Sunday, February 11, 2007

That restaurant was shit...

...but no, we can’t let you publish that in your newspaper, I’m afraid.

I have never eaten in Goodfellas on Kennedy Way in Belfast, but if a restaurant reviewer has, after due consideration of their responsibilities, decided to say in print that they didn’t have a good experience there, they are entitled to say it as long as it is true and fair comment.

A jury recently disagreed with that, saying that the Irish News was defamatory in its review. This will have a chilling effect on Northern Ireland’s newspaper reviews of restaurants, and that is wrong.

To correct the balance a little, I’ll make a few comments. First: all restaurants should be obliged to let people bring their own wine if they wish, because markups on wine lists are completely unreasonable. If I can buy a wine out of Sainsbury’s for £6.99, I don’t expect to have to pay double for it simply because a waiter brings it to me, uncorks it and pours some into a glass.

Second: save us from the tyranny of having 2 fixed-length sittings for dinner in average restaurants in Belfast. Deane’s Deli is a star offender here: it serves very good food, yes, and is popular; but it is not popular or superb enough to justify having to cram people in for only 2 hours per meal. And if it was that superb, giving diners only 2 hours would be virtually a crime.

Third: if your restaurant must have a bar, make it a bar. Reasonably-priced drinks and staff who know what they are serving and are always behind the bar. Your bar staff should not have to serve diners their drinks and deal with people having aperitifs or a few for the road as well.

Fourth: wobbly tables. Am I to enjoy my meal fully when the act of spearing food with my fork creates disturbances of a kind last seen off the island of Java on Boxing Day 2004? Will I delight when a tsunami of Riesling from an upended glass threatens to topple my precariously-arranged main course, leaving me with no choice but to soldier on and eat the resulting mush because they need the table in half an hour?