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July 16, 2009

So you think I'm a mean restaurant critic...

Fans of Pappas Restaurant in Parkville weren't happy with my review last Sunday. Some expressed their difference of opinion politely, some not. But I think that's what inspired EdG to write to me about some of England's much more terrifying restaurant reviewers.

Quoting an article about British food critics, he came up with these two gems: ...

Matthew Norman, Sunday Telegraph

Norman described Shepherd’s eponymous London establishment as being “among the very worst restaurants in Christendom” and “the eighth circle of hell.”  “Were it found today in a canister buried in the Iraqi dessert,” he wrote of the crab and brandy soup, comparing it to Saddam’s missing weapons of mass destruction, “it would save Tony Blair’s skin.”

“There is so much about Shepherd's that is wrong that it would, in a more elegant age, merit a pamphlet rather than a review.”

Jan Moir, Daily Telegraph

Reviewing Deya, Jan said, “I’m choking on a really nasty amuse bouche, a kind of savory, macaroon-sized bite flavored with what tastes like dried shrimp.  At least, I hope it’s dried shrimp.  If not, then it is some suspiciously fishy business of uncertain age and background.”

EdG then suggested a Top 10 list of the worst things I've said about restaurants. Because I've written over 1,500 reviews in my 36 years on the job, I don't think I could research that very easily. I did send him the list of quotes from my early reviews I had in my 30th anniversary article, which I reprinted here. Faithful readers will remember them. I'll reprint the list once again, but please remember that the few of these restaurants that are still around have different owners and different reputations even if the names are the same:

* "Crabtree's has its peccadilloes. (The first time we made reservations, for instance, no one bothered to tell us the restaurant would be closed that Sunday.)"

    * "I pointed out [to the waiter] that a small insect was walking on the Russian [dressing]. 'Oh Jesus,' he said." (Baltimore Museum Cafe)

    * "I was surprised at how terrible my plain omelette ($3.95) was. ... It tasted as though it had been cooked in automobile grease." (Owl Bar)

    * "I had dinner at the Milton Inn in Sparks, Maryland, recently, and except for the food, it was a pleasant experience."

    * "My job lands me in some odd situations, and one of them was sitting in the Bamboo Inn's unfestive dining room with a flaming Pu-Pu Platter."

    * "I ordered six steamed clams ($2.15) to begin with, but they didn't arrive until after my crab fluff. They were the biggest, hoariest granddaddy clams imaginable. Oversteaming only made them more leathery. They were served with drawn margarine." (Blue Gables )

    * "We all need a little romance in our lives, especially this close to Valentine's Day. The question is whether we also need a waiter who not only introduces himself -- 'Hi! I'm your waiter Gregory' -- but also the water bearer, as in 'Your water bearer's name is Ronald.' " (Carolyn's Cafe)

    * "There is one small problem with 'Connolly Special No. 6, Pan Fried Rock' ($8.75).

    "It's sea trout."

    * "You've got to love crowds to love Alonso's. You've got to love people watching you with hawk eyes, willing you to hurry up so they can have your table."

    * "There's a certain point at a restaurant past which I suddenly say, 'I don't want to be here anymore.' The Rusty Scupper took us long past it."

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:01 AM | | Comments (21)


EL, the next time you spot an insect at the table, please ask the waiter, "What is this bug doing in my soup?"

That will give him the opportunity to say, "It appears to be the backstroke, Ma'am..."

I LOVE the way the English people use their language.

Maybe they are so rude because they have to eat English food. I know that would put me in a foul mood, especially if I was English and had to eat something bad and chewy.

Given that this had become some odd combo of England and crabs week, check out this legitimate recipe for an English crab cake. No Old Bay: check. Oatmeal: check. Mashed potatoes: check. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Enjoy:

Having lived five years in London, Owl, I must respectfully disagree. England has wonderful food...just as long as it isn't English. Some of the best restaurants I've known were the Italian, Greek, French and Indian restaurants we patronized. But if you wanted a British staple -- roast beef, for example -- you were better off in an American restaurant (like the Sonesta Towers) than even the historic Simpsons in the Strand where you could get your beef well done or very well done. London was also where I learned to skip breakfast.

You're right MAG. I've been in London a few times and there is good food, as long as you stay away from anything English. The problem is that you have to spend serious cash to get anything good. Even in some affordable Indian places you will see English influences. I saw people eating what looked like scrambled eggs and beans for dinner in an Indian restaurant.

Having culturally raped the world for centuries, they at least benefit from an infllux of poor people from around world who bring a wealth of good food.

I haven't been there in a long time and it's probably better now, but for the casual visitor it's not a good food city.

I am the only one who has been scarred for life by a Cumbrian Breakfast?

What's a Cumbrian Breakfast

The Cumbrian Breakfast [so named, I presume, from the area of Britain where it is found] is the quintessential breakfast of the Lake District.

One B&B in Ambleside [north of Lake Windemere] describes it thus:

Cumbrian Breakfast

Two rashers of locally-cured bacon, griddled and served with Cumberland Sausage and black pudding (made in Ambleside), free range eggs (from Windermere), tomatoes and tasty flat mushrooms.

Basically, it's a plate of grease.

That Cumbrian breakkie sounds divine. Does it come with a fried slice, too?

My only trip to Great Britain was with my husband in 1998, for 10 days. We had a package for Phantom of the Opera tickets and dinner at Simpson's. Little did we know that Simpson's offered very limited choices for this package: country pate or salad first course, lamb or salmon entree, and two desserts, which I can't remember. Nothing else on their delicious-looking menu was available. My husband didn't care for either entree and loathes liver (pate), but he chose the salad and salmon. I was happy with the pate and lamb. The upshot of this long story is, that was the only disappointing meal we had on our entire trip. Our hotel offered a sort of continental breakfast, and we took most of the rest of our meals at pubs. They were all quite tasty and inexpensive. So, the point is, not all English food is nasty.

And ... what IS a Cumbrian Breakfast?

YUM! English breakfasts ROCK! I love love love the bacon. Kippered herrings! Steak and kidney pie! Lashings of coffee or tea! Fried tomatoes and mushrooms.

The only issue I had, and it was most likely because I was in the wilds of Wales, was that it was hard to find places to go out to brekkie. Our local "builders caff" was soooo smokey and didn't open on Sunday.

On our many trips to England I always thought breakfast was the highlight of the day!

On an only vaguely related note, over in Peter Schmuck's column, he says,

I've never been to Scotland, but it must be tough to live in a place where they still remember the day the sun came out in 1977.

I can't make fancy-linking work today:,0,6019196.column

Zevonista, more likely the waiter would ask you to speak more softly about the fly "or else everyone will want one."

Always looked forward to 'bubble & squeak" for breakfast (as prepared by my English brother-in-law) on the day after Thanksgiving. Consisted of leftover mashed taters, brussel sprouts, turnips, carrots, green beans, a few freshly scrambled eggs and the most important part the leftover sausage stuffing. Put in a large skillet and pan-fry with some butter.....heaven for breakfast!

I like eating out of vending machines better.

So you want to be a vending machine stocker? It's one crazy, topsy turvy world of sex, drugs and snacks. Come visit my blog and see for yourself all the crazy fun that can be had. Oh and don't get me started about B6 or A7. Hey, you know what I mean.

The 9:51 comment is just drive by shilling for some blog.

And has already been mocked by VMS.

I would follow a blog about vending machines.

A while back a healthy/natural foods vending machine made its way into my office to compete with a traditional vending machine. I don't know if a single item was sold from the former. It wasn't long before old faithful, with its Combos and Mallow Cups, was back to being the only game in town.

Lone Lady, my grandmother's Bubble & Squeak was left over potatoes and cabbage chopped up and fried in bacon fat.

They had fire then?

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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