Marina O’Loughlin’s best bad Guardian reviews

This week saw Marina O’Loughlin write her last review at the Guardian before she takes over AA Gill’s former mantle as food critic for the Sunday Times. As she moves onto pastures new, we thought we’d take a look back at some of her best bad reviews during her Guardian tenure. Because Marina is always joyous when she discovers somewhere she loves, but it’s probably the inventive putdowns we enjoy most – hopefully those will carry over into her new role at News International…

When Marina was in a serious rush to leave The French in Manchester… Review: The French, Manchester, July 2013

“Worn out after almost four hours of foofery, of dish expositions as foams congeal and collapse on our plates, we beg for the bill. This causes consternation: I’ve never before been pursued out of a restaurant by a panicked server wailing, “You haven’t had your sarsparilla!”

When Paesan’s faux-rustic-Italian shtick insults Marina’s very Italian roots… Review: Paesan EC1, September 2013

“Using this as a hook to serve cheap ingredients, massively marked up, to droves of affluent London thirtysomethings leaves as murky a taste in my mouth as Paesan’s arancini. Oh, and how does steak “tagliata” with parmesan and Roman misticanza salad sit under this banner? Answer: it doesn’t. The whole thing is just so much clunky marketing coglioni…

“And those woeful arancini – lemon and courgette, they say. All we get is salt, dried-tasting herbs and a footy whiff suggestive of that parmesan that comes in cardboard drums and looks like what’s left in the bottom of your Ped Egg callus remover. The consistency is soggy pap.”

When Marina finds everything about this NYC import utterly tasteless, from the food to the decor to the very reason for its existence… Review: Hotel Chantelle W1, November 2015

“Here come “tuna tartare cigars”. Leaving aside the wisdom of disguising food as something carcinogenic, and, to hammer the point home, serving it in a smoke-billowing ashtray… Actually, no, I can’t leave it aside. It’s lunacy. Black seeds stand in for ash, and a pool of ectoplasmic green that tastes vaguely cucumber-and-wasabi for, I dunno – phlegm? I suppose I should forgive, because they’re more or less edible. This edibility is a one-off.

“Everything is horrifyingly sweet. If the performance were flawless, you could opt for a kind of appalled fascination, but balls drop all over the place: there’s no basil or watermelon for requested cocktails; dishes are supposed to come with all kinds of idiocy – pipettes for injecting caramel or chocolate into “donuts” – but don’t. Our French waiter isn’t much bothered, probably judging us for coming here in the first place. Mate, if I’ve signed up for le wanquerie, I want the full throbbing Onan.”

When even her girlhood crush on Marco Pierre White could not save the chef/restaurateur (and face of Knorr) from her wrath… Review: Marco Pierre White Wheeler’s of St James’ Rib Room and Oyster Bar EC2, April 2015.

“Marco, Marco. I’ve stuck by you, despite your many indiscretions: reality TV exhibitionism, stock cube fetishes, even your frankly sleazy coupling with Bernard Matthews. A man has to make a living, feed his family, pay for expensive and complicated divorces. But this sausage factory of mediocrity has done it for me. There’s only so much even the most devoted woman can take. I’ve stopped caring about you. This time, it’s over.”

When Marina tore into TripAdvisor (we’re with you on that one!)… Five stars – says who? July 2016

“Despite the fact that virtually every week brings a new story about how useless TripAdvisor is, how it enables users who are corrupt/greedy/mendacious, the site trundles on like a marauder, spewing an ever-increasing volume of freely given, unpaid “content”, as it has since its conception in 2000. Despite all evidence to the contrary – in 2013 its CEO, Stephen Kaufer, pocketed more than $39m – TripAdvisor has convinced its contributors that it is “one of us”, like a digital version of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump.”

When a hellish experience at Victoria’s new Nova Development led to this piece of writing… Review: Stoke House SW1, June 2017

“If, as Dante imagined, Hell is where sins are punished with your own bespoke and exquisite torture, mine might look a lot like the new Nova complex in Victoria. I’ll be condemned to wander its echoing concrete corridors, blasted by a gritty wind, lugging myself from spreadsheet-designed outlet to concept-driven “fast casual”, forever cramming joyless food into blighted face, eating, bloating, never satisfied.

“There will be awful “happy hours” at Jason Atherton’s The Drunken Oyster above his basic-bitch Hai Cenato, where the grimly flirtatious barman spends way too long creating “the best martini you’ve ever tasted, laydee”. A weeny glass of unremarkable spirit that has been shoogled with ice: 12 quid aye-thank-yew. Or a “taptail”: dear God, I’m sorry for my sins already.”

When the gloves came hurtling off on a trip to her native Glasgow… Review: Bilson Eleven, Dennistoun, June 2017

“But what really tips me into writing this place up, rather than chalking it down to experience, is the arse-clenching pretension of it all. This lot, with their “edgy” Dennistoun location in an 1850s town house five minutes from the city centre, their crooked-pinkie, waxed-moustache, silk-waistcoated, tartan-carpeted perjink-ness, seem to think they’re here not so much to cook dinner as épater la bourgeoisie. The wee lounge upstairs, with its fugly overstuffed leather sofas in which you’re invited to peruse the menu; the uninspiring winelist; the Magic FM-style soundtrack: I remain un-épater-ed.

“Local opinion is ecstatic: I wonder if I’ve been to the same place. Apart from one lovely, tartan-skirted gal, there’s no “East End warmth”: the pole-up-jacksie male staff robotically recite every single component of every single dish with the animation and charm of a Theresa May interview. I’m painfully aware of courting an avalanche of “Piss aff back to That London, you snotty southern cow” from the foodie equivalent of cybernats, but, well, we all have our crosses to bear.”

When Marina can’t find much to be positive about at Flavour Bastard… but we can – it’s Marina’s verdict that this is the work of ‘thoroughgoing, unremitting, absolute taste tossers’… Review: Flavour Bastard W1, September 2017

“The staff do their best, but succeed only in being so irritating with their scripted spiels that sympathy dissipates with the speed of our hunger. I suppose the good news is that there’s a damned fine wine list, if you can ignore it being subdivided into the likes of “big bastards” or “in between bastards”. Our white Hobby Antão Vaz from Portugal (“smashable bastards”) is dreamily luscious. But otherwise? This isn’t clever anarchy, just silly nonsense. Not so much flavour bastards as thoroughgoing, unremitting, absolute taste tossers.”

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