Wednesday, 22 March 2006

Pavilion’d in splendour…

Monotheists seem to feel the need to give constant praise to their creator; all widely-worshipped deities are believed to expect this and to find any sort of criticism, however well-meant, quite unacceptable. Leaving aside the question of what kind of being demands constant admiration, it must be frustrating for the devout to know that there can be no let-up in their songs of praise, and that the merest hint of complaint, or even a momentary lack of enthusiasm, will call down some form of punishment, amounting perhaps to a plague of boils or in serious cases to eternal damnation.

In secular matters, happily, we have more freedom to express disapproval: when there is cause for dissatisfaction we are at liberty to give the offender a good kicking. So professional critics of plays, novels or restaurants can, when they encounter a real stinker, relieve their feelings by lashing into it. And of course a good outpouring of bile is a pleasure to read as well as to write. An experienced reviewer wrote the othe day with complete candour in our most respected national daily about a meal he had recently at a restaurant in Bournemouth:

The first observation was the scent of a badly run nursing home… the decor a collection of facetious conical lampshades and swirly wallpaper… nasty, grubby place… the secret ingredient [of the sauce]—Vim would be my guess, possibly Pledge—couldn’t disguise the rubbery tastelessness of the mussels… beef carpaccio staggeringly awful, dark grey… chips were ready for use as makeshift slingshot… wildly overboiled vegetables… white chocolate ice cream tasted like vinegarised Milky Bar… the most hilariously abysmal restaurant I’ve reviewed in a dozen years… 0.25/10.

Dinner for two with drinks at this place apparently costs around £120. This is equivalent to about $210, but Americans are made of sterner stuff than we diffident English and might justifiably refuse to pay the bill for such a meal.

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