Reviewing restaurants becoming dangerously costly?

The Northern Ireland newspaper Irish News -I must say I don’t like their policy of hiding their news behind a mandatory subscription- published a restaurant review back in 2000 by a renowned restaurant critic Caroline Workman.

The review criticized the quality of food and drink, the staff and the smoky atmosphere of the restaurant. On a scale of 1-5 the restaurant got a 1.

The owner of the Goodfellas Italian restaurant on Kennedy Way, Ciarnan Convery, had claimed the article was a “hatchet job” and sued the paper.

A jury found the review defamatory. The paper has to pay the restaurant owner £25,000 plus court costs. The paper lodged appeal.

Unfortunately I am unable to find the actual review.

Various papers claim this verdict a threat to the Freedom of Speech principle. Among them Maeve Kennedy in the Guardian in Critics bite back after restaurant reviewer sued for calling chicken too sweet

But it must be said that critics can be venomous when one sees some of the quotes:

“The worst meal I’ve ever eaten. Not by a small margin. I mean the worst! The most unrelievedly awful! You don’t need to be an atomic physicist to grill steaks. They arrived so raw you could have drowned swimming in the blood.”
Michael Winner, the Sunday Times, on Bibendum in Chelsea, London

“The taste and texture of the pease pudding reminded me of occasions when I have accidentally inhaled while emptying the Dyson.”
Giles Coren, the Times, on Court Restaurant at the British Museum in Bloomsbury, London

Interesting case to follow. During the 2006 hot month of July here in The Hague a restaurant had a problem with a critic who wanted to have desert on the terrace where she had her meal. The restaurant owner had to close the terrace at 9.30 PM pursuant to rules of the City. The critic refused to take the desert inside the restaurant and didn’t give points for the desert (while points for deserts count considerably for the overall points awarded). The restaurant claimed it to be unfair, but the paper in question did not redress which seemed not fair to me.

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