Dine out in hell with top critic

Readers delight in reviews that describe a terrible experience, says Observer food critic Jay Rayner.

Monday, 2nd May 2016, 10:37 am
Updated Monday, 2nd May 2016, 11:49 am
Jay Rayner: If I did a show called My Dining Heaven, no one would want to come

And those curious to find out why can see the award-winning journalist, author and jazz pianist at his live show, My Dining Hell, at the Spa Centre in Leamington on Friday May 13.

Speaking to the Courier ahead of the show, Jay said: “Negative experiences are more compelling and they fascinate people. You place yourself in that person’s position and start to think, how would I feel? The reader feels like I am taking avenge for all the bad restaurant experiences they have ever had.”

But, he says, in reality, the negative reviews are only a small part of what he does.

“About half of my reviews are positive and most of the rest are in the middle, leaving about ten a year which are negative.

“But if I did a show called My Dining Heaven, no one would want to come.”

When asked if he has any advice to give to apprehensive chefs who may be in the Spa Centre audience, he said: “I never give advice to chefs. Their job is to run their restaurants. My job is to turn up and tell the people who might be going to them if it’s worth their money.”

So, are there any places that stick out in his mind as being particularly favourable? Jay won’t give anything away.

“My answer to that is very annoying. I am a strong believer that it depends on a variety of different factors: where you are, who you are with, what is happening etc.

“A bag of chips eaten while sitting on a sea wall with someone you love can be a wonderful thing.”

In the age of Tripadvisor and all the other user-generated content available online, does Jay ever feel that his role may become redundant?

“I don’t see it as a threat. I am paid for how I write. I am not a walking guide book. The vast majority of people who read my column will never go to the restaurant I have reviewed.”

A keen cook himself, doesn’t Jay sometimes get tired of dining out and eating rich meals so often?

“I love restaurants and always have,” he said. “I am not paid to fill restaurants. I could not carry on doing it if I didn’t love restaurants.”

Tickets cost £17.50 or £15.50 for concessions.

Call 01926 334418 or visit www.royalspacentreandtownhall.co.uk to book.