AA Gill, UK Sunday Times restaurant critic, has just released his best and worst of 2008.
If Gill isn't the most feared restaurant critic in the world, he's certainly the most entertaining. Rumour has it, he is also the best paid columnist in the UK. Not bad for a recovering alcoholic who changed careers at 30 and suffers from severe dyslexia.
Shitty and disgusting
While chefs sigh with relief when Gill gives their restaurants the thumbs up, it's quite a different matter when he is displeased.
He can easily demolish a restaurant's reputation with borderline malicious commentary and he doesn't give a damn who he offends.
He was booted out of Gordon Ramsay's restaurant after he called him a wonderful chef but "a second rate human being".
While he told an angry restaurant owner, who confronted him after a bad review, that the reason why his restaurant closed down was because, "Your restaurant is unbelievably shitty and the food was disgusting!"
He's even been reported to the Racial Equality and Press Complaints Commissions for his views on the Welsh; calling them "dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls".
Welsh aside, Gill has one of the best read columns in the UK and there must be a good reason why 2 million people have listened to the restaurant gospel according to Gill for the last 16 years.
Here are a couple of highlights from the best and worst of 2008. We've added a couple of vintage Gill-isms from the reviews for the restaurants.
"Some of these dishes directly feed the heart, as well as the cultured head and greedy stomach, and it's all done without overt decoration or fuss, without adjectives or exclamation marks."
"This place is still one of a handful of consistently five-star restaurants in London; and if that thought brings out the angry provincial chippy son of Jarrow in you, do what I do: get over yourself and have the squid with chilli."
"This unlikely cluster, this frot of small-boy ingredients, came together and sang like a choir of eunuch pigs, a dish that was right on the edge of being offensive, but revealed itself to be utterly endearing, and that’s what great haute cooking should be."
THE BAD... with some cringe worthy quotes.
Ambassade de l'Ile
"...it's savoury: a fish mousseline, as smooth as a warm Baileys enema administered by Charles Aznavour by candlelight, with the wobbly texture of a contemplative nun's genuflecting buttock."
Chicago Rib Shack
"The ribs and that barbecue flavour tasted as if they'd been boiled in an ashtray. This is bad from a bad place where the bad people live. This is a glutinously awful pig-swamp bad, out all on its own in the badlands."
Cha Cha Moon
"A cloudy, sickly gruel that was more seepage than soup. There was something of bin juice about it: a grim distillation of waste and parsimony; the textures of the stuff that lurked in it stretched from slimy to slither to slop."
"I started with a duck risotto, a mountain of sloppy rice, full of fatty, meaty bits, as if Jemima Puddle-Duck had flown through a wind farm."
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester
"Alain Ducasse is the most Michelin-starred of any chef ever. If he ate all of his stars, he'd crap meteorites. The food is effortful French bijou objects, made of ingredients whose foremost quality is their expense and rarity. They are then tortured into little piles that resemble deconstructed Fabergé eggs with worrying froth."
"The artichoke and smoked salmon salad was plainly the result of a shoplifting sprint to an all-night supermarket; the lamb was a soggy brown muscle."
And his prediction for 2009...
A lot of restaurants are going to go out of business, because they can't adapt, don't have the skill, and don't really get what it is they’re selling. He also believes there will be a sharp decline in sushi, with fewer courses, and bigger platefuls, and more house wines and carafes.
Do you think restaurant critics have too much power?
Sources: www.gourmettraveller.com.au, www.timesonline.co.uk,www.guardian.co.uk and www.wikipedia.com