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Restaurant Review Dilemma in Basel...Need Advice.

 
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SWISS_CHEF



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 27
Location: Switzerland

PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 7:43 pm    Post subject: Restaurant Review Dilemma in Basel...Need Advice. Reply with quote

Hi Everyone,
I have a dilemma. I have been asked to write a restaurant review for a glossy Swiss magazine. I was given a list of Restaurants in Basel to pick from and I chose the Restaurant Rollerhof in the old town. This is my first official restaurant review and I made a New Year's resolution to try and be less critical and cynical....it's not working by the way.

The trouble is that this restaurant stinks. Everything about it was mediocre. I have seen nicer decors in a factory. The service was poor even though the restaurant only had five tables occupied. The food was horribly un-inspiring and most of it looked and tasted as if it were just dumped from a can.

My question is, should I write the review that I really want to write which will shred the place or should I put on a happy face and sugar-coat the whole thing and not mention the dried out and curled up noodles and the ice cold but separated (?) packaged crème brulée.

Thanks,
Ed
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brighidsdaughter



Joined: 02 Oct 2004
Posts: 233
Location: Canton, TX USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ed, this is a sticky situation indeed! I'm assuming the restaurant was not aware that you were dining there for the purpose of writing a review.

Since they gave you a list of restaurants, would it be possible to choose another one, especially since this is your first review for that magazine? My boyfriend is a professional journalist & I used to write a monthly food column for a local mag, so am aware of how negative writing can influence the way readers perceive a publication. If it were me, I'd definitely ring up the foods editor and explain the situation, asking his/her advice.

If a chat with the editor isn't possible, or you still have to review the dreadful restaurant, I wouldn't sugar-coat it, but I wouldn't shred it either. You might consider the "ham sandwich" formula for critique, which I learned from a reviewer who could write diplomatically and still leave plenty of "between the lines" information for the astute reader.

A layer of fluffy white stuff (bread) = put the best possible spin on *something*, even if it's a bit of a stretch. Or at least be neutral.
A layer of meat = the "real" part of the review. Critique positively, offering suggestions for improvement.
Add another layer of fluffy white stuff.

Write the review you really want to just to get it out, but keep it with your personal writings, like the "poison pen" letter you never send.

Bearing in mind that free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it, I hope this helps!
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Sarape



Joined: 15 Dec 2004
Posts: 583
Location: Anniston Alabama USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I see no dilemma at all. The place stinks. Tell the truth. Don't exaggerate, of course. Maybe add a few words about potential to be better, etc.

I see no problem reading a negative review -- I read a negative review last night for a restaurant that has 3 Michelian stars (a place in Manhattan). It was just as informative negative as any positive review would have been -- maybe more so since it had the 3 stars.

The reviewer did eat their twice, to give them a chance to reform. So, you may want to go again.
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Rainey



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 2498
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2005 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ed, that does sound tough! You don't want to be unduly unkind to the proprietors and staff but you don't want to set up prospective diners to waste their money on a meal and an experience they'll regret.

What I think I'd do first is go again on a night when you'd suspect someone else might be cooking. If your experience is consistent, the truth is the best remedy. If it's considerably better you might inquire why the discrepency and evaluate if it's worth discounting a single bad experience.

Maybe the service will even be better. But the ambiance.... If they haven't cared to make that aspect of the diners' experience special or at least non-objectionable, it might explain poor service and unfortunate preparation. I know one reviewer here in LA always starts with the restroom because he says that's what reflects the management's commitment to a high standard of hospitality.

Make yourself feel better by writing up whatever you can genuinely remember positively. Was it cheap so that someone with not much to spend could have an evening out? Is it close to something else they'd like to do or see like a museum or a theatre or good shopping? After you've noted that, tell the truth as evenly as you can and feel good about it because you may save someone else from spending hard-earned money poorly or save a visitor from forming an unjustifyably bad impression of the city.

Since it's your first opportunity to write a review I'm sure this really matters to you. I'm sorry your first time wasn't wonderful. When you've written more reviews I bet you won't feel so bad about a poor recommendation that's really a legitimate and probably fine review (if I've made the difference clear). And I hope you'll have cause to write many glowing ones! Wink
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melinda



Joined: 01 Oct 2004
Posts: 256
Location: Richmond, VA, usa

PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 2:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Be honest for god's sake...that's what we readers want!!!!! will save us a lotta $$$$$$, time & bad meals...I hate it when reviewers like every place
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SWISS_CHEF



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 27
Location: Switzerland

PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 4:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello everyone,
Ok, I have written the article. I'm not too sure about copyrights and posting it in this forum and I really don't want to upset my editor, so I have posted the article on my home page http://edandmelanie.4t.com/shopping_page.html

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Ed
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Jan 15, 2005 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you handled it all quite diplomatically Ed, and still managed to get the point across that the kitchen may be somewhat lacking. Our local reviewer has a policy of visiting every place twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, this may be a good policy to follow (as long as the Euros aren't all coming out of your pocket!) when possible.
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Erin



Joined: 18 Oct 2004
Posts: 1654
Location: Within view of Elliot Bay, The Olympics and every ship in the Sound

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with David, good job!
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tea leaves



Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 57
Location: boston, the home of the bean and the cod

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with fellow readers. Well done!
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SWISS_CHEF



Joined: 06 Jan 2005
Posts: 27
Location: Switzerland

PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the joke was on me. I got a call this morning from my editor and she wants me to cut my 700 word review down to 200 words because they don’t have the space. If she only knew how much trouble I had distilling it down to 700 words! What a grand entrance I am making to the world of food and wine reviews! By the time I cut it down to 200 words there was no room for the “reading between the lines” or any of my other opinions we discussed. Oh well, I guess that’s how it goes.
Thank you everyone for helping me with this, my first review. I really appreciate your input. Now I’m going to go soak in the tub and marinate myself in a couple of glasses of single malt.
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melinda



Joined: 01 Oct 2004
Posts: 256
Location: Richmond, VA, usa

PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

the old saying "what is well said is quickly said" applies then......straight to the point....so bummer for all of your careful diplomacy....too bad they didn't tell u the limits first....still would be a fun job eating for work!
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