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Oi you! Yes you! The one whingeing about the cost of the restaurants I review: READ THIS. (A one-size-fits-all response).

The price of everything and the value of nothing.

 

Each week beneath my restaurant review in the Observer, somebody posts a comment complaining about the cost of the meal reviewed. Perhaps this week it was you. It happens literally every week, and every week some of us make an effort to respond. But I’m very bored of doing so. Hence, I have written this one-size-fits-all response to those crass, ignorant, virtue-signalling self-serving comments about price. For anybody who has ever whinged about the cost of meals in restaurants, this is for you.

 

The comments come in a variety of forms.

1.  I could make that at home for a tenth of the price. (Along with ‘I could feed my family for a week on that’ and ‘only an idiot would spend that sort of money on a meal.’)

2. There is something obscene about spending this sort of money in a restaurant when there are people feeding themselves from food banks.

3. I could never afford to spend that in a restaurant. How dare a so-called left-wing newspaper like the Observer give column inches to such things.

 

I will go through them in turn.

 

  • I could make this at home for a tenth of the price.

Firstly, unless you are a professional chef, you probably couldn’t. And if you actually were a professional chef you wouldn’t begrudge the cost of it. In any case if you made it at home, you wouldn’t have the 20% vat, plus the costs of the building, the utilities, and the staff both to cook it for you and to bring it to you. Presumably, as you care about cost, you want the people who work in restaurants to be paid a reasonable wage for their labour. Presumably you want quality ingredients not the cheapest of the cheap? Despite what cynical people like you think, restaurants are not a license to print money. They are brutally tough businesses, as the number of closures early in 2018 has proved. One of the major problems is British consumers like you who begrudge paying a reasonable amount of money for the experience.

As to being able to do it at home, if you really do feel like that perhaps you could just stay there and shut up while the rest of us get on with leading bigger, more interesting lives.

 

  • There is something obscene about spending this sort of money in a restaurant when there are people feeding themselves from food banks.

No there isn’t. Poverty is a terrible thing. I’ve written about it in detail. I’ve talked to people who use food banks, and their stories are awful. But the fact that some people who are not on the poverty line eat in restaurants does not make the situation worse for those who are. Poverty is a function of an unequal and dysfunctional economic system. That’s what needs to be sorted, not the price of a rib-eye steak in a restaurant. The fact is this. Some people have disposable income. They are entitled to spend it how they wish. I’ve pointed out before that, while people may complain about the cost of tickets to see premier league football teams play, nobody complains about people choosing to pay the price. Spending money to watch sport is somehow seen as authentic and real whereas spending it on dinner is degenerate. What utter bollocks. Some people like to spend their money on the opera or cars or holidays. Why the hell shouldn’t they? Who are you to tell them what they should spend it on?

What’s more some people on low incomes save up so they can afford to treat themselves. It’s their right. How dare you judge them for it.

 

  • I could never afford to spend that amount in a restaurant. How dare a so-called left-wing newspaper give column inches to such things.

I’m sorry you don’t earn enough to visit all the restaurants I write about. I love the thought of hand-made shoes and flying across the Atlantic first class. I don’t earn enough to be able to afford either of those things, but that doesn’t mean I immediately believe they shouldn’t exist. A lot of people can’t afford all the restaurants I write about but they still like reading about them. It provides vicarious pleasure. As to the view that the Observer is betraying its values by reporting on things that aren’t all dirt cheap, again – what utter bollocks. Does that mean we shouldn’t write about cars or holidays, theatre or fashion or new tech? Or is that different?

Let’s be clear. Some restaurants do take the piss money wise. And when they do, I say so. But there is a great difference between price and value. I have paid £400 of my own money for a meal that I thought was worth it. I purchased memories. That may not be the kind of memories you want but they are what I want. But I have also spent £20 on a meal that I thought was a rip off and I have said so. The issue is never the spending of money on food in restaurants. It’s always what that money buys.

Now do us all a favour: stop whingeing and leave the rest of us alone so we can carry on with the pleasurable business of discussing restaurants.

 

105 comments on “Oi you! Yes you! The one whingeing about the cost of the restaurants I review: READ THIS. (A one-size-fits-all response).

  1. Rob Maher on

    Well said. I enjoy reading the reviews, especially now that I live outside the UK and will probably never return to sample those restaurants myself. I find JR’s reviews amongst the best; amusing, detailed and fair. I must also say that there are far more mentions of places not giving good value than those who do. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Di on

      Hi there ,
      Love your report ! We live in Spain and whilst
      Always worked hard myself NHS and husband Prison service we have never eaten in Michelin starred restaurants, however when I shop my local supermarket I am very often next to a Michelin starred chef buying his “locally sourced
      Produce” !!! The Mercadona in Calahonda must be where All fhe locally sourced produce for Marbella is bought (oops sorry grown )

      Reply
      • Albert Saunders on

        You’ve obviously done well out of the NHS and the Prison service to be able to afford to move to Spain. Well done to you.

        Reply
      • Kate on

        The point you’ve missed is that in Spain 90% of the produce in the supermarket IS local, at least it is where we live.

        Reply
  2. Nikkie Patchett on

    Thank you so much, I have never begrudged paying for value. I work in the wine Industry and spend my life explaining why a good bottle of wine is worth paying the extra than a supermarket bottle.
    I love eating in top end restaurants because it is an experience, although Cordon Bleu trained and a Sommelier I could never produce the sheer artistry of some of the plates I love, and enjoy exploring wines that are not on my own list.
    Please continue doing your wonderful job, and expressing your opinions in people friendly language, I do not read the guardian yet always pull your reviews off the internet.
    You are my favourite critic, just, only just, ahead of Mr Campion.

    Reply
  3. Stella-Maria Thomas on

    Absolutely this! When my parents were still alive, my father, who had grown up in Germany in the 1920s was always convinced that money spent in restaurants was wasted and that it was cheaper and better to stay at home for events such as New Year. Now I’m quite happy to cook for everyone at New Year but I also know that the final year I did that I spent two full days in the kitchen and I logged all the costs including my time. What I spent on ingredients, gas, electricity and hot water would have more than paid for an excellent dinner for all of us that night, and I would not have been struggling to stay awake when midnight rolled around either! I love restaurants, be they three-starred efforts which I’ve eaten in on rare occasions, or small one/two man operations where the most you’ll spend on food is £50 a head or less and the memories are also the sort I want.

    Reply
  4. Paul on

    I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll happily say it again. Your review of Le Cinq is one of the finest demolition jobs I’ve ever read.

    Keep it up.

    Reply
  5. Jill Papp on

    How bloody rude!
    Wouldn’t bother reading your ‘reviews’ with that attitude. Not that restaurant reviews are vaguely interesting to the intelligent reader!

    Reply
    • Mat S on

      “How bloody rude” decries random person on internet who has taken the time to visit someone’s blog, and provide comment about an article.

      I suspect the irony will be lost…

      Reply
    • David on

      Well you’re a treat, Jill, aren’t you. I’m not sure why intelligence would preclude anyone from reading restaurant reviews, but I hope your superiority keeps you warm at night.

      Reply
    • Claire Walsh on

      Your total failure to grasp the first class writing and wit of Jay’s reviews ( and your dessicated, humourless response) really shows that you’re not the intelligent reader you’re so desperate to appear to be.

      Reply
    • Tracey Ramsbottom on

      Well I think you are rude for suggesting readers of restaurant reviews are not intelligent . You enjoy you houmous sandwich on your own, big head !!

      Reply
    • Vinny R on

      “Not that restaurant reviews are vaguely interesting to the intelligent reader!”

      Erm, you call him rude and then go on to insult anyone who reads any restaurant review. Pot. kettle. Black.

      Reply
    • Kelly on

      How bloody rude you seem to be! Read Jay’s reviews then share your opinion. And please, check your reference to other people’s intelligence – your predjudice is showing.

      Reply
    • John on

      Perhaps you should stops whinging about people’s reasons for not eating out. There are valid reasons which you outlined for this. They speak more to the current financial climate than to some pseudo nonsense you dreamt up about our lack of culture. Most of us find it difficult to justify not just meals out but many other things these days and you don’t need to look very far to see most Britains are cutting back on life’s luxurious. Its not that we are unwilling to pay, we are unable to pay.. and this is humiliating to many. Sounds like you need a reality check!

      Reply
    • Jacqui Leppert on

      Then why are you even bothering to be looking on JR’s website?? Bizarre …. unless you are tied to a chair and forced to read it.

      Reply
  6. Will Ross on

    I have nothing against food porn. Indeed, I rather enjoy it.
    For some reason, though, it seems to find itself in the “Lifestyle” section rather than in “Culture”, where it belongs. Why shouldn’t Lifestyle articles relate to the lives of the readership?

    Reply
  7. Mat S on

    Jay, thanks for this excellent blog post.

    As a photographer charging what I consider to be competitive prices given how much person-time goes into a given commission, I’m not unfamiliar with hearing price whinges when reading stuff online.

    Gladly, however, in my personal and work life, it doesn’t happen. There is a steady stream of enquiries every day, and the ones who find my pricing too high leave me alone and the ones who hire me understand what goes into it!

    Hence, it’s actually quite a comfortable world for me to live in, where most of the people I meet face to face understand and appreciate the value of good work.

    This, I guess, is the opposite of your line of work, where you’re paid to write things in a newspaper for literally EVERYONE to have an opinion on.

    Still, they are just internet comments, and as we all know the internet is full of shit-stirrers.

    Rest assured, the silent majority of people who have a life appreciate your work, and don’t comment at all; it’s only the noisy minority with something to prove who make comments. Hence a high proportion of comments are negative.

    Good for you for posting this, and it’s nice to see someone keeping their responses to comments classy in the face of such trolly behaviours. M

    Reply
    • SOPhoto on

      It’s great to see people voicing ‘how it is’. Very refreshing!
      As a fellow photographer and a lover of good food, nicely said both Mat and Jay.

      Reply
  8. Joe T Redneck on

    Well said sir!
    The old phrase “He is knows the price of everything but is unaware of the value of anything” springs to mind.

    Reply
  9. Nicci Morris on

    What an excellent blog – I hope you don’t mind me using some of your arguments when I get the same comments from people. You are spot on about the reverse snobbery in the cost of buying a ticket to a sporting event versus a great meal. I have also found that people who are happy to spend a small fortune on a night on the lash and a curry will think you are gullible for spending the equivalent in a restaurant.

    Reply
  10. Mikev Locke on

    I worked a lifetime in the catering industry from the top of high end to producing home meals for the elderly and disadvantaged and having survived I promised myself that Having spent a lifetime putting “ Nothing but the best” in front of all sorts of luminaries I was going to eat in the places that produce “ nothing but the best” and I do and have some wonderful world wide experiences and —- I make it at home as well !
    I also love beans on toast .

    Reply
    • Bede Beaumont on

      Well said,I am the same.after thirty years of cooking I’m tired of the hours time of doing my best always.tired of fighting to get a fair price.tired of ignorance

      Reply
  11. Helen T on

    Excellent and well said. I am on a low income and choose to visit Michelin starred restaurants as a Christmas or birthday treat because we enjoy and appreciate good food. That’s my choice and I happily make sacrifices elsewhere. Luckily for me my partner is an excellent cook so we always look forward to an inventive and inspiring dinner when we eat out – something we couldn’t make at home. Jay, you didn’t mention the cost of recipe development- I think some restaurants have chefs whose sole job is to invent new dishes. This all has to be paid for too.

    Reply
  12. David Robinson on

    Your comments are also applicable to other areas of the ‘craft’ food sector.Having been a master baker for over 40 years I know what it’s like to hear ‘ how much “when we charge more than the supermarkets for a loaf which has been made with love & care as opposed to on a production line in a factory.

    Reply
  13. Tony Delaney on

    It’s my birthday tomorrow and my wife and I will be lunching in a small local establishment. The chef has a Michelin star. He works very hard alone in his kitchen. The food is unique and not cheap. Works for me.

    Reply
  14. Gareth s on

    Spot on what most people don’t understand is the time and labor that chefs do I’m a chef my self and have worked 70-100 hour weeks for the last 10 years most of the time on under min wage like most chefs so people should think of what gos on behind close doors before they say anything

    Reply
  15. Heidi Roberts on

    Hear hear! Great post!! I do restaurant reviews for my blog and people often say how lucky I am! Luck doesn’t come into it – the work starts the moment I enter the premises and continues long after I get home!!

    Reply
  16. Jackie on

    Absolutely fantastic! Why can’t us foodies save each month and have an almighty blow out at somewhere we’ve only dreamed of? I’m currently saving up to book the ‘Fat Duck’ My choice, my money, my savings. I’m hurting no one but as you say creating the most amazing memories for my husband and I. I’m asking no one else to pay for me, I work full time, pay a mortgage, have an 11yr old whomthanks to us and people like you Jay, already has a great love of food, flavour and amazing restaurants.
    I love love love this article and may now even start to read the Observer

    Reply
  17. Alexandra on

    I have loved you from afar for what feels like an inordinate period of time and your pithy yet witty response to the curmudgeons who lets face it are not forced to read your missives with a gun to their head but do so because they choose to with well honed spite tinged with provincial outrage has done nothing to dampen my ardour. Well said. (Your liberal use of the word ‘bollox’ is terribly endearing). Sadly having met your lovely wife I under my feelings must remain anonymous and unrequited but don’t stop, don’t ever stop defending the rights of the greedy to graze freely from the banquet of life. JR I salute You.

    Reply
  18. Gareth Bradley on

    I find that people say the same things when chatting about various meals or restaurants socially. All the same points that you have raised. I reply much in the same way, also adding, “how would you know that it’s a waste of money? Have you been?”.

    Reply
  19. Matt Green on

    Hell yes Jay! I’m an artisan chocolatier in the UK midlands, and before that worked in a restaurant that charged $400 a head in Australia. All of your comments apply to my experience both then and now! It’s not how much money you spend, it’s what the money buys!

    Reply
  20. Lynne Jarche Ford on

    So agree with you. The only thing I regret having to pay for is the large round thing I carry in front as a badge of my chosen job. Yes that ‘apple’/spare tyre. Good food and wine is so worth paying for. And outing bad food or value is essential. But carefully and with humour. Like you do!

    Reply
  21. Russ Collinson on

    My wife and I visit “top end” establishments whenever we can, and we are by no means on a high income yet a particular couple we know berate us for spending £200-300 on an experience (not just a meal) once every couple of months, yet we see social media posts of them every weekend drinking elaborate “delboy” style cocktails in so-called trendy city centre bars that have probably cost £10-15 each…

    We have splendid memories of our evenings, and don’t feel terrible for it the next day either. As you said Jay, you are purchasing memories. Can I ask, do you have any intention to visit Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall in Aughton any time soon?

    Reply
  22. Denis Albutt on

    I totally agree with you. When counting the cost of a meal at home, people only consider the cost of the ingredients and do not take into account a proportion of the costs of the home, furniture, cutlery, glasses, kitchen equipment, electricity, labour etc. Therefore they are deluding themselves of the true cost of a home cooked meal. I found your little book on your worst restaurant reviews a great read and highly entertaining.

    Reply
  23. Julian Tagger on

    I have a restaurant in a small town, Amble in Northumberland. We do a 3 course offer 12/6.30pm for …… £8.95…… all fresh ingredients. Ham & lentil soup, Fish, steak pie, lambs fry, mince n dumpling, whole tail scampi,plus vegetarian options, all fresh vegetables, chefs crumble or ice cream….and I still get moans re the price!!!! You will NEVER escape the moaners, keep up the great reviews…After 50 years Roll on retirement
    Julian

    Reply
  24. Megan on

    I particularly like to part where you counter the “I can do this at home for less narrative”. There is a similar moan circulating w/in surplus food distribution. Those who are asked to donate or pay as they feel quite loudly complain because they feel that if the organisation doing the redistribution gets the food for free so should they. 1) if you can’t pay, these orgs are fine with that in my experience. 2) while the food is free, the building, the council rates, the vehicle that did the collection etc—all the infrastructure that enables access to this food— is not free. Moreover, we should also pay those doing this work a decent wage. Making free food available costs money—just like any other food.

    Reply
  25. Angry Waiter on

    Thank you! I work in a restaurant and I am constantly frustrated with people complaining about prices and insinuating that somehow they are my “fault” and that I can change them if they glare at me for long enough (I am a waiter in Manchester, I can’t change the prices and I most certainly don’t wish to). If I hear “we wouldn’t pay these prices in London, so the difference is coming out of your tip” one more time! You see the price when you sit down and when you order, so don’t complain about it after you’ve devoured the whole thing! …and dont penalise me because you are a tightfisted snob who definitely couldn’t make it at home for a fraction of the cost.

    Reply
  26. Adam Bates on

    I love taking my wife out on dates and as we are in our late 50s pubs and clubs are not our thing; restaurants are. They give us such pleasure and very rarely do we winge about the price. I choose to spend my money on good food & wine, not SKY nor going to football matches nor west end plays nor fast cars nor concerts. It is not just the food, it is the atmosphere. It is learning about new styles of wine. It is the excitement of trying new places or the comfort of old friends. It is writing off a Sunday afternoon after a big lunch. When I grew up in Belfast in the 1960s & 1970s this was not possible. This is a wonderful development for our society.

    Reply
  27. Alicia on

    And if they are charging less, where are the cuts being made? Are the staff salaries being made up out of the tips? Are they paying staff cash under the table? Are they paying tax? Or are they just going to declare bankruptcy and shaft their suppliers (not that they need to be charging less to do that).

    Reply
  28. Flash Bristow on

    HEAR HEAR!

    Particularly the point about the cost being cheaper at home. I recently saw an episode of Restaurant Rescue (if you haven’t seen it I’m sure you can guess the premise). One restaurant, a small place in an everyday town, was helped by being closed more often. It cost £89 per day in bills (rent etc.) for the restaurant to exist. That’s when it is closed. While open, it also had to cover staff costs, energy costs, and incidentals like breakages, napkins (either disposable or laundry costs) and so on.

    Reckon you could make the meal cheaper at home? Include a couple of rooms’ worth of your mortgage for the day, the cost of heat and light, plus your time to prep the food and wash up afterwards, as well as whatever you paid for the ingredients. It’s not as cheap as you assume once you are realistic about the overheads. Plus, in a restaurant you can take the weight off your feet, relax and be waited on. I can’t afford to do that every day, but I really appreciate it when I get the opportunity.

    The £89 cost, for every day that the restaurant exists *let alone is open* made me think. Perhaps the BTL commenters need their minds opened a little more widely, despite being readers of a fairly liberal publication.

    Reply
  29. Neil Rusbridger on

    As a ‘retired’ restaurateur of some 30 plus years; having invested eight years going through catering college, then onto the likes of Chewton and The Waterside, amongst others and not even mentioning the time spend working on the management side; all to perfect ones craft, often on punitive contracts! This was even before opening the doors to earn any kind of reputation and swallowing the losses of wasted food when some customers complained it ‘wasn’t to their liking’, (despite sometimes the table next to them praising the dish, as the best they’d eaten!), one naturally because of pride, would do whatever one could to appease them. Little hope but the price of opinion and free speech?

    However, how very heartening to see such and immenient and respected writer, put into such eloquent words, the feelings felt, by the ramblings of an ignorant minority of diners, who’s gripe is always to complain whatever with their goal; often a hefty discount, or better still a freebie. That way they can still go home and pretend to be messrs Rayner and Co, by expressing to the world how shabbily they had been treated – and ripped off to boot!

    Fortunately now that boot is on the other foot, because now having been demoralised enough to give up the restaurant fight (and allowing all the ‘extremly cheap and fantastic ‘value’ chain “restaurants” to succeed!!), now as a private chef, patrons can indeed say how much better it is to eat at home and I don’t have a quarter of the overheads; none of the worries of no shows, or if anyone will come through the door – but able to charge the same if not more and (touch wood) never receiving one comment about being ‘over charged’.

    I feel justice has been done and even more so now having read this excellent article. Thank you sir.

    Reply
    • Stillhereinmadrid on

      Well thank you too! 30 odd years ago I dined at both the Chewton and The Waterside ( Chewton was a corporate affair and Waterside was a special treat with a special date) It wouldn’t have mattered what the bill at the Waterside was, the experience, the location the food the wines and the welcoming attitude of the waiting staff was fantastic. I never got to go back to Bray, and I’ve dined in some fabulous places round the world since, but have never forgotten how special that evening at the Waterside was (Although my date, who was a jobbing builder at the time was a bit quiet afterwards!)

      Reply
  30. Victoria Watkin-Jones on

    I work in luxury weddings – it may look obscene to some but people fail to grasp the sheer amount of jobs and businesses these places support. In a restaurant it can be from the waiters, chefs and marketing team etc to the food suppliers, designers, florists, the people that supplied the point of sale and the carpets to the napkin suppliers and the guys that clean the windows. Taxi drivers benefit, the bar next door… The wholesalers the suppliers use… As with most things let’s not judge without really looking.

    Reply
  31. Matt on

    As someone who works in procurement, this related story always makes me smile:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12099760/TripAdvisor-York-Bennetts-cafe-owner-leaves-brilliant-response-to-one-star-review.html

    So many people don’t see the bigger picture, they look no further then what’s on the plate in front of them. There is little consideration for the plate itself, the person who brought that plate, the table the plate sits on, or the establishment the table exists in. Then there’s the preparation of the food itself…

    Reply
    • Colm MacKernan on

      Friends, who run an outstanding Italian restaurant in of all place Beaufort South Carolina, the Griffin Market http://www.griffinmarket.com – were astonished at a mean review from self-described foodies. Among the complaints were the strange tasting baby potatoes – which as Ricardo Bonino pointed out, wasn’t surprising as they were in fact baby turnips! Trip-advisor does not encourage pointing out that their expert critics can’t tell the difference between a potato and a turnip.

      Reply
  32. Neil Mannifield on

    Thank you for writing this Jay… I will indulge to save the link and fire it at ‘moaners’ every time they complain about ‘The cost’ on various social media sites. You have saved me lots of time which, as a restaurateur, I am invariably short of. I would love a day off, I would love a holiday (maybe one per decade??) and I would love to earn lots of cash doing what I love. Which is giving people pleasure. That is my currency…cash certainly isn’t, but when folk eat in your establishment order from a menu, (priced) which is in front of them for the entire meal, and then complain at the end of their meal about the cost, even if they loved it all, it leads me to despair. Partly because they have just literally wasted their money by ruining their memory of a delightful meal and secondly because they simply haven’t got a clue how much it cost to run an independent restaurant.
    So yes. I will be copy and pasting this article on occasion and suggest people enjoy their lives as they are undoubtedly far too short. Thank you Jay and if you’re ever down in Brighton do pop in and indulge with us. I just hope the experience would be high on the happy memory scale. Manni. Market Restaurant, Hove.

    Reply
  33. Rory Carlton on

    One other point you didn’t mention is, that in many cases, to cook the meal at home, you’d need a professional-level kitchen. Domestic stoves and ovens can’t deliver the power and control that restaurant ones can, and numerous specific bits of equipment are used in preparing restaurant dishes. High-end restaurant kitchens cost many hundreds of thousands to kit out. That cost has to be amortized over all the meals served, plus the equipment has to be inspected and serviced regularly. Then if the restaurant doesn’t make it, the investment is lost, so there’s a huge risk.

    Reply
  34. Lee Darby on

    Having spent the best part of my adult life trying to cook restaurant quality food & now getting close for the last ten years, I can honestly say when sat in a good restaurant waiting for a meal, you know someone has spent at least the last four hours preparing. When, if your lucky you get to experience fine food, then its a joy & still a mystery what can be accomplished with the fruits of land & sea. Paying for quality & good service should also be a pleasure as the people we reward, in the most are trying to make sure we not only come back for more, but also recommend to others. After all if it was that easy, we’d all be at home cooking…..!

    Reply
  35. Caspar on

    It’s also worth mentioning that by spending a lot of money on a meal in a smart restaurant where a lot of work has gone into it, you are firstly paying 20% VAT as a tax which all goes into the greater pot of money and helps keep people out of poverty and then you are employing chefs who generally are not high earners and keepeng them in a job (less people in food banks and poverty, you are keeping the landlord in rent and this is keeping them employed at the same time as going towards all their taxes, also employing you and selling the paper and paying respective taxes etc. Which is an essential part of keeping people out of poverty and benefits society as a whole. Rather than you saving the money in the bank and then becoming unemployed, spending it slowly until you end up in a food bank.. an extreme but you get the picture.

    It’s far better for keeping people (in this country) out of poverty than going on holiday or buying foreign consumables or cars etc as most of the money leaves the country and that is why people are in poverty.

    We all heard David C telling people to go on holiday in England and then going off to Lanzarote. 🙂

    Reply
  36. Jim davis on

    Well ssaid Sir I absolutely love going out for a meal ,it may be a humble full English,or a Chinese or a good non chain pub ,and yes ive have eaten as some £50 a head restaurants and loved every minute.
    Live is about enjoying the ones and things we love and food is a big part

    So all you grumpy gits get off your asses and go out have a lovely meal meet some people,and avoid the washing up

    Jim davis

    Reply
  37. John Briiton on

    Chefs spend a lot of time and money going to college, which is another reason the meal is dearer. Do people expect chefs to spend four years in college and then work for minimum wage? I have a rather swift response for these people: go to the chippy.

    Reply
  38. Catherine on

    Thanks for making people aware of how brutally tough the restaurant industry is. Not everyone is aware of rent, rates, VAT, (rising) staff costs, utility bills, maintenance, waste disposal, equipment, food costs, drinks – the list goes on forever – these are the costs the restaurateur has to carry. Anyone who gets a review from someone like yourself already deserves a medal.

    Reply
  39. Andreas on

    Love it!! There are too many people out on the internet who write things they would never say to someone face to face. And unfortunately, leaving comments is not like engaging in a discussion….

    Reply
  40. Jane Ardic on

    As a working mother of 3, of average intelligence and quite low income, I love reading the restaurant reviews. I cook 105 meals a week on £100. We eat very well and thanks to online recipes a very varied menu. We have no take – always or meals out apart from birthday treats. Any pizza, kebab, Indian or Chinese meal is produced in my own kitchen. Howeve, I am a reasonable cook but could never produce food like the restaurants you frequent, without your insight and whit I would have no idea of how incredible the food can be. I love reading about the whole experience. I have no envy for anyone that can spend £400 on a meal. Good luck to them,I just hope they appreciate the food they’re eating! No one gets everything in life and I’m very happy with my lot. So please just carry on writing and I can carry on enjoying reading about it all. We all need a little escapism.

    Reply
  41. H on

    “Poverty is a function of an unequal and dysfunctional economic system.”

    “Some people have disposable income. They are entitled to spend it how they wish. /I love the thought of hand-made shoes and flying across the Atlantic first class. I don’t earn enough to be able to afford either of those things, but that doesn’t mean I immediately believe they shouldn’t exist”

    Gross inequality is terrible; the products of gross inequality are actually ok and people are always ‘entitled’ to them, no questions asked. Which one is it? Your whole argument is stitched together from contradictory pieces.

    Extremely expensive restaurants are one sign of a very unequal society; that is why many people have a problem with them. Which doesn’t detract at all from your excellent point about paying staff well.

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  42. Ash Bavalia on

    Some people might moan about prices in restaurants but these people are insignificant in context of the overall number of people who eat out. In my experience, and I refer to independents and not chain restaurants, many restaurants are failing not because they are charging excessive prices for very fine cuisine, but that most people don’t appreciate fine cooking and prefer run of the mill gastro pub type of fare. Our local restaurant in Madingley, Cambridge, which we absolutely loved had been faring really badly over the last few years even though they were knocking out fantastic fine food at really competitive prices. Now the place has been replaced with a local chain, the food offering is mediocre to crap and the price is higher! Yet, the place is the busiest it has ever been!

    Fine cuisine seems to be appreciated only by a niche of the public who eat out. People who moan about prices, in my opinion, rarely appreciate what is served before them. They just love complaining!

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  43. Lavinina on

    I love eating good food and reading food reviews, even if most good restaurants are out of my price range. I agree with all comments raised about extortionate business rates and rents, etc. However, I do have a problem with minuscule portions. I am happy to pay high prices for quality and service, but please give me something more than a morsel of food!

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  44. A. Stephanides on

    I think I must be incredibly lucky. In Harrogate we have an outstanding restaurant in which you can spend a fortune or opt for the £18 for two course deal if you are willing to eat early. It feels very levelling and allows those of us on a limited budget to eat food that is amazing. I wish more places would follow their lead. Mr Raynor you should try it!

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  45. Val on

    Spot on.

    With levelling-downers: if everyone is miserable, would that make you happy? Or would you, too, be miserable to remain consistent with your squalid world view?

    With so-called home cookers: ‘I could’ve scored that; I could’ve sung that; I could’ve said that’ … yeah, but you didn’t. You spent your time commenting on a restaurant review with the most banal thought that fell out of your bum. More power to you.

    With, the so-called dare to say in a lefty paper: ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.’

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  46. Adrian on

    I totally agree with all your points.

    The only thing I want banned is people who insist on calling themselves ‘foodies’.

    We are all foodies, we all need food to live.

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  47. Adrian on

    I make my own home cured bacon from scratch and eat it myself or give it / barter it with friends.

    My wife said , why don’t you make it and sell it at a local farmers market.

    My response was that I couldnt make enough money to make it worthwhile with all your economic arguments and I don’t want to stand at a counter for eight hours a day curing, slicing , weighing and packing bacon.

    That’s why I am happy to pay for good food in a restaurant.

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  48. Colm MacKernan on

    I travel a lot and have live(d) in a lot of places, and as a result know people in the restaurant business everywhere from London, Washington, Tokyo, Paris, Brussels, Galway,Dublin etc. Moreover, my parents were senior diplomats – and entertained professionally a lot, in the US, Paris, etc. with chefs, etc. The result is that I have somewhat of an insight into the economics.

    One big factor influencing the business is fixed costs – primarily property and rents. But when you talk about rents, it is not just the restaurant rents, which in London are excessive, but also the cost of decent housing (plus transport costs to and from.) The rent on a space really cascades into every aspect of the meal – and in London, and increasingly DC and New York, the rents are excessive. The result is that a large portion of your bill in many restaurants goes to the landlord, and at least two well know chefs that I know of, with renown restaurants gave up, simply because they were unwilling to effectively work for their landlord. But it’s worse than that, because any decent employer wants their staff to have a civilised place to live when they are off work – but in London, Dublin and other cities that is increasingly impossible. So, for example I Monelli is an outstanding Italian restaurant in Dublin – and by all accounts it pays its staff quite well. But last Christmas, while eating there with family, I had a conversation with an Italian waiter – who said he was leaving, through he loved the job, and the pay was much better than he’d earned in Italy, simply because he couldn’t afford anywhere decent to live, even on what was a good pay check. In this way, the high cost of housing in cities like London, Dublin, New York, etc. cascades into restaurant prices. (The embassies my parents were connected with not only owned their kitchen and dining room, but also staff apartments; they found this was quite economic because inevitably diplomats need to entertain people to meals, dinners, etc., and they really were able to save the state money as a result.) Notably, in large parts of Europe, the restaurant owner either has a very long lease, or owns the space outright, which has a significant impact on rents and fixed costs – you are hardly going to put yourself out of business; in London and the UK they seem more typically to rent, with regular upward rent reviews.

    The other factor which is noticeable in London and Dublin is that dining out was and is very much of a dinner on Friday or Saturday and Sunday Lunch activity; this is less the case than it was, but still, dining out is something ‘special’ (other than the Thursday/Friday swilling sessions in London pubs.) This is less apparent in Rome, in France, in Italy – while in New York it is not unusual for people to eat 2 meals out a day, every day. This has a very big impact on the economics of operating a restaurant – any restaurant. In the UK and Ireland, most fine and moderate dining restaurant owners are trying to extract the bulk of their revenue in two 4-5 hour windows a week – 6:30pm-10:30pm on Friday and Saturday, 8-10 of say 84 potential dining hours. The revenue earned in those two days has to pay for the space, the staff, etc. Much of the rest of the week, the business is dead or semi-dead. A restaurant is lucky to break even if it opens on Tuesday-Thursday, and lunch depends on where they are. Compare this with a culture where people eat out frequently – where 3-8 meals are eaten in some sort of dining establishment, and not just Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday lunch. Now the fixed costs can be spread over perhaps ten times many real dining hours, 80 hours of paying customers instead of just 8.

    In London, one place that did achieve this sort of nirvana was the Duke of Wellington pub on Crawford Street W1, which hired a top-flight chef from Galvin-Bistro-Deluxe and started serving outstanding food. result – a pub that had been semi-moribund for a decade was ‘rammed’ even on a monday with locals enjoying very good food at reasonably decent prices – plus a really great wine list. Sadly, along came a spider – umm developer, who decided he might turn the place into flats, forced out the landlord – and then found planning permission denied. And so it has been empty for going on 3 years (and the former landlord says she’ll give the accounts to Westminster if anyone seeks a change of use on the basis that it is uneconomic as a pub- showing it as very profitable.) Pay was decent too, plus they could employ staff on decent shifts 7 days a week. But, yes, a property developer killed the place.

    I did in fact work as a short order chef years ago – I remember the place that hired me was nervous because a previous Irish guy in the role had apparently hauled an abusive and drunken customer into the kitchen and held him over the grill one night, suggesting he might like to be ‘well done.’ I remember the manager/owner who interviewed me commenting that the behaviour was “really quite understandable, but still unacceptable…. so we had to let him go, but we did ban that guy!” After 2 months, I understood too…. As a student I did other jobs connected with the business.

    Finally – if you want a belly laugh at the issues of running a small independent restaurant – read this blog http://humbugbistro.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/trumpets-and-turnips.html – and especially this episode http://humbugbistro.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/3-women-enter-restaurant.html

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  49. Lucy on

    Spot on – excellent! Also, could people who go armed to restaurants with vouchers stop whinging about the t & c’s of said voucher deal please? (or just save up and pay full price so the staff get paid, and maybe get to see some of their tips too?)

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  50. John on

    Spot on, but is this is a new thing? Having watched my dad chef for many years, I don’t remember a golden age of folk willing to pay a living wage that covers the staff and the overheads, never mind the insane hours that are ‘normal’. I think you’re right, most people rarely value food and drink as worth paying above baseline for, but strangely enjoy criticising anyone who does.

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  51. Rob on

    To be honest Jay, your comments are usually very apt and correct. I do feel that some people take umbrage at your comments as they can’t afford to eat in the restaurants. I live in Portugal and to be honest most of the restaurants are poor, there are a few who strive to give a good service and good food. I enjoy local food cooked honestly and served well.

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  52. Colin Bray on

    Well that’s made me feel better about a meal that cost £290 for three of us. I had got a little fixated over the bill (two steak and one fish as mains, two desserts and two G&Ts each – no starters or wine) but that’s because the menu hadn’t looked all-that expensive.

    That said, the meals were phenomenal (we kept cooing about the steaks throughout), the atmosphere and decor were superb – and the waiters were on top form. It wasn’t an especially posh restaurant at all, but it did what it did just right. It specialised in steaks, and the waiter brought us a board of the cuts to explain them. As a result – in the immediate aftermath of the bill shock – the two of us who had steak reaffirmed that they were the tastiest we’d had in years.

    I doubt I can afford to go back but (as you say Jay) it’s given us a good food memory. And set a bar for quality and what to expect from a steak – presumably that expectation filters through the system and helps improve standards elsewhere along the chain.

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  53. Emma on

    There have been three meals I spent [what was for me] a small fortune on, and I remember every one. They were wonderful – both food and company. There are many places Jay reviews that I couldn’t go to without a good deal of sacrifice – or perhaps couldn’t go to at all – but I still enjoy reading about them! And I’d far rather go for a fabulous meal two or three times a year than have several mediocre ones (an attitude I don’t think is unusual given what’s happening to all these mid price chains).

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  54. Maggie k on

    Great post thank you Jay.

    There are people who just don’t value eating out and can’t imagine a different perspective on the world being valid, people who like to have a daily moan online on most topics, and people who feel a bit defensive because they just can’t afford it themselves. I have some empathy for the last category, it can’t be fun having amazing meals described that are out of reach. I’m not sure that’d I’d always behave well if it were me.

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  55. Andrew Brown on

    Well said. Best value meal I’ve ever eaten? The Fat Duck. People think I’m mad. But I can remember every moment.

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  56. Vicky on

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I love to cook, and so my husband and I sit down to a three-course meal every day of the week at home. It takes time, and effort, and my weekly grocery bill is substantial. We don’t eat out all that often, but when I do choose to eat at a restaurant I do not hesitate to spend lots of money to have a really wonderful meal: I know that it takes a team to put a meal in front of me that I wouldn’t be able to produce myself (I’m also happy – in theory – to go downmarket, but in practice there are very few places that produce food that I can eat with any pleasure). I spend very little on clothes, or other forms of entertainment; but my great restaurant experiences – which started almost 30 years ago with a meal at Comme Chez So in Brussels, when it was 19.5 in Gault-Millau – have provided memories that inspire me every day.

    …I met someone who was married to a Hungarian, from the Iron Curtain days, who told me that she had been complaining to her in-laws in Hungary (back in the 1980s) about the cost of living in Canada, and revealed that she was trying to save money on her food bill to be able to spend on other things. Her mother-in-law, who was a tiny woman, straightened herself up to her full height and said to her ‘Jerry, if you are economizing on food to buy other things then you don’t have your priorities straight’. This has always seemed like sage advice.

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  57. Pemazel on

    Talking to a decent Lawyer for two hours is (much) more expensive than an excellent meal in a restaurant. As remarked earlier in this post: it is all about the value and not about the price

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    • claire hodgson on

      i was thinking when i read what Jay said about overhead, that this is exactly what people forget about lawyers. being a lawyer, I know this. We have overhead. we have offices (landlords), staff, computers, heat, light, paper, postage, etc etc etc. we too want to pay our staff a decent wage (whether it be the secretary, the admin assistant, the receptionist, the post room staff, whoever). the hourly rate goes to support all that, it does not go into the lawyer’s back pocket. many solicitors firms run on overdraft. which really isn’t clever but …..
      as for those poor buggers doing legal aid work – go and read secret barristers book…

      the only lawyers on loadsamoney are top commercial firms and their ilk. not the high street firm/jobbing barrister.

      Reply
  58. Servetus on

    I live outside the UK and I visit maybe once every five years and I don’t usually eat in the sort of restaurant you review. However, I always read your reviews because they’re so entertaining. Keep up the good work.

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  59. RALF VAN DER SLUIS on

    Having only recently discovered your reviews, which are great fun to read, I have to say bravo.

    Two things though, ticket pricing for the Premier League is widely seen as a big problem, pricing the genuine low income supporter out of the game, increasing the much derided “tourists” taking in the game with a cellphone in hand, making pictures for friends and family at home instead of taking in the atmosphere and better still, participating in it. This is frequently written in in the pages of the Guardian

    And you can find hand made shoes “factory seconds,” or customer rwturns from shoe manufacturers in the UK. In fact i ust spent $300 which I really don’t have on a rather spectacular pair of wholecuts from one of those whose website sounds like a fish with a 60 % discount… shhh… don’t tell the Lady of the Manor …

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  60. Ian Hurdley on

    I enjoy cooking at home and take pride in the more challenging dishes I prepare. I also enjoy knocking up a simple moussaka, a pile of patatas bravas or a roast chicken, which I can do more cheaply than I would be charged for them by a restaurant. But there are many things that exceed my skills or my imagination. And I enjoy the ambience and service I get in a good restaurant, for which privilege I am prepared to pay good money. As a pensioner I can’t get out to eat out as often as I would like, so I particularly appreciate my restaurant meals when I have them. I don’t want to think that the people who provide that pleasure are being paid a pittance for doing so.

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