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People don’t have to like us here at Harden’s, but why is it that some national newspaper critics feel entitled to lob out all sorts of criticisms of what we do without bothering to check that what they say makes sense?

Take yesterday’s Guardian, where we are accused by Observer reviewer Jay Rayner of “using [our] less-than-transparent system of reviews generated by [our] own readers – inevitably a self-selecting bunch, working to god (sic) knows what criteria – to produce what [we] claim is a definitive result”.

Well, what’s “less-than-transparent” about it? Perhaps Rayner – only in the business of writing about restaurants since 1999, after all – has never noticed that we set out (at some length) how we analyse our survey results in the introductions to our guides (of which we kindly send him a copy every year). There’s a particularly detailed description on page 7 of the London guide, but perhaps Jay never gets that far. A complete explanation of methodology is hardly a sign of a lack of transparency. (And, yes, we do adhere to it rigorously.) If you’ve got any other questions, Jay, why not just ask them? If you’d like to come in and see our survey, we’d love to show it to you.

And what if – oh, the impudence of it! – we do write reviews based on a “self-selecting bunch” of reporters. (Much worse, obviously, than being selected by an Editor!) What, precisely, is so likely to be warped about the views of the 8,500 people – mainly professional folk, as it happens, from all sorts of disciplines across the UK, united only by an interest in restaurants – who help us write our reviews every year?

The fatuity of all this carping is laid bare when – having comprehensively slagged off Harden’s, our contributors and our opaque system generally – Jay goes on to give his top five restaurants in Yorkshire (the area to which the relevant news item related). Needless to say, all of them emerge with very high credit in our new national restaurant guide (two of them having received awards from us in recent years)!

So, is Jay’s real problem that we’re wrong about restaurants across the UK, or that we’re right? At the moment, the evidence rather supports the latter...

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