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Food and Drink Round-up 08/07/2010

The worst food criticism of the week plus Isinglass sold, Spam, Jodie Prenger and feral food

Published on July 8th 2010.

Food and Drink Round-up 08/07/2010

Spam on the Second Floor
We like spam. Not of the Viagra clogging up your email inbox variety but the processed ‘spiced ham’ sealed in a tin. It evokes memories of childhood and is full of paradoxes. It tastes repellently attractive, it’s got a fascinatingly unanimal texture yet is made from bits of pig. Chefs are using it all over the place. Robert Owen Brown does spam fritters at the Mark Addy pub on the river, now Stuart Thompson, the rising star chef at Harvey Nichols has them on the menu at the Second Floor Brasserie. There is a reason for this.

Processed meat is the star
Thompson is doing the spam dishes as a promotion with the Monty Python-themed show, Spamalot, currently at the Opera House. The spam fritters cost £4 and the spam burgers £9.25. The spam fritters are best, coming in a lovely batter with a decent apple chutney. Confidential ate them with two of the stars of the show, Jodie Prenger (‘I’d Do Anything’ winner) and Simon Lipkin. Prenger hadn’t had spam since she was a kid, Lipkin had never had it before. Here’s a picture of them worrying about the spam burger. They declared they liked the spam but there was something behind the eyes that hinted at some other reaction perhaps. Be quick with this spam too, next week the Brasserie takes it off the menu.

Worst food criticism of the week award
This goes to Jay Rayner in the weekend Guardian. He dismantled Obsidian (click here) on Princess Street in the Arora Hotel and broke several rules of reviewing. The biggest blunder was to review it at lunchtime on a Monday when it only had the lunchtime menu on. He himself wrote: ‘I wondered if it was fair to be there at all. The answer, I'm afraid, is that if the restaurant has decided to be open then it is OK for me to eat there.’ That he wrote this showed he was worried that it wasn’t fair. Now if he’d said he was doing a lunchtime review in the header or title then he may have just about got away with it, but there was no hint until part way through the review. Truth is reviews of restaurants should always be done in the evening with the full a la carte menu. Or perhaps - just perhaps - over a three hour lunch as long as you still get the a la carte menu. Otherwise readers only get half a story. Naughty, Mr Rayner, naughty.

Grinch launches new look and new menu
Old Manchester favourite Grinch (Chapel Walks, City) has had a mini-refurbishment and also has a new menu. The mid-range food includes Middle Eastern Platter (£12.95), Salmon Potato Cake (£7.95) and Moroccan Lamb Skewer (£6.95). In the evening you can get Thai Green Chicken Curry (£12.95), Butcher’s Cut British Steak (£14.95) and Tandoori Spiced Salmon Fillet with Bombay Potato Salad (£11.95). Nothing very surprising, but it’s usually good value stuff here. The restaurant has also enjoyed a mini-makeover with an even quirkier décor becoming, ‘a diverse and warm palette of both vibrant and more industrial colours complementing individual pieces of commissioned artwork as well as bespoke furnishings and lighting.’ We'll try and get a picture.

Debenhams upgrades food
We got this message this week: 'My name is Stephen Fogarty, Food Services Manager at Debenhams in Manchester. I've just opened a new concept Restaurant which is unlike the typical Debenhams Department Store Restaurant'. Stephen goes on to say how he's very proud of his restaurant and cafe and would like to invite our writers in store so he can 'show off' what a great restaurant it is. We've told him we'll sneak in soon. This upgrading of restaurants or bars in department stores is a contining process, think of the recent champagne bar at Kendals. What next, a Michelin star for Primark?

Castlefield madness
Here’s something weird to do with food. Read this folks: ‘Castlefield Gallery (Castlefield Gallery, 2 Hewitt Street, City, M15 4GB) is pleased to present Kate Rich and her project Feral Trade Café to Manchester. Feral Trade is a grocery import-export business, trading food and drink sourced through a range of social networks. For 6 weeks, the Feral Trade Café at Castlefield Gallery will serve up an array of ‘ferally’ traded drinks and snacks along with delivery documentation collected by the artist. The term 'feral' describes a process that is wilfully wild (as in pigeon) as opposed to romantically or nature-wild (wolf). Feral Trade concentrates on small-scale releases of migrant groceries, sourced direct from their suppliers and circulated in the excess baggage space of existing journeys, primarily using other artists, curators, friends and relations as mules. Feral Trade proposes that this underground freight network is at least as reliable as DHL.’ Er…right. We’ll investigate when it opens on 26 August.

Isinglass restaurant sold
After six years serving award-garnering local, seasonal food, owner Julie Bagnoli has hung up her apron to concentrate on the day job as a food adviser championing sustainable food in the city. This follows a management buyout of Urmston’s finest restaurant from Head Chef Anthony Dunbar with his twin sister Rachel Ireland. Isinglass drew inspiration from an age when English cuisine was famed around Europe, using old country house cooking techniques, wild foraged plants and rare breeds to give complexity and flavour. It was good ‘un. Let’s hope the buyout team can preserve this outpost of good taste in West Manchester. It’s mere coincidence that Julie sells up only weeks after ex-hubby Stefano Bagnoli sold the restaurant they had opened together in Whalley Range, Palmiro.

Subway silliness
Subway has sent us some data about Manchester and lunches. Apparently staff in the city go without lunch six times a month because of ‘their hectic workloads’. And those who do take lunch spend ‘just’ sixteen minutes consuming it. We’re worst in the country for this apparently. But sixteen minutes is ages. Most Confidential techies can eat a seven course curry take away in less than fifteen mins – maybe even eight. We love this quote from the press release too: ‘Leading independent nutritionist, Juliette Kellow, said: “The sad truth is that British workers are going above and beyond the call of duty by working the whole day, often non-stop.” She said some other stuff as well – wonder how much she was paid to say it?

Subway results – quelle surprise
In among the nonsense from the press release above, this was vaguely interesting. Manchester’s top 10 fave lunches, from a survey of nearly 600, are, 1) Freshly made baguette, 2) Pub grub, 3) Fish and chips, 4) Salad, 5) Pizza, 6) Pasta, 7) Soup, 8) Curry, 9) Sandwiches, 10) Ready made meal. Very depressing but we know the real truth, it isn’t this engineered survey to make sandwiches (Subway’s speciality) win. No, the most popular lunch is Greggs: have you seen the queue outside the one in Spinningfields each lunchtime? Astonishing.

Come Dine with Me
Channel 4 show ‘Come Dine With Me’ is looking for people over 18 years of age in the Central and West Manchester area ‘with a passion for cooking and who want to demonstrate their skills’ to apply for a place in the show. If you’re unfamiliar with ‘Come Dine With Me’ this is where, over four days, four strangers, from all walks of life, take turns hosting a dinner party for each other. At the end of the week the most impressive host wins a £1,000 cash prize. To apply call 0871 200 3939 and leave your name, address and contact details, or email comedinewithme@itv.com

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

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

what a load of tosh about only reviewing restaurants through the a la carte! A good restaurant should be able to offer great food whatever the menu...never read such b***ocks, you should know better. On the subject of Subway...the sandwich equivalent of Mcdonalds....wouldn't feed one to my dog.

Reginald GrubJuly 8th 2010.

I agree with the piece in the review. You shouldn't review a lunchtime menu as the main review in a national newspaper and thus ruin the place...when it has a full a la carte that you could return for at 6pm and try then. Read the Rayner piece Elpolloloco on the link. You could tell the man's embarrassed himself.

Kim StayJuly 8th 2010.

It's not as though there aren't other restaurants in the UK, even some which do serve a la carte at lunch. It's a big country.

J E SibberingJuly 8th 2010.

Spam Burger £9.95

Large Tin of Spam £1.65 (Sainsbury's), enough to make 2/3 burgers.

Don't think I'll bother thanks.

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

I've read the peice and have to agree with JR on this one. If the place is open it should be ready for business and clearly this wasn't the case. He's right stating the fact that Arora is essentially a nightime kind of place so yes...what is it doing opening for business on Monday lunchtime? My guess is that, after a busy weekend the chefs come in and take deleivery and start prepping for later in the week and the attitude is that if any punters turn up just offer them a limited menu. On this occasion there was clearly no prep done and consequently they waited an age for their food. Better off to be closed in my opinion as they can't be making money on a Monday lunchtime.

Kim StayJuly 8th 2010.

But if he thinks all that - that it is a night time place - why review it at lunchtime? On a Monday - when the head chef is probably having his day off. It's a crazy idea, seems like he was asked to do a review paniced and did the last place he'd been to rather than doing a proper review. Most people will go in the evening to Obsidian for the a la carte so review it like that. Should people review TV the same, saying well daytime TV is shit so why would I bother with the evening programme?

AgricolaJuly 8th 2010.

Honestly tblzebra there's also chips and veg and salad and hickory beans and the bread. BUT most of all you're in Harvey Nichols and you get served and you can get dressed up and all. It's an occasion, not your kitchen or dinning room with the rest of the family running mad. Understand value would you?

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

It begs the question then Kim..why open at all on Monday? Do you think they make any money? If he'd gone to Red Chilli, which he likes by the way, he'd have been offered exactly the same menu as any other time. However, if a place like Arora is going to open on a Monday and expect to take people's hard earned, then they should make damn sure that they are offering a quality product with service to match, not some seemingly cobbled together afterthought!

Kim StayJuly 8th 2010.

I agree that both are possibly at fault. But Red Chilli is a very different entity. I just think it's weird when you have the whole country open to you, you review a place which won't be running the full menu and won't be functioning properly. It was empty because the rest of Mancs who lunch out instinctively knew it wasn't the right place to go. They probably went to Red Chilli. You would have thought that Mr Rayner might have also had that instinct given his long reviewing career. Maybe he should used the review to discuss lunchtime formal dining. Anyway best go and do some work.

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

On the point of reviewing only a la carte menus...that's a load of tosh also. In case you haven't noticed, there is a recession on and many of us have had to cut our cloth accordingly. Those of us who still like to eat out but are looking for value are very interested in reviews of set/ daily menus. Maybe restauranteurs/ chefs should be made more aware of this fact.

Kim StayJuly 8th 2010.

One last point...a la carte is not what it used to be. In fact only a hotel restaurant might have that distinction. Grill on the Alley or somewhere just has one menu with specials.

Leigh ScottJuly 8th 2010.

Ferral trade Cafe? there are three of these on the way up to Piccadilly train station!

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

Kim, I agree with you.....they opened their doors though...they should therefore be prepared to be judged. Unless they hang a sign on the doors saying "reviewers not welcome on a Monday, only gullible punters please"

Kim StayJuly 8th 2010.

Elpolloloco I've decided I love you. Can we meet next week in Obsidian? Lunch? Monday?

BanesJuly 8th 2010.

So JR reviews a Manchester restaurant with "fine dining" aspirations. He reviews it at a mid-week lunch, despite the fact it is in an awkward basement location below a hotel doesn't lend itself to such deathly quiet periods. Moreover he sticks to the set menu. End result? He loves it, waxing lyrical about the strength and value of the menu and the quality of the cooking and ingredients. The restaurant in question? Abode (review here - www.guardian.co.uk/…/michael-caines-abode-hotel…) and if they can perform so well they deserve praise and if a comparable operation like Obsidian cannot then they deserve criticism.

Manc exileJuly 8th 2010.

Mind you he could do some reviews in the evening the lazy bugger.

ElbieJuly 8th 2010.

Re: Obsidian - If a restaurant is serving and charging for food, it should be of an appropriate standard no matter what the time of day. People eat at restaurants at lunch as well as in the evening, don't they? So they may want to know what it is like at all times. And if a place is good at lunch, it bodes well for the evening. Same works vice-versa. Having had an AWFUL lunch experience at Kitchen At The Circle, I wouldn't bother visiting later in the day...

ADJuly 8th 2010.

I think you have missed something quite important out with this. Jay Rayner said in his review that he checked the website and it didnt tell him he would be stuck with a limited lunch menu. How was he to know? I think what he wrote is Fair enough in that light.

Peter HarrisJuly 8th 2010.

Why does Obsidian not have an la carte menu available at lunchtime? That alone would put me off if I fancied a long lunch.

Andrew RevansJuly 8th 2010.

Not a fan of Jay Rayner since he slagged off the Cabbage Hall for being pretentious (it is, but if the food's excellent who cares?). Inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion though; on our sole (evening) visit to Obsidan the food was superb but let down by the service and generally funereal atmosphere.

Christopher BryanJuly 8th 2010.

It's always the case with the national food writers; Rayner, Fort et al.

When ever they review a place in Manchester or the North they only ever do a lunch. It's so they can ensure they are back in London for 6pm so they'll start getting itchy feet.

Peter HarrisJuly 8th 2010.

that should have been "á la carte"

Peter HarrisJuly 8th 2010.

that should have been "a la carte". Accents don't work on here!

Neil ThorntonJuly 8th 2010.

Got to agree with the Raynor boy here - and almost everyone else commenting.

Reviews are for paying punters, not the restaurants,

£18 for a fish dish off the bar menu desreves a thorough review.

If you can't serve really good food (however long or short the menu) whenever you're open, then don't.

Are people's paletes different on Monday lunchtime than Saturday evening?

Sorry guys, you've got this one wrong.

AndyJuly 8th 2010.

Not absolutely fair to say that the national critics only review Mcr restaurantys at lunch. In days gone by Jay R not only came and enjoyed dinner at the late Juniper, but returned to spend an afternoon in the kitchen with Paul Kitching for a piece who sadly never made it into print. Other nationals also made it for dinner. Matthew Fort was always a great supporter of Juniper and Kitching and was less than lazy in coming to Manchester, including cooking at Simply Heatcoates for charity.

Painful as Jay's Obsidian review is if a restaurant is open to the paying public then it's open to critics.

A better criticism of the critics is that they don't get out of London and the South East enough. Of course we all know culinary life begins and ends in and around the M25 don't we?

MDJuly 8th 2010.

It's ironic that Manchester Confidential are giving out awards for worst food criticism of the week.

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

Kim stay, I love you too! let's play footsie over some chickens feet in Glamorous instead!!

Manc exileJuly 8th 2010.

Interesting MD. I'd love to know where better and more impartial food criticism is in the North West when Mancon has all guns blazing with Gordo and Schofield, and that Choi woman and Allan and Unsworth.

ElpollolocoJuly 8th 2010.

Banes, excellent piece of research...you can't really argue with the facts.

MDJuly 8th 2010.

Apologies for my last comment. A bit rash / harsh.

J E SibberingJuly 8th 2010.

Re Agricola. You seem to be very good at making assumptions about ranters, based on not a lot. I don't mind paying nearly ten quid or more for a burger, if it has quality ingredients; the location, service and whether I 'can get dressed up' are irrelevant.

Spam doesn't apply.

NickJuly 8th 2010.

Got to agree with the many comments in favour of Jay Raynor. I read many of the restaurant reviews in the quality press and I'd say they're done at lunchtime as often as at dinnertime.

Presumably Obsidian engage your services so you want to defend them, but all you've really done is attract more attention to a poor review.

FooDeeJuly 8th 2010.

Face it Manchester, a prominent food critic from a national newspaper risked a nose-bleed by travelling 'oop North' to review one of the best restaurants that Manchester has to offer....and we farked it up. Manchester, TRY HARDER!

Matthew FartJuly 8th 2010.

Stcik to your guns MD - i agree wholeheartedly with your comment, it wasn't rash/harsh at all. Mancon doesn't seem to like it when the Nationals pitch up in Manchester as we saw with the scathing article on Matthew Normans impartial review of the The Modern.

John HarrisJuly 8th 2010.

At least Rayner puts reviews of Manchester restaurants in the national press. When was the last time any of the other papers ventured outside the M25?

FooDeeJuly 8th 2010.

We're not exactly giving them much of a reason to at the moment JtheB. Don't get me wrong, I am a champion of North West foods and actively seek out good, local producers to shout about, but it doesn't make it any easy when we get so blatantly busted.

FooDeeJuly 8th 2010.

Oh, and Re the SPAM story. I've just seen some SPAM-lite in the supie, hahahha. Yes, people who manufacture SPAM, that's MUCH healthier (not).

rhubarb ownerJuly 8th 2010.

Jay's comment 'rhubarb, the default ingredient for restaurants in the northwest which want to look like they care' is a bit worrying for us!

NortherngeezerJuly 8th 2010.

All reviews are subjective to the reviewee. You read them, digest them, take them with a pinch of salt and after visiting said establishment, make your own mind up.

ElpollolocoJuly 9th 2010.

It's all gone very quiet Mancon......feeling foolish???

FooDeeJuly 9th 2010.

This makes interesting reading re the Obsidian review youngandfoodish.com/…/#more-5488…

Shep-de-cuchieJuly 9th 2010.

Absolute rubbish Mancon, stating you should only review a restaurant in the evening with full a la carte menu. Possibly the lamest comment you have ever made, gone way-down in my estimation.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 9th 2010.

Elpolloloco I feel foolish about many things but not about this. That was a tired and poor review from Jay Rayner - and from the tone it was written in you could tell Rayner sort of felt the same. However it wasn't as bad as the Matthew Norman review of The Modern which was a sorry excuse of a thing. But Rayner should have walked away from Obsidian and not bothered with the review. It was almost like deliberately picking a time to catch a restaurant out. It was culinary entrapment. Reviewers should aim to review a restaurant as the majority of readers will experience it, which may not always be in the evening. Then you get an idea of how they will be received. As for disliking reviews by national reviewers I think we have criticised two really poor ones, not the many many others there have been. But come on, doesn't it seem a waste of time to come hundreds of miles to review a hotel restaurant at lunchtime? As Foodee's link shows, I'm scarcely alone in this.

Jeff O'tooleJuly 9th 2010.

There's a follow up article on the guardian website now:


FooDeeJuly 9th 2010.

and the debate rolls on... www.guardian.co.uk/…/obsidian-manchester-review…

Justin JJuly 9th 2010.

'Culinary entrapment' Mr Schofield. Nice phrase but maybe the hotel should do the full menu in future.

KapitanClefJuly 9th 2010.

I wonder if Mr Rayner will be doing any more hasty lunchtime reviews?

FooDeeJuly 9th 2010.

haha Jeff, I was only 47 secs behind you

ElpollolocoJuly 9th 2010.

Sorry JS..lame in the extreme; why should JR walk away..the place was open for business for **** sake!!! Is it now ok to take peoples money whilst offering a substandard experience???? I have no sympathy for Obsidian trying to get away with selling crap because it's a Monday lunchntime

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 9th 2010.

To dine there and complain directly as a punter would be right, because the experience seems to have been dreary, although he didn't totally condemn the food, nor the service so what the complaint would be I don't know. Maybe: "I passed all these other busier places but now I've come downstairs into this basement and it's really quiet and I don't like it." Anyway Elpolloloco (go on tell us your real name) let's leave it with your next comment - as something we agree to disagree over. As a reviewer unless I was being absurdly purist about things I wouldn't seek to review a place when I knew it would be at it's lowest ebb - I really don't know how that would serve the reader. Still as people love very critical reviews this might be a good idea. I know I'll rush in on a Thursday evening into one of my fave Manchester places fifteen minutes before closing and get all angry about them not serving me a four course meal.

GordoJuly 9th 2010.

It's a rare thing, but in this instance I have to agree with Mr. Rayner. If you are open, taking money then you need to be delivering quality all the time. It's a challenge for Obsidian as they (probably) have a contract with the hotel above to ensure that food is available at all times, so they will be open under duress (paobably) but that still is not a good enough excuse. Mr Raynor, it has to be said, made the journey; most of the Nationals don't give a fcuk about anything North of Watford as the Editors don't like signing off the travel exes, whilst reviewers, particularly The Times stable, are frustrated creative writers desperate to show off their ability to use a thesaurus and definately can't be arsed with 'owt that means they can't be home of an evening. Come back again Mr. Raynor. But don't be lazy, using PR's, especially those up here (there are only three that we allow in the offices without being soundly beaten)is a bit dull.

AndyJuly 9th 2010.

If they can't deliver a decent service on a Monday lunchtime they should not open but instead devote energies to prepping stocks etc. They should not be defended whatsoever if a reviewer chooses to go at any time when the public might also. It's not entrapment. Jay might want to revisit of an evening though to see if he finds the experience any more rewarding.

Is he PR led? Well all the critics get deluged by PR folks. Absolutely deluged. Picking out from that what may be interesting does not necessarily translate into being PR led and to be honest I think Jay has a bit more about him. He's curious. Let's not forget too that he heaped praise on Red Chilli and, as the commentator above says, enjoyed lunch at Abode. You can agree or disagree with his criticism but it's difficult to suggest he's unfair to individual restaurants or Manchester which he frequents more than most. It's only opinion by the way.

NosportJuly 9th 2010.

Wow, sometimes ranters and comments on websites can almost seem intelligent.

Stuart BamberJuly 9th 2010.

Arguing on the Internet is like winning at the Special Olympics: Even if you win, you're still a retard :o)

AgricolaJuly 9th 2010.

So what does that make you Stewie?

NortherngeezerJuly 9th 2010.

Would Mr Rayners review stop anyone visiting?, at lunchtime, probably. Would it stop anyone visiting in an evening, probably not. Go and make your own minds up.

ElbieJuly 10th 2010.

To Mr Schofield: What's your opinion on the point that a restaurant should maintain standards at all times? If it's serving and charging on a weekday lunchtime, it should make just as much effort as at other times. I'm with Gordo on this!

elbieJuly 10th 2010.

Just read JR's response to the 'backlash'. I agree with JR. It seems to me that most people do...

J E SibberingJuly 10th 2010.

Wonder if anyone will try this?

'I'd love to know what the alternative is, have a "The chef is feeling a bit shit today" menu price alternative when the kitchen has the Monday blues?'

Scott NeilJuly 10th 2010.

out of curiosity, googled M Norman at the Modern, it's in the Guardian. read like a fair review to me, food sounded garbage. granted, bit snotty re the Mcr skyline, but i've read him for years on and off and he has a mischievous sense of humour, whether he's reviewing a venue in Shepherds Bush or Stoke-on-Trent. Rayner's reply read fair too.

BanesJuly 10th 2010.

Ironically JR was pleased with The Modern, giving it a favourable review here: www.guardian.co.uk/…/foodanddrink… (the Good Food Guide also gave it one of Manchester's highest marks).

And let's not forget that Matthew Norman is no reviewing benchmark as he has little or no credibility in the food world; witness him giving the "not bad" Barburitto a insane mark of 9 out of 10, and numerous other moderate restaurants 1 or even 0.5 out of 10 on the basis of some bizarre irk.

The opinions on MN here are pretty standard: eatlovenoodles.blogspot.com/…/w-norman-wtf.html… and funnily enough "Young and Foodish" (cf upthread) is one of his sternest critics on there.

Ah well, at least MN does trek up here to the rainy city. For lunch. Though God forbid he AND Obsidian had a head-on collision on his next visit, the message boards would spontaneously burst into flame.

NortherngeezerJuly 10th 2010.

I cant believe this subject has actually caused this much debate!, who actually gives a flying f*ck about someone elses opinion of a restaurant, someone who is actually getting paid for his opinion. I'm more interested in the opinion of the customer who has had a good or bad experience and has taken the time to comment accordingly.

MadelaineJuly 11th 2010.

Northerngeezer you ape 'course it's better to read the professional than the gobshite. Would I rather listen to professional pundits on football rather than the fools who ring up BBC FIVE LIVE and talk rubbish? Course I would.

kravenedgeJuly 11th 2010.

Madelaine you're right. As Samuel Johnson said: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." Ranters - and now I'm one - can be fun but always go with the professional.

NortherngeezerJuly 11th 2010.

So what your saying is that the opinion of Jay Rayner, Matthew Fort, Gordo et al is more valid than mine cos they get paid for it?

NortherngeezerJuly 11th 2010.

And Madaleine, philly stein maybe, ape...............never!!!!

MadaleineJuly 12th 2010.

Yes Northerngeezer. I trust somebody who's been writing on food for say ten years rather say your mate Ken's opinion who usually does curries but occasional does other cuisines. Just as I'd rather trust a qualified plumber with my pipes rather than your mate Ken.

Leigh ScottJuly 12th 2010.

im good with pipes madaleine...

NortherngeezerJuly 12th 2010.

You've missed the point Madaleine, we are talking about someones opinion, not a skill. You are correct, if i wanted me pipes seeing to i'd get in a fully qualified time served plumber with vasts amount of experience, but surely my, or anyone elses opinion of someones food is as valid as the next persons, its all subjective surely, unlike fitting a WC.

Scott NeilJuly 12th 2010.

if a review sounds fair by that reviewer's own usual yardsticks then i say more power to that reviewers' elbow. it's why M Norman at the Modern read OK to me (even despite the fact that Banes rightly pointed out his lack of a palate in some areas and general mercurial approach to reviewing), and Rayner's reply to all this also sounds fair-minded. Sleuth is well-known for being fair too, i remember in The Metro once Sturgess slagged off a new opening not long after it had opened, on the back of one visit, and Sleuth took exception, saying he felt three visits before publication was the best way to assess a new opening.

Peter HarrisJuly 12th 2010.

JR has replied to this and other criticism here:

Fair enough in my view. I will not be put off, I will make my own mind up as ever and give Obsidian a go when the new Chef has bedded in. Mancon could then also give it another review. I am sure there will be a large improvement!

DibigoJuly 12th 2010.

Only scruffs eat spam.

Temporary HeroJuly 12th 2010.

You couldn't be more wrong Dibigo, the spam fritters at the Mark Addy are exceptional.

Matthew FartJuly 12th 2010.

Put that in yer pipe and smoke it Schofield. Admittedly your publication has benefited from your amateurish whinging as you now have more national exposure than you could ever have dreamt of, however, Raynor has shown yet again that he, Campian, Norman et al are several leagues above you and blown your 'shouldn't rate a restaurant at Monday lunchtime if it's in Manchester because I can't hear a bad word said about this city' guff to smithereens.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 12th 2010.

Listen Matthew frankly I don't give a shit about national exposure. Just be honest about what you think eh? And say it. I'll do that with my name attachedbut you Mr Pseudonym won't. You are talking bollocks. All restaurants should be judged as you find them, but you shouldn't waste reader's time by reviewing them when they are operating half-cock. Would I let Gordo (would he let me) review Blumenthal's gaff at lunch if it has a reduced menu for Manchester Confidential readership? No, give me the big idea, not the half cock one. Manchester is weak when it compares itself to elsewhere. Except in a superior way. I think our food writing wipes out any 'national's' coverage of Manchester.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 12th 2010.

And Matthew have you read our reviews? If you have, tell me are we not critical? We are honest.....honest, we are. Honest.

DibigoJuly 12th 2010.

Jimmy, spam is wrong mate. It's not necessary. When I see people buying it at the supermarket I think, eww, as if your buying that crap. People are paying a tenner for a spam burger??!! I wouldn't eat one if you gave me a tenner. It's not like, say cheap ham where they hose down the carcass after stripping it; for spam they crush the actual carcass and grind it down into mush. That is then solidified and goes into spam. It's food for wartime and crack heads. And some silly chef is making 'foodies' think they are dead clever. ha ha ha ha funny.

Matthew FartJuly 12th 2010.

I have indeed read your reviews, one that particularly springs to mind, however i can't actually recall the name of the establishment, suffice to say it was a cafe, down a backwater off Oxford Road (I think) described how a jacket potato was accompanied with 'fresh ingredients' - the fresh ingredient in question was a can of tinned tuna and mayo! I fell off my chair when i read it. Hardly the work of Frank Bruni...

Matthew FartJuly 12th 2010.

Couldn't agree more Dibigo. However R-O-B is a Manchester chef so please don't critcise his 'signature dish'or the poor mites here will become all defensive again, after all Manchester is the culinary capital of the UK (except for on a Monday lunchtime)......

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 12th 2010.

Matthew you're still using your real name I see. Bless you. We have always said Manchester should be better. We always argue that it should aim for the heights. In food. In architecture. In art. In ambition. In engineering. In drink. We want it to be ballsy and full of innovation. What do you want? We're called Manchester Confidential, the clue's in the name. That's why we laugh at our city and admire it. We love it but not without awareness of its failings.

Mark JJuly 12th 2010.

Matthew, your impressive farty guffcloud of nonsense is amusing.
That was a well referenced and comprehensive riposte of all of ManCons restaurant reviews..
"er well there was this cafe that you reviewed near Oxford Road and you sort of said that the Tuna was fresh when it wasn't." SCORE!!!!!
Check mate eh? I nearly fell of my chair.

Matthew FartJuly 12th 2010.

Jonathan - We are talking food and drink - not art, not architecture, not engineering - the clue is in the title of the original article. I also want what is best for Manchester, a thriving culinary scene, that critics, from where-ever they visit can report on the great things that are going on in the city. What i don't want is to read is a precious article titled 'Worst food criticism of the week award' furiously penned because a leading food critic had the gall to write an honest review about a substandard experience in your beloved Manchester. It's embarrassing.

Matthew FartJuly 12th 2010.

Mark J 12 July 2010, 16:56:02
Matthew, your impressive farty guffcloud of nonsense is amusing.
That was a well referenced and comprehensive riposte of all of ManCons restaurant reviews..
"er well there was this cafe that you reviewed near Oxford Road and you sort of said that the Tuna was fresh when it wasn't." SCORE!!!!!
Check mate eh? I nearly fell of my chair

They didn't 'sort of say the tuna was fresh when it wasn't' - it was a jacket potato with tuna - a can of tuna - how the frig can that be 'fresh ingredients'?? Just incompetant reviewing.

John HarrisJuly 12th 2010.

I'm afraid for once I disagree with Jonathan S here and am in the same camp as Mr Rayner and Gordo.n The restaurant's open, therefore it's OK to review it. The review will be of what was on offer at the time, and this review very clearly explained what and when that was - it was not purporting to be a review of the evening menu or the full a la carte experience. Obsidian could have put on a reduced offering for lunchtime but done it well - if they didn't but were open and charging then that's their look out. Frankly, I don't think the review itself was such a slating anyway - he didn't say the food was terribly bad, just average. His biggest gripe seems to have been the lack of atmosphere or company - which could have many reasons but was undoubtedly true. The sad thing here is that a bit of national exposure for the city has been wasted on something that didn't deserve it - so it's all the PRs' fault really.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJuly 12th 2010.

I'm full of wine, full of a cold and cooking salmon with prawns, bit of rice, chilli and some mange tout. It's odd but I'm winning. Isn't life interesting? Jeez Matty boy I was complaining about the service to the reader not about reviewing places that happened to be open.

NortherngeezerJuly 12th 2010.

Whilst i wouldnt neccasarily disagree with Mr Rayners comments regarding when you can actually review a restaurant..........ANYTIME, this response makesMancon and its ranters sound like a bunch of wankers...........seems like no one is entitled to there opinion anymore, FFS.


Elpolloloco- Steve SavageJuly 13th 2010.

I quote JS, "All restaurants should be judged as you find them, but you shouldn't waste reader's time by reviewing them when they are operating half-cock". "Operating at half cock?...it's open for business you numpty!! Now that's what I call talking bollocks!!

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