in the post above think. It's all me, me, me isn't it and as for that Scotty or whatever has he registered every article that every appears on here in his mind. Bless the lad. or lady.

KitchingNovember 3rd 2009.

chick- He may work in one but is not named after one!

ChickNovember 3rd 2009.

Snapper, noted, I don't do instant though. Personally, I love the food photographers, they're great fun usually and I have no bother feeding them either!

Another JohnNovember 3rd 2009.

I was going to offer a sort of report-type thing about 21212, you know, like a review or something but I haven't got 'round to it yet. it's mainly because I probably get a little too starry-eyed about chefs and good food to be completely unbiased, as well as being a little gullible. That, and the fact that I've almost completely forgotten what the menu was on Saturday night. I've asked Katie if she'll e-mail what the choices were. I mean, it's not too difficult, fer chrissakes: a choice of 2 starters, 1 soup, 2 mains, 1 dessert, 2 cheeses, and that's where Messrs Laurent & Perrier became too involved...

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

"There’s a commonplace phrase which goes, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That, dear readers, is not our way."Why then was my criticism of Frosts butchers in Chorlton deleted from the recent article on butchers?

M30November 3rd 2009.

I'm not dignifying a response to someone slagging me off anonymously, but in response to Big Hairy Bloke, I've been in the restaurants I mentioned several times and recieved terrible service from the outset, either being barked at to wait, or had plates slammed down, etc etc. It's quite possible that they didn't like me, or someone I was with... and that matters because? - If that's the case, should restaurants only be open to people who the management like? I've never walked into a restauyrant with a chip on my shoulder, but if I've had a bad experience somewhere more than once, I'm certainly not going to reccomend it, and I'll be vocal about my experience when it's discussed.

RobNovember 3rd 2009.

I wish MANCON would stop referring to things at the Lowry Hotel as being at The Lowry... We've asked so many times.

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

Good lord Cas. a) I didn't insult anyone, merely offered an opinion, and b) despite my posting name I'm neither called Bob nor am I a butcher, so how have my tactics backfired?

Just a restaurant manaagerNovember 3rd 2009.

Getting back on track for what the main purpose of this article was pretty much about, I can confirm, its pretty standard practice, in high end restaurants, to have pictures of National (eg Metro, Observer, Times etc) and Loacal publications (MEN, Man Con) reviewers hidden in a staff area. Staff see it every day, and become accustomed with the faces of these people. I would admit it does mean they get better treatment than the mortals.And before you all start piping on... it doesnt mean that you 'mere mortals' get crap service/ food etc, just everything is second checked for a reviewer.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

PS... By evidence, I mean stories about the communication between the editorial and commercial departments (rather than just coincidences in content).

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

M30, are you that feller I have heard about that walks in with bad BO and a great big zit on the end of your nose?

SallyNovember 3rd 2009.

Blame & Anon there are always two sides to every story. Rob from the Lowry Theatre has repeatedly asked Man Con to refer to the theatre as The Lowry and the hotel as The Lowry Hotel.

Kevin DonaldNovember 3rd 2009.

I think Mancon shows amazing tolerance by allowing that dog with a bone, Bob the Butcher, to keep going on about this which is away from the article's theme. I suppose because I like Mancon I'm a sychophant too. As for outraged's question doesn't the editor answer it above with the statement that advertisers don't get a second chance and that was old news. As for the scoring of Nando's why doesn't he read the way marks are given beneath the ratings on each review. Listen take on board this site and appreciate it for what it is with the only decent food writing in the city. Look at that picture in the article, Sowerby has gone from the MEN, Sturgess from the Metro and full-time hacks are now writing the food pages in the MEN rather than specialists. Is that sychophantic enough for you Bob? Are fans of anything sychophants, Guardian readers, Beano readers, footie supporters.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Scoteee, the restaurant mentioned in the article is obviously sharp enough as they have a rogues gallery, read the article.

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

JS, it does appear that we need to move this to the top of the page; this is the third comment on this during the past few weeks. Thanks for the comments RR

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

Would annonymous care to put a name up?I don't think people requesting a response should hide behind their comments.The reviews and pointers indicating places to eat around the city in the MEN are not always impartial in my experience, almost to the point that they are lazy and advise badly.I have eaten in a few places around Manchester and then find reviews where the MEN recommend the same places I have had a shoddy experience at.Why not stop worrying what comments I make on the mancon site and go back to the world of the boring and stiff upper lipped MEN?

CubbyNovember 3rd 2009.

What's only been touched upon is the rant section. I've read many restaurant reviews I've disagreed with and have always found my thoughts reflected in other customers' comments underneath the main article. As an advertiser I wouldn't be happy if I paid for a review only for 20 people to write "Oh no, I've been here and it's awful. Go here instead". The web allows us to hear a lot of people's opinions - the main review should only be the starting point.

JamesNovember 3rd 2009.

Are Mancon readers so thick we can't tell the difference between the Centre and the Hotel?

outragedofm1November 3rd 2009.

I am of course thrilled to see that things are changing at MC, especially given this little gem from Mark Garner (Gordo) who stated on this very site in March 2007 that "half the restaurants reviewed on the MC site are also advertisers … and if he (Gordo) finds bad with an advertiser he sends them the review he would have published with a suggestion that they put things right”.

Review ReaderNovember 3rd 2009.

...and on which other site, might I ask, do the editor and chief reviewer regularly take part in a discussion of the article? For its staff's depth of knowledge, its impartiality and its friendly, inclusive style, I think this site is internet treasure.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Bob the Butcher, I seem to remember that you were downright pig ignorant about Frost's meat and then plugged Alan Jackson in Alderley Edge, you sounded like you worked for him. Then the comments dissapeared when Gordo seemed to get the needle about your lack of pleasantness. Then you whinged fo Britain and bored the pants off evryone. life is too short.

JayneyBabyNovember 3rd 2009.

Outragedofm1, I have followed Gordo for five years and have read everyone of his reviews, as well as most of schofields. Lets turn this on it's head, show us a review that you think is biased towards a paying advertiser. Also, show me one North West reviewer from any other media who write as well as this team on food and drink. Go on, just one. They are a phenomenom. They have built this site with their own funds and advertising money. Bloody well deserve a bit of support I think.

AnonNovember 3rd 2009.

I want to know which restaurant put your photo's up.... spill the beans!

M30November 3rd 2009.

I'm amazed an Edinburgh restaurant uses a Manchester supplier for beef, when some of the finest meat in the world is on their doorstep.

emma graceNovember 3rd 2009.

It's funny, for an article that was supposed to clear things up, it seems to have the complete opposite effect!

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

Gordo, can it not be made so that anonymous ranters are in fact not allowed to remain as such? I dont understand it, make a name up but dont keep being anonymous!

DigNovember 3rd 2009.

Hi Mark, I believe the restaurant with the rogues gallery of critics is The London Carriageworks and other Hope Street establishments. Your buddy Paul put the 1st one up as business has been slow since your Hope Street strip. The point is not to serve you you better food than us mortals but to put bogeys and spit in your food after stripping off and scaring his customers and other restaurants patrons on Hope Street when you stayed in the hotel. The pics of the other critics are red herrings. The local traffic wardens also have your picture and registration to ticket your car if you park there too. You have been warned, Liverpool is watching!!

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Social networkers? You mean people talking to each other instead of ignoring everything but the article!? God forbid this website actually foster a community, oh no, rant in the void and don't ever, EVER, go off topic. How boring that would be.

ADNovember 3rd 2009.

Many paper based publications put the words "Advertising Feature" on anything thats paid for, if its written in a similar style to a written article, have you considered doing the same?

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Eh, Rob, why not get them to always refer to The Lowry as The Lowry Centre and The Lowry Hotel can keep to The Lowry? Actuall, why did you both use that name?

outragedofm1November 3rd 2009.

Neither of you seem to have have noted the point that there were differences in how advertisers and non-advertisers were treated in the recent past, hence my skepticism and probably what triggered the initial article. As for why I visit, I visit a range of sites and tend to make my own mind up (I'm especially fond of Qype as that seems to be the most transparent and fair minded).

KnowledgeableNovember 3rd 2009.

@scotee. No local newspaper would never dream of giving someone a negative review, no matter how shit the food was. I'm not sure their critics would know if it was shit or good, anyway as most reviewers up here are news reporters who get sent as a treat for being good.

JayneyBabyNovember 3rd 2009.

Poor exmple that one Outraged, The Odd... bars and Cleo Farnham are exactly what Mancon should be promoting through advertising and reviews. A 15/20 bar result is spot on for that one. And Cleo is a great local operater. I love her. There is a review of another of her bars somewhere on here that was done, before they started advertising. Now I know you, Outraged, are the type that loves the last word come what may, so over to you, this was my last word on the matter.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Frosty's response to Bob's insults, showed me a confident guy, proud of his products, who was able to rise above the playground games. When a reader asked for advice from a butcher, Frosty gave it. I'm going to go on Friday and stock up, so Bob's tactics appear to have backfired.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Phil, that'll be just like the impartial nominations for MFDF awards then? Ha!

Staff
Jonathan SchofieldNovember 3rd 2009.

No we don't do the second chance thing. That's an old quote.

ChickNovember 3rd 2009.

I've received reviews from all of the folk mentioned above and I have to say, they have all been fair and honest. Reviewers, in an ideal world, should never receive better treatment than any other customer but I am sure it does happen in certain establishments. As for the mug shots pinned up in the anonymous kitchen; I know one food photographer very well and he spends as much time in the kitchen, watching the food being prepared as he does photgraphng it (and eating it!) If he took the photo and we're told it was recently, I can hazzard a pretty good guess as to where the kitchen is. Finally, we can argue for England as to whether reviews are fair or unbiased dependent upon advertising etc., but the bigger problem is some of the comments on the various web sites. For every genuine comment, there's two or three with a hidden agenda. Could be ex-employees or competitors adding a bad comment or current employees or friends adding a good one. Sometime it's pretty obvious, others are harder to spot. My point being that 'user' sites are no different from sites such as ManCon

YorkyguyNovember 3rd 2009.

First of all, huge thanks to ManCon for the recent deals offered on the site. I have taken up the Podium and Harvey Nichols offers and found them to be amazing. Next on my list is The Lowry. Having a mate who is a chef there is certainly an additional bonus, lol. To all those people out there who wish to express their negativity about the way ManCon reviews are conducted, try and be constructive. This site has never forced it's opinions on anyone and to be fair, the reviews seem to be a lot more in depth and helpful compared to some of their counterparts. At present, ManCon is a free service, if you have any issues with the way in which it is produced or with the editiorial content, as an adult, just dont read it!Big thanks to the editors - Love ManCon!!

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

I thought you were one of the brighter posters on here Cas but clearly not. My point was that I'm not a butcher, therefore not a competitor, therefore my 'plan' has not backfired.

Big Hairy BlokeNovember 3rd 2009.

Never had poor service in any of those three restaurants you mention M30, mind you I don't have a huge chip on my shoulder when I walk in either.

Staff
Mark GarnerNovember 3rd 2009.

Steve, you have outed me! Alan is actually my daughters father in law, a good pal of mine and does awesome meat. As does Frosty, Axons and Lords of Middleton. Ooh, and Walmsleys up in Rambo. my family owned 23 butchers shops and like all my cousins, I had to do my time training to be a 'master butcher' aged 14 onwards and used to work as a KP at that age in the Legh Arms in Prestbury. Which why I am well qualified to state that 'Bob the Butcher' was talking through his bottom.

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Terry, if I can call you that, you're spot on.

EditorialNovember 3rd 2009.

Dear anon, sorry we deleted your comments by accident as we were independently and impartially correcting our spelling mistakes.

That manNovember 3rd 2009.

Schofield did slate the Horse and Jockey and then he went back and they'd simplified the menu and he thought it much better.

With biteNovember 3rd 2009.

On the theme of this rather than the social networkers on here, I agree that restaurant reviews should always be as impartial as our biased and partial humanity can be. I can't stand the fact that Cheshire Life and others review places on commission. It's boring and saccharine, it makes me vomit like eating too much sugar.

GKWNovember 3rd 2009.

I am in agreement with Mancon on this one, I have dined out in many restaurants in town and around the country and have seen most of the local critics and Michelin also AA critics. There presence is usually quite obvious by their actions whilst drinking and dining, watch for the sharing of dishes between guests and the odd note written during the meal and in Mancon's case the flashing of a camera (if Gordo is there it might be just flashing). On the whole most revues are quite genuine and most restauranteurs like to get the critics in and out a s a p.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Sugarvine and Onionring make their money by making websites for restaurants though don't they? It'd be all kinds of difficult to pitch them a website if a writer had just said they were sh!te.

NoMoreInsideJobsNovember 3rd 2009.

Is it legitimate to be paid for a bad review by a rival restaurant ? Could be a money spinner ! (joke)

ADNovember 3rd 2009.

OutragedofM1 isnt saying the reviews are biased although he does say he's skeptical. He's saying that advertisers get a second bite at the cherry if they put on a poor show (which he has supported by quoting the publisher). His question is: do non advertisers get the same feedback and second chance? which, if he is correct about Gordo's comments, is a fair question.

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

@ Anon - it's a matter of opinion, unfortunately my opinion did not meet the approval of Gordo and so was removed. So much for embracing a range of views...

Reader anotherNovember 3rd 2009.

Shall we get back to the article? I agree with the points above that a paid reviewer is more interesting than reading the comments from readers which are usually inexpert and probably reflect a tiny minority of the sum total of readers.

outragedofm1November 3rd 2009.

Well that is fair enough. And yes, I do appreciate it's a thin line to tread between artist freedom and commercial pragmatism. However, the point I was trying to make is that however lofty the ideals expressed in the article are, the quote (in full or part) illustrates that it's not that long ago either that there were ackonwledged differences in how advertisers and non-advertisers were treated at ManCon, hence the skepticism that lingers. Perhaps if ManCon could point me in the direction of critical reviews (albeit constructive) of (then) current advertisers, then I'd be convinced enough to embrace this new ethos of glasnost!

NorthernGeezerNovember 3rd 2009.

It wont put me off going, i'll just stick to me usual pork red curry, though i was tempted by the belly pork.

outragedofm1November 3rd 2009.

Merely my opinion. Although, again no-one has acknowledged the point made by Gordo's quote... However, should you wish to take a case in point - let's look at the Odd empire. Odd are an advertiser and benefitted from a misleadingly titled advertorial on ManCon (www.manchesterconfidential.com/index.asp…) dressed up as an interview with Odd founder Cleo Farman) and a very positive review of Oddest which seemed to particularly be at odds with the rants that followed it - www.manchesterconfidential.com/index.asp… . However, the users out there are going it a very different slant, as reported in the rants and elsewhere. Which, coming back to the point is why I trust the opinions of users more than sites with commercial relationships to protect. And yes, especially sites like Qype which weight the scores of posters by the number of reviews they write helping people to see through faked reviews.

EditorialNovember 3rd 2009.

Review Reader thanks for the comments but the review date is under the rant box, under the icons at the foot of the page. Probably needs to be higher up thanks.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

well which dish was it? if you think the rants are so informative - add your wisdom

CasNovember 3rd 2009.

Leave M30 alone, so he has a differing opinion from you, so what. 'BO and zits'? Grow up.

PTorNovember 3rd 2009.

Mr Jones shame on you. The level of writing on your site is nowhere near this one. And nor does it do all the other things Mancon does appear on your site. I presume from this advertisement for your site it must be going really badly.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

And a bar Avo...

emma graceNovember 3rd 2009.

Just checked Qype, not great really. Although I do think that reader comments are just as valuable as actual reviews. (thanks though to whoever brought Qype up as I am going to go to the Banksy viewing tonight in Soho, so it's served its purpose for me!)

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

Fair enough Bombay Pete, point taken. Allow me to offer an opinion on the subject matter. Perhaps ManCon loses some credibility when it gives restaurants like Punters 6.5/10 or Nando's 6/10. The points raised by outraged and M30 are valid, yet no-one from ManCon seems to want to offer a rebuttal and a series of sycophants emerge to defend ManCon.

SnapperNovember 3rd 2009.

In answer to Chick. "As for the mug shots pinned up in the anonymous kitchen; I know one food photographer very well and he spends as much time in the kitchen, watching the food being prepared as he does photgraphng it (and eating it!) If he took the photo and we're told it was recently, I can hazard a pretty good guess as to where the kitchen is."Yes, and you are probably right.If you are going to be photographing food regularly, it makes sense to be interested in it doesn't it. Oh, and yes, food photographers do like to 'sample' but we are just as happy to share with staff. If you think feeding the 'tog' helps the review, one place recently got a rave review- and I wasn't even offered coffee!It's funny, but places that are offhand with the photographer, are often the ones that were lacking on the service front when the reviewer was in. If I taste the food (usually microwaved up) once I've finished, and it's rubbish, guess what, the reviewer found the same when he visited.The worst moments are when you produce a picture that makes the mundane look amazing, then it tastes awful.If you are in the trade, when the photographer calls, mine's a Nescafe in a mug, milk no sugar.

MaggsNovember 3rd 2009.

I'm exhausted just reading to the end of all these rants but surely they illustrate more effectively than anything just how good ManCon is at both reviewing restaurants AND generating opinion - best site I have ever found and I would be gutted if it ever disappears so keep going you guys.PS to Bob the (not a) butcher - I know Frosts and Alan Jackson's (and Lords of Middleton) equally well and think they are all great butchers who listen to the customer and get involved/show interest in what you are going to do with the meat you buy - not something to be found in any supermarket that I know of.

Jackson BrownNovember 3rd 2009.

Outraged, I don't understand you. If you don't trsut the reviews, why are you using this site?

ADNovember 3rd 2009.

I think that mancon has been a little guilty in the past of muddying the water. There are Food articles on the site that are not reviews - like when you helped the chophouse by tasting their new menu - these articles are easily mistaken for reviews and that doesnt help you to look impartial, and its understandable why that leads to questions. I'm sure that the reviews are honest and independent, if Mancon was selling them then I'm sure that the MEN and other rival publications would have outed you as that would be in their own best comercial interests. As to knowing who you are - personaly I would like you to out the restaurant with the mug shots on the wall. What they are doing is not just giving critics something better but saying clearly that everyday customers, their livelyhood, dont get their best effors with food or service.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

mmmmm, I do so love websites that open 8 popups when I visit them, whoever designed http://www.beerintheevening.com is a genius.

EditorialNovember 3rd 2009.

Ad no way would we accept payment for a review that would muddy the waters. We take money for ads not reviews. For them we sneak in when we want.

scoteeeNovember 3rd 2009.

@ Knowledgeable,my point is that the MEN take money and give great reviews when in-fact the proprietors establishment is serving shit food.

Bob the ButcherNovember 3rd 2009.

I thought you were one of the brighter posters on here Cas but clearly not. My point was that I'm not a butcher, therefore not a competitor, therefore my 'plan' has not backfired.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Scotee - "superb reviews the likes of which shite are found on the fabricated and paid for MEN website." - do you have evidence of this? I'm interested...

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2009.

Maybe they just didn't like you?

BlameNovember 3rd 2009.

Obviously a very busy day at the Lowry CENTRE yesterday. What's in a name? Would a rose by any other name not smell as sweet? Guess it depends on the rose. I'm off to the river room tonight, great food there, love the Lowry :)

GKWNovember 3rd 2009.

@knowledgeable please read the latest 2 reviews in the MEN website re Livebait and the Park inn, it might change your view of things

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