Far too few Americans are familiar with Michael Winner, a British food critic so trenchant and blunt that one can imagine steam literally shooting out of the ears of the chefs he castigates. Known mostly on this side of the Atlantic as a film director (his main claim to fame is the ultraviolent Charles Bronson flick Death Wish), Winner says he covers his own restaurant expenses and doesn’t need the money the Sunday Times pays him for his column. Thus he doesn’t mince words. Some choice ones from Winner:
Arzak, one of the best restaurants in Spain The meal was so ghastly I’d rather not recall it. Every minuscule portion was irrelevant to life as I know it. A ravioli of foie gras, melon and light cheese tasted like mild soap.
Here’s another balanced review.
The Lanesborough Hotel, London, 1994
What I only go through. How I suffer. The food is grotesque, so awful as to be almost indescribable and an absolute disgrace. The owners should call a board meeting at once and fire themselves. And, believe me, what I’ve written so far is kind. Chinese duck cakes turned out to be no more than duck hamburger, with no sauce to help it. It was bland and dreary. For a main course I ordered a kedgeree of salmon and haddock with curry butter. It was totally uneatable. ‘The chef would like to know when your write-up will appear,’ the manager said. ‘No he wouldn’t,’ I replied. ‘The food is disgusting. I shall say so in no uncertain terms.’
Ah. Yes. Indeed. And here’s Winner’s latest, a May 20 write-up of the London restaurant Foliage:
I’ve just had a really terrible, terrible meal. Ugh, ugh, ugh. I mean beyond belief awful. Where was this catastrophic waste of my lunchtime? At a posh place called Foliage in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Knightsbridge.
After insulting Foliage’s “daft mini portions,” he says:
I sat on my yellow leather chair, which looked like it came from a sale at House of Leather, and wondered what happened to real food. When was it that these mini portions of tarted-up plate decoration came to be taken seriously?
Can anyone find Chef? I think he’s in the kitchen with his head in the oven.