About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Thursday, September 01, 2011
A Matter of Opinion
Has someone moved the silly season?

It seems the only explanation after a cursory reading of the list that is purported to be the top 100 restaurants in Australia as published by Gourmet Traveller.

Publishing such a list is always going to be controversial, every restaurateur worth their salt wants to be aboard and some worthy contenders inevitably miss out. Not to mention ongoing interstate rivalries, which seem to dog this particular restaurant award year after year and have now drawn the attention of two leading food critics.

In Epicure, their chief reviewer, Larissa Dubecki wrote "...Last week's Gourmet Traveller honours caused their annual consternation with the Sydney-centric nature of the rankings...According to the magazine, Sydney has seven of the top 10 restaurants in the nation..."

But there's more, scan down the next 10 spots and another seven of them are also occupied by Sydney restaurants. That's a whopping 70% of the nation's top twenty restaurants located in the Harbour City. To be clear, that's the top twenty for ALL of Australia.

However, there was one listing that ought to be causing red faces amongst the organisers, Melbourne's Attica.

The Age Good Food Guide have just crowned Attica the best restaurant in Victoria and a few months prior, the respected S.Pellegrino world's best restaurant list named them as the 53rd best in the world, with only one other Australian restaurant above them. Gourmet Traveller felt very differently though, placing them not even amongst the country's top ten, but a paltry 12th on their list, in what can only be described as a mark down by comparision.

As John Lethlean, the restaurant reviewer for The Australian, tweeted in the social media,  "Pleasing to see Attica getting recognition Gourmet guide didn't find warranted".

How is it possible to be so out of kilter with not one, but two respected publications? How do Gourmet Traveller justify their positioning?

I asked Lethlean for his thoughts on the matter and this is what he had to say.

"The trouble with guide books is that they rely to an unhealthy level on contributors. As someone who gets about the country, eating in restaurants, more than most, I can definitely say that some of Gourmet's contributors are way off the mark, which is in no way to diminish the effort Pat Nourse puts into the Gourmet Guide. These things are huge work. But when someone in Perth, for example, tells Pat a place like Kitsch should be in the guide, the vulnerability of the editor is exposed. I should know, I've been in that position."

To have credibility, lists like these need to appear impartial. Yet, it almost seems like Gourmet Traveller and a few Sydney restaurants are just one chesterfield short of being some sort of cosy little club.

Having a national list is a worthwhile endeavour, but perhaps it's time for a rethink on how it's compiled with a greater consideration for transparency.

  posted at 10:37 pm

At 10:47 pm, Blogger leaf (the indolent cook) said...

Very thoughtful post. I don't follow food news as closely as others but indeed, it is my impression sometimes it's all about the connections and the hype.

At 11:48 pm, Anonymous Phil said...

That so beautifully summarises the craziness behind building these lists: even the best placed editors can't get to everywhere to ensure the consistency of them.

I don't think these things necessarily need to be impartial - we've all got food biases - but it would be great for them to be transparent. It would be nice to know which restaurants the editors visited that year, and who reviewed them in the first place.

At 5:37 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Biases are so easy...and the alternative fairness is so difficult. Sometimes critics are fun to read but I think I tend to get a better take on a place when there's a number of ratings from ordinary folks.

At 10:02 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Neil-nice one. Every year the same issues arise and I think that its just inevitable that there will be some discrepencies. Some one suggested to me that its about Fairfax v's ACP but don't know if that floats.

At 12:13 am, Blogger Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Neil,
Interesting observation. What I find peculiar is that Pat Nourse ison the committee, indeed Chairman I think, for the S.Pellegrino top 100 list for this area. How can it be that Attica is in the top few restaurants in Australia when he wears that hat but slips to 12 for Gourmet Traveller.
To allow the public to judge the judges what is needed is some genuine transparency in regard to the rating system. What do you get marks for, what do you lose marks for and how important are each of these things, The way it is at present simply reflects badly on Gourmet Traveler. Different guides use different criteria and weight them differently. What are GT's criteria? I couldn't hazard a guess but I hope proximity to Sydney Harbour is not really one of them.

At 8:48 am, Blogger Squishy said...

Hi Neil,

Sorry your email link isn't working so I thought I would just comment. Have you been contacted by a fellow by the name of George fron a website called My Food Recruiter. I think it is a scam.
Let me know your thoughts.

At 4:08 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi squishy, good to hear from you!My email is under 'Contact Me' on the right hand side. Shoot me an email with the details and I'll have a look.

At 5:43 pm, Blogger Elliot and Sandra said...

Hi Neil I'm sure I'm not the only one missing your wisdom,wit and humour to say nothing of the recipes. Time you came back.The blogoshere may not need you but your readers do.

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Hey, I noticed your blog, liked some of these posts! Would you mind if we republished some of these articles in our newsletter or on our own site? It’s mainly a site for industry professionals in food/beverage, but I think a lot of them simply love every part of the world and would enjoy reading your blog. Let me know? I’ve linked to our site so you can see it.


At 6:22 pm, Blogger Mark said...

Very thoughtful post. I don't follow food news as closely as others but indeed,
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