Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I'd have guessed you were a cunt


I had a whole other post planned for today but it'll wait until tomorrow. Instead I bring you the most savage restaurant review I have ever read. It made my blood boil in places. It all stems from Caroline Workman's initial review of the West Belfast Pizzeria Goodfellas for the Irish News newspaper. The owner of Goodfellas took major umbrage with the review and sued. Surprisingly he won his case. This of course had major implications for reviewers and critics everywhere. They need to be able to write freely without fear of being sued. But they must also be able to justify what they say and their reviews should be honest and fair. The Irish news took their case to appeal and the verdict was overturned. I believe this to be a just and correct decision.

I cant comment on what Caroline Workman wrote in her review as I have never seen it. But I have seen Giles-smug-Coren's review. He's a smug little man, and I don't like smug little men. Here is the review from last weekend's Times newspaper......

I’d have guessed it was strips of mole poached in Ovaltine

Can there be anything more counter-intuitive than choosing to pay a visit to a restaurant the day after it has lost a court case?

I don’t consider myself a fussy eater. But expecting a joint to keep itself off the wrong end of an historic verdict in Her Majesty’s Court of Appeal is surely not too much to ask – especially a verdict upholding a critic’s right to describe the atmosphere as “joyless”, the ingredients as “the cheapest . . . on the market” and the food as “inedible”.

When I read in Tuesday’s paper about the victory of The Irish News over a Belfast restaurant called Goodfellas, where “the chips were pale, greasy and undercooked” and “the cola was flat, warm and watery”, I tittered quietly to myself, thanked God for Jamie, Gordon and Hugh and peeled myself another organic carrot.

And then The Times rang and said there was an easyJet flight leaving Gatwick for Belfast at 7.45 that evening. Obviously, in the light of this historic judgment for freedom of speech, I would be wanting to review the place myself. Yeah, obviously.

On the plane I read through the court papers, the complex arguments of the plaintiff (The Irish News was seeking to overturn a previous libel decision against it in the High Court) and the summing up by three judges. The paperwork was, bizarrely, fascinating. And, for reviewers and critics, truly world-changing.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill, QC – may his name be whispered as a blessing – won the appeal for The Irish News on the following basis (I’ll have got this only more or less right, so don’t quote me. Or sue me): 1) That anything written in an article flagged as a review is to be accepted as “comment” (regardless of whether it is presented as opinion or fact); 2) That the bare substratum of fact required to sustain that comment is that the reviewer has had the experience he or she claims, in this case that he has ordered and been served the meal described; 3) That “fair comment” is defined as any comment an honest person could have drawn from the “facts” available; 4) That a comment may be called “fair”, “however exaggerated, or even prejudiced, the language may be”; 5) That malice has no power to mitigate a defence of fair comment, as long as the reviewer genuinely holds the views he expressed.

In short, loyal readers, as long as I ate the meal I tell you I ate, and as long as I truly believe what I write, I can say anything. If you thought the critics were scary before, you wait ’till you get a load of us now.

Goodfellas is in Kennedy Way, just off the Falls Road, a Catholic-owned joint on the edge of a loyalist enclave strong on militant murals, marching and, not so long ago, rifle-volley shows of strength. The windows are smoked dark and impenetrable. The patch of grass outside is littered with empty bottles of WKD Blue. Two sets of entry doors, of which the outer one was formerly remote-controlled, testifying to times when the threat of a loyalist “spraying” was very real. Times when the least of your worries was a dodgy restaurant review. Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s this most certainly ain’t.

It is about three-quarters full inside, which is impressive on a wet week-night in March, and almost everyone is fat. Obesity in West Belfast seems to be even worse than in the poorest areas of mainland Britain. There is what appears to be a hen party in the next room comprising 12 women seated around a large square table, each of whom, on her own, weighs as much as a whole hen night of women from Fulham. (I guess these are battery hens).

The men have big square heads and little pink faces, short spiky hair, stud earrings and big appetites. It’s like Westlife got old and fat overnight, which they sort of have if you saw them on Al Murray the other night.

To be fair, the welcome is not, as The Irish News had it, “daunting” or negligent. A very pretty and charming waitress seats me at a very small table next to some very large people. She brings me a glass of cola (Goodfellas has no licence) which is, indeed, pretty flat and not especially cold and (as The Irish News critic claimed) clearly not poured from a bottle but shot from a gun. So much for decommissioning.

The menu is terrifying. Hundreds of choices – 14 starters, 14 chicken dishes, 15 pizzas (including “The Whop”), 13 pasta dishes as well as a do-it-yourself option, where six styles of pasta can be paired with a cream or tomato sauce and any permutation of 25 further ingredients to create millions of possibilities (if you’ve ever fancied rigatoni with smoked salmon, sweet-corn and barbecue sauce, Goodfellas is the place to get it).

Then there are ten beef dishes with ten sauce options (100 more possible combos there) including the alluring-sounding “gravy”. Half a dozen pig dishes, some specials and 24 contorni (this is an Italian restaurant, don’t forget) of which eight are potato.

Portions are massive. Waitresses struggle by with Brobdingnagian tureens of pasta and pizzas like dustbin lids (but smellier). I order a small far-falle all’ arrabiata, and then the chicken marsala – the very dish that Caroline Workman, the Irish News critic, had described as being served in a sauce so revoltingly sweet as to render the dish inedible. I nip to the loo. Two of the cubicle doors are locked but the third opens, straight into the kitchen. Most unusual. This does not happen at Le Gavroche. Perhaps I am spoilt.

My little pasta dish arrives. A huge disappointment: it is fine. Not fine in the sense of tasting like something an Italian would dream of eating. But fine in the sense of being the sort of thing I used to cook as a student when I was too stoned to dial a pizza. The chips I ordered are fine, too. Precut and frozen, yes, but that’s normal even in a good gastropub, and these are nice and crispy. I am gutted. It looks like there will be no opportunity to test my rejuvenated confidence in a restaurant critic’s right to freedom of expression.

Then my pollo marsala arrives: an oval dish containing a chocolate coloured liquid and pale lumps of something. I eat a mouthful. The sweetness is, indeed, alarming. As is the consistency of the meat. Without the court papers to confirm what I had ordered, I’d have guessed I was eating thin strips of mole poached in Ovaltine.

It is revolting. It is ill-conceived, incompetent, indescribably awful. A dish so cruel I weep not only for the animal that died to make it, but also for the mushrooms. Ms Workman said it was inedible but, to be honest, as it sits before me, congealing quietly, I cannot leave it alone but return to it every few minutes with the grim fascination of a toddler mesmerised by a pile of its own faeces, nibbling at it, gurning with revulsion, then nibbling some more. If you’ve ever sniffed your finger after scratching your arse, and then done it again, then this dish may not be entirely wasted on you.

A note on the menu says: “All of our meals are freshly prepared.” When I ask for parmesan cheese, they bring a pot of that powdery pregrated grit that smells like dessicated dog vomit. I thought I’d better have a pudding, so I ordered the apple crumble. Alas, what they brought me resembled a mixture of budget muesli and aquarium gravel served in an old man’s slipper. The accompanying custard was pleasant only in that it reminded me of a scented pencil eraser I used to enjoy sucking in the hot summer of 1976.

But that’s enough. There is no point wasting my new superpowers on this poor, benighted Irish craphole. You may notice that I have no review in today’s Magazine. This is because I have taken a couple of weeks off to steel myself for the most savage onslaught yet known on some far harder targets much closer to home. And the harder they come, the harder they will fall.

You just watch.

Meat/fish: 0
Cooking: 1
Service: 5
Score: 2/10
I have no problem with a restaurant being savaged in a review as long as the review pertains to the areas of food, drink, service, and amenities etc. But this review strayed far from those areas. It's a crass, smug, offensive and factually inaccurate piece. I bet you he even tells people he "survived" a trip to Belfast the way people did in the 70's and 80's. Stick to reviewing the food a-hole and not the social commentary about which you know fuck all.

33 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Anonymous said...

Ripping on the way the patrons look?!?!? what the fuck?!?!? does this guy think he's Simon Cowell? Is this "Restaurant Idol"?

That's just nasty...

Manuel said...

Daisyfae: that is exactly it......what a fucking prick.....

Medbh said...

Racist prick is more like it. This is a modern day Punch cartoon barely concealing his contempt for the Irish who he feels so superior to for some inexplicable reason.

Mega douche.

woody guthrie said...

A man so far up his own arse he can tickle his tonsils. I bet his late father the great raconteur Alan Coren will be turning in his grave about his tosser of a son.

Manuel said...

Medbh: it seemed that way to me too, he comes over here and says things hew would never say in England. Goodfellas is a very ordinary restaurant in a working class area........Claridges it is not......

Manuel said...

woody: One can only hope was cheap and easy and without merit

Old Knudsen said...

with the grim fascination of a toddler mesmerised by a pile of its own faeces

fucking funny lad. Where the chips called a plate of greasy spics? West life old and fat? and people ask me how can you tell from prods and fenians by just looking at them?

I survived Belfast and all I have to show for it is this lousy STD. Fuck Belfast I survived Rathcoole now that was scary, my own peeps too (like that matters)

I knew a guy who had a scar on his head he got as a child, while on holiday he tells people it was caused by a sniper's bullet.

savannah said...

shameful, sugar, absolutely shameful! i know i sound naive, but how can people be so hateful?

Quickroute said...

May the road rise behind him and the wind be forever at his back as his car rolls off the nearest cliff - what a wanker!

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

It's hard to see how Alan Coren produced such a horrible child.

Toast said...

meh - its journalists fighting back innit - same thing happens in the press everyday, if you pick a fight with the press, they will round on you and do this - distasteful as you may find it, its not entirely unexpected

Caro said...

I like the way he refers to it as a "poor, benighted Irish craphole". If it had a Michelin star it would have been "British".

And he's deeply unfunny.

Nick said...

Have to admit I found his comments on the meal screamingly funny, and my God I've had a few meals like that at unfamiliar eateries in strange cities. But the social comment is completely uncalled for and thoroughly offensive. As you say, Manuel, he wouldn't dare do that in England.

BTW, the court's decision has been misunderstood. Yes, they quashed the verdict but only because the jury was misdirected in the original trial. They ordered a retrial which might still favour Goodfellas.

sheepworrier said...

Yes he savaged Goodfellas for the sake of it and yes, it isn't his place to say but some of his comments do ring true:

"Obesity in West Belfast seems to be even worse than in the poorest areas of mainland Britain" - equally in East Belfast.

"The men have big square heads and little pink faces, short spiky hair, stud earrings and big appetites" - C'mon, we're not exactly known as an aesthetically pleasing race - this could be a description of any working-class pub / greasy spoon / club in Norn Iron.

I do agree tho, he is a smug twat.

paddy said...

racist motherf@@ker. Every poor bit of town in the western world has a shit family pasta and pizza joint with fat families covered in bling in them. The main offenders were called sizzlers in Australia, though La Porchetta seem to be taking over the crowm.

Deborah said...

I did find some of it pretty funny, but you're right, the social commentary is uncalled for. What confuses me is why a place like that was reviewed in the first place? Sounds like the sort of place everyone's been to, knows what to expect and doesn't need to hear about in a paper.

Manuel said...

old k: a lot of good men came out of Rathcoole.......ha!

savannah: it's an easy target

quickie: correct

sam: vicky ain't a barrel of laughs either

toast: I wouldn't mind but I completely supported the Irish News's appeal and was glad to see the original verdict over turned. Restaurant critics should do just that, leave the smart assed remarks about a society he knows nothing about out. Also when the article was first published he kept referring to the Irish Times, not the Irish News.....double cunt

Caro: I agree

nick: If I owned Goodfellas I would just step back......who needs it! Hey it's a busy spot so he doesn't need the grief.....

Sheepo: There was no need for such the fucking food and move on.......he is so slapable......

paddy: never worry about swearing on's highly recommended......

deborah: it is very busy and has a very large regular crowd. It was fine for a review in the Irish news but the Times is taking the piss.......

Conan Drumm said...

So likkle Gilesy goes slumming in a pizza joint and ran away home sniggering. There's a surprise. I bet he couldn't handle a single shift in a place like that.

fatmammycat said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, who really gives a fuck what reviewers think? It's just one person's opinion and if he's going to skupper his opinion by coming across as a high falutin' dick head, then I care even less what he thinks.

Toast said...

"asking a waiter what it thinks about restauran reviewers is like asking a lampost what it thinks of dogs"

put that one up beside the 'you don't have to be crazy to work here' one manuel

Crispy said...

OH MY GOOG GOD, what a fucking arsehole. I cannot believe that. I know Goodfellas and I would sooner go to Mc Donald's (I don't do fast food joints!!)for dinner before darkening the door of Goodfellas. However, do these jouranlist types not do research before printing their crap? Kennedy Way as far as I am aware does NOT border any loyalist area and since when did a person's religion have anything to do with owning/managing a restaurant? Don't get me wrong I was delighted that the Irish News won their case, but I may have to stand up for Goodfellas here. Argh!!! What a FUCKING TWAT!!!!
Manuel, don't tell Dad I cussed!

fatmammycat said...

It occurs to me not long after I posted that I read reviews a lot, I read Pajiba religiously for movie reviews and the Culture section in the Times for books and our own Medbh for her many different reviews, but the difference is those reviews-by and large- are balanced and deal with the topic and are not about grandstanding and getting one over on someone.
Clearly this review is biased, derogatory and classist, it reeks of empire hogging tripe and as such deserves to be treated with nowt but contempt.
So fuck him and his review.

Anonymous said...

Toast had it right, it's the media protecting their own. Remember, Mr Coren's livelihood depends on him being able to say what he likes about restaurants. Still, he is a complete berk for doing this. If Goodfellas need to up their game then fair enough to the LOCAL review.
I worked with people who rated it very highly in the early 90s. That was the a long time ago though.

dave said...

Does anyone know what the food in Goodfellas is actually like?
Anyone? Anyone?

Manuel, there is a mission for you, should you choose to accept.
I expect the WDF review within 2 weeks!

I would've liked you to have reviewed the Tidy Doffer. But unfortunately, a spark from the fire set the thatched roof alight.
* cough cough *

sheepworrier said...

Hold on a sec there Dave - I'm still waiting on a WDF review of Gucci Chip on the Lisburn rd.

Manuel said...

conan: I'd say he's never done a decent days work in his life....

fmc: well said

toast: done.......hehehehe

crispy: awh well said wee love....

fmc: "empire hogging tripe" quality

anonymous: He can say what he wants about the food and what have you. But personal cheap nasty snide remarks about the other diners? nah, no need....

dave: are you joking? the place sounds awful....

sheepo: can I bill you for my fish supper then?

A Man Without a Country said...

Maybe he'll talk to his mate Gordon and have Gorrdy come and "in his toughest challenge yet" save Goodfella's from it's Kitchen Nightmare.

Or maybe he'll slink back to London town for some posh nosh. Prick

upset waitress said...

"If you’ve ever sniffed your finger after scratching your arse, and then done it again, then this dish may not be entirely wasted on you."

I have no clue who this man is but I think his write-up is fabuloso. I really like how vivid he is. Fuckign hilarious to boot. Am I the only one that enjoyed his article?

Manuel said...

no country bloke: I'd love to see them try...bwahahahaha that could be a classic....

upset: no, not me......he's a cunt.....a smart arse cunt....

ciara said...

he sounds like a total fucking ignorant ass! if he thinks he's a better cook then he should open his own fucking restaurant.

attacking people is NOT writing a review about a he just trying to see what he can get away with?

i think goodfellas should go after this asshole, too!

Anonymous said...


26th August 2000
Irish news article by Dining Partners
May Sheridan & Frances Harper

Not good, fellas

West Belfast boasts very few restaurants. Perhaps it’s for this reason that Goodfellas has made such a name for itself, and continues to do so well. Cars lined Kennedy Way outside the restaurant, and it was so packed that people were forming an orderly queue at the door when we visited on a week night. From a customers point of view Goodfellas is a bit daunting.
Brown tinted glass prevents you from seeing inside the restaurant and a caged CCTV camera records your arrival a la Big Brother.
The numerous ‘Cead Mile Failte’ signs ring a little false when you’re asked whether or not you’ve told the receptionist you want a table, and could you make sure that you’re not standing in the way of the waitresses.
We did as we were told – lucky to get a table at all, given the extensive list of reservations well into the night. It wasn’t long before we were led through to our ‘non-smoking’ table in full view of the pizza ovens.
Our waitress brought us menus and offered us a drink. Goodfellas isn’t licensed but you can buy alcohol from the adjoining pub.
We were happy to order a cola – until it arrived. Flat, warm and watery, you can be sure it was on tap. Blue plumes of smoke from the numerous cigarettes at the smoking tables rendered the idea of a separate section a bit of a farce.
We were convinced that we were sitting under the exit for a ventilation pipe until we realised where the smoke was coming from. It’s scary how much people still chain-smoke. This restaurant would have no trade in the States.
The menu is exhaustive. Goodfellas, as you might imagine serves pizza (approximately 10 varieties), but it also offers 10 starters, 10 pasta dishes, 10 chicken dishes, 10 steak dishes, 5 pork dishes, 5 fish dishes and bizarrely, 10 Mexican dishes.
With ‘make your own’ pizza and pasta sections, and side orders, that adds up to over 80 choices.
There’s a school of thought that claims the larger the choice, the better the restaurant. Actually it makes it impossible to use fresh food unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of money on staff.
The multitude of misspellings and completely new Italian words or dishes undermines the strength of the ‘Irish-Italian’ connection boasted by Goodfellas but we put our faith in the sheer volume of customers showing their support, and ordered our food with a degree of confidence.
Our starters arrived disconcertingly quickly – chicken liver pâté, deep fried Calamari (squid), and prawns in a creamy white wine sauce.
At first sight these dishes seemed fine, although the obligatory tomato, cucumber, and shredded lettuce garnish was swimming along with the prawns in the bowl of sauce.
However, after one ring of squid, a mouthful of prawns and a taste of the pâté, it became clear that these dishes were made with the cheapest ingredients on the market.
You get what you pay for these days, although Goodfellas doesn’t pass on any savings to its customers.
At £3.55 for squid (overcharged at £4.25), I did not expect reconstituted fish meat.
The translucent grey rings cannot have been real squid and the hard batter coating and bottled Thousand Island dressing did little to make them more appetising.
Our main courses arrived in as much time as it took the chefs in view to rip open three blue industrial-sized bags of processed cheese, which is actually no time at all.
Goodfellas not only does a roaring sit in trade bit it must also have captured the lion’s share of the home-delivery pizza market in this part of town.
Pizza seems to be what Goodfellas does best.
Indeed this is what most people in the restaurant seemed to be eating. When our main courses arrived we quickly understood why.
My chicken marsala (£8.55) was inedible. The meat itself looked fine, but it was coated in a sickly saccharine sauce that clashed horribly with the savoury food.
Our waitress had warned me that it was sweet, so it probably wasn’t the first time that this dish had been a problem with customers. It’s hard to know why it‘s still on the menu.
The spaghetti dish with seafood and tomato sauce (£7.55) was only marginally more appealing if you could face the Desperate Dan sized portion of heaped overcooked pasta.
The sloppy sauce had generous quantities of dodgy looking seafood.
Even the pizza (£7.95) was a let down, covered with nasty processed salami.
We didn’t witness any theatrical tossing of dough, so it’s possible that frozen pizza rounds are brought in.
Side orders of chips were pale, greasy and undercooked, and the vegetables were unmistakably fresh from the freezer – we weren’t charged for these.
At a very superficial level Goodfellas seems keen to give customers a warm Irish welcome, but the restaurant has a joyless atmosphere and the staff have no more time to be involved with their customers than those in a motorway café.
Service is mercifully quick and staff did notice that we had left most of the food on our plates, but there was little attempt to understand why, and we were then overcharged.
It’s doubtful that things will change until Goodfellas has more competition or until the owners learn that a wide choice and heaped portions are not a measure of quality. Having had a taster, we won’t be back for more. As it says above reception “Customers required – no previous experience necessary”.

Paul Browne said...

Giles Coren is a weasely, impotent little arse whistle who loves the sound of his own voice. Of course the food isn't going to be as good as in some of the restaurants he is very keen to name-drop. He went to this place not for any kind of critical or journalistic reason, but so he could come back and say something he finds amusing about it to impress his open-mouthed, affluent effluent chums. The little cunt sack needs taking down a peg or two. The only people who like him are the same type of self-satisfied, pompous, media-obsessed mental pygmies who are under the misconception that being rude and sesquipedalian at the same time makes them fucking geniuses. He is a ludicrous twat and I hope he gets AIDS.

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