Heightened expectation met – and exceeded – can be exhilarating.
How much does the opinion of mainstream critics and the din of social media chatter influence your enjoyment of your dinner? Your wine? What you read? What you watch or listen to?
It could be argued that many diners enjoy a restaurant experience simply because they have been hypnotised into believing they should. Eschewing the wise words of Public Enemy, they believe the hype. Hundreds of thousands of food blogs and the publicists that feed them underline this theory. Eager to be seen to be in the know and hooked in to trends, soundbites, pitches and photo opportunities are regularly warmed over, garnished with a watermark and served up as the opinion of an ‘insider’.
But for those of us secure in our own opinions, what happens when a dining experience is instead discordant and awkward? A flaccid fettuicine here, a taste-free burrito there, a cocktail that fails to rock your world. We put it down to experience and move on. Does every meal have to be the pinnacle of deliciousness? No.
The stakes are higher with fine dining and degustation. Hats and hype aside, it’s a setting that creates expectation. For most people, dining in such a rarefied setting is infrequent for a combination of logistical and financial reasons. We harbour aspirations of the good life. We’re dressed up and we’re demonstrating our good taste. We’ve watched a few episodes of Masterchef and we’ve followed the careers of celebrity chefs. We get this. In the relative anonymity of the dining room, we are, for a few hours, King of the World.
Or are we?
I recently dined with friends who have serious credentials in restaurants, food and wine. We were privileged to secure a table at short notice at a restaurant with a reputation for detailed, exciting and vibrant food, excellent service and an amazing wine list.
Here’s what happened next.
I could detail the series of disappointments that composed our evening, except there is no way to explain without (a) revealing the identity of the restaurant (b) sounding like a whining, privileged snob. Regardless of how much my eyes watered as I signed the credit card chit.
Dining out regularly is a privilege and so is writing and sharing your experiences. It’s about informing and respecting the reader, not amplifying PR. Or ranting in a passive aggressive manner in a public forum because you’re writing about a meal you paid for, not one you were comped.
I’d like to see:
- more good quality writing about food on digital platforms
- a new wave of food bloggers with knowledge, integrity and transparency
- an increase in restaurant reviews that convey a sense of the experience, not just a laundry list of dishes and photos
How about you?