Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CHATTER 23 Restaurant Ratings

Every year self appointed judges of restaurants publish lists of restaurants with some form of ranking. It's El Bulli followed by The Fat Duck at one and two. Non existent five or six years ago Noma has soared to number five and the lists go on. In Australia we have Gourmet Traveller which has just put out its list of the top 100. As usual they are heavily weighted toward NSW, especially for the top 10 which features only one Victorian, Vue de Mode at number 4. Tasmania manages to sneak in only one, Lebrina in at number 72.
We've eaten at 31 of the 100 they named and some of them don't deserve to be in the top 200 but leaving aside regional biases I think there is another issue. It's the nonsense of rating restaurants as though there was a a measurable difference between them. Tetsuya is better than Vue really Show me how. De Stasio (28) is better than Bistro Guillame (29) I wouldn't have either of them in the top 30 but how did the 'judges' decide? Another dreadful pair the Grange , SA (52) and Catalina NSW (53), shouldn't be there at all. No doubt one is worse than the other but who could say which. Stokehouse is 27 places above Taxi. You have to be kidding.
Bad reviews and bad ratings can have a big influence on the success or failure of a restaurant, as can good ones. It is iniquitous to rank them in the manner Gourmet Traveller has. Unless there is an outstanding reason to separate them I believe that the approach should be of the Michelin Guide type or of the Age Good Food Guide. In effect they are in groups. Give them a mark if you like, or a star or a hat or a wreath whatever but all you can be sure of if you rank restaurants from one to a hundred is that everyone will find things to object to and accidentally you may do someone some real harm. The best way to rank restaurants is on the basis of public opinion in the way that Zagat does it. Individuals cannot avoid there own biases and it is very difficult to be unkind about a restaurant where you have been offered freebies. The amalgamation of a large number of opinions would produce a much fairer estimate of a restaurants quality. Lets hope Zagat sees the light and starts a guide here


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. Brilliant insight.

Tim Cohen said...

Like you I had a very tough and over cooked veal t-bone, and our vitello tonato had to be sent back because the sauce was sour; seems as it was left out for too long.
Great post.

By the way, I think you may have worked with my mother at some stage, perhaps the Eye Clinic in Footscray - Marlene?

Tim Cohen said...

... sorry, that was supposed to be for the Tutto Bene post.

Elliot & Sandra said...

Tx for your support Anon.
Tim I'm beginning to thnk it's foolish to presume agood chef can have a large menu and be all things to all patrons. If Humble is renowned for risotto why was I so stoopid as to have something else. Hmm good question.
Re Marlene, my brother Phil worked at Footscray- she probably knew him.