The online comments section. That brilliant accident of newspapers on the internet. Most columnists either stubbornly and rather aloofly ignore them, or dive in, hurt and touchy about this pants-down public criticism they were safe from for years and have to now endure.
Comments on restaurant reviews are no different, but I'm starting to see certain trends forming, and each week the same kinds of arguments are put forward, rather boringly.
Here's a quick round-up of which kinds of commenters I think should be banned from restaurant reviews.
1. The tight git
"£50? I could make it at home for £10".
Maybe you could. But you would have to know the recipe, maybe by reading a book or learning somewhere. (maybe 1 hr of your time spent) Then you would have to go to the shops and get the ingredients (2 hrs). Then make the meal (2 hrs), and afterwards do the washing up (15 mins).
That's a rough estimate of 5 hrs 15 mins of your own time, and at the average UK wage (£12.56 per hour) is the equivalent to you earning £56.94 before tax.
Then you would have to serve it yourself, choose and pour your own wine, get up and get the salt and pepper yourself (squeaking as you walk, presumably), and sit there and talk to yourself wallowing in your smugness that you aren't sitting in an expensive restaurant, participating in society, surrounded by jolly people enjoying your food being cooked and served by nice people in order to make a living.
Well done, I just hope I'm never married to you.
2. The subject Nazi
"Oh please concentrate on the food rather than withering on about your thoughts on the train there/current affairs/ your sex-life"
Ok I'm just going to come out and say it: people don't read restaurant reviews to find out where to go and eat. The internet has told them already. And one of the most common mis-conceptions about restaurant reviewers, and indeed any other reviewers, is that they are not employed to to review things because they know a lot about the thing they specialise in reviewing. They are employed because the editor thinks they are a good writer.
For me the best restaurant review will talk about the restaurant for less than 15% of the words, max. Quite honestly what is there more to say? I mean, this isn't an autopsy. Who wants to know all that stuff anyway?
If you want to read about unctuous mouthfeel, read a food blog. There are plenty out there. Or failing that, see a psychologist.
3. The bitter ruralite.
"I can't believe that for another week, you have chosen once again to stay (insert tiny number) miles away from your beloved home in London, where this paper is obsessed by! You should spread your wings and travel a little, you might be surprised" - etc etc fade to silence.
Well, I for one have never had a decent meal outside of zone 2, let alone outside the M25, so I don't believe you for one minute.
This is a lie obviously, I'm sure there are many lovely restaurants right across Britain.
The fact is London is our capital city, does a fine job of being it, and because of that lots of people from all over the world come here to live and work, so it subsequently find itself with lots of people who like to eat out more often than birthdays and anniversaries, the demand of whom allows the opening of an awful lot of restaurants, some of which end up being the best in the country.
Oh, and in London they don't serve food on square plates anymore.
4. Miss I Know Better
"You really should have tried Mrs Miggins' Cafe round the corner, the eccles cakes are divine'"
If there is any side effect of restaurant review comments, it's the ability for people like Mrs Miggins' tech-savvy teenage daughter to be able to whack some free advertising for the family business. The new Tripadvisor. Kind of don't mind this one too much I suppose, but be careful how you word it, it can be obvious.
5. The moral high-grounder
"Eating out is quite frankly a vulgar waste of money, when there are children starving in Africa, why not give the money to them?'"
Well, if nobody ate out, restaurants would quickly fail, and everyone from The Jag driving owner to the plongeur would be penniless, and according to some clumsy googling, over 2 million people would be now living on benefits street, and our GDP would be down approximately 2.5 Bn. I hope you're pleased with yourself.
My conscience is clear anyway, as I have for this reason stopped buying The Guardian and now donate the money saved to worthwhile faraway causes.