Monday, January 11, 2010

Disagreeing with Delicious and Matt Preston, Do I dare?

Do I dare to disagree with uber popular, man of the moment, Matt Preston? I went to Mooshka, Sunshine Beach to do a review and then days later read this month's Delicious magazine which also reviewed Mooshka. It seems they are two very different stories. I guess my experience did leave me questioning myself. Is it me that was wrong in my judgement? I guess the business of reviewing food, or being a food blogger is so subjective. The opinions on this blog are my own, and sometimes those of my PIE's (partners in eating) and I guess that you have to back your own opinion. I get that, but when you disagree with someone who has a lot of kudos and far more experience and training than myself, I do sometimes question myself.

Obviously restaurants can have off days. Things can go wrong and you could have a fantastic dish one day, and a mediocre one the next. But this was more than than. I love reading Matt Preston's colourful reviews and in many cases I find myself nodding in agreement and able to identify with the beautiful descriptions and taste experiences he is going through. In this instance my experience must have been dramatically different to Matt's. That being said, I have revisited my notes and re-affirmed with my pies and I do stand by my judgement. I have to put it down to a difference of opinion that is based on different experiences. Maybe the chef's rustled up something fabulous for Matt and gave me the standardised fare? Whatever the reason, I'm not sure, but my experience was thoroughly disappointing, even more disappointing when I found Matt's review.

I don't like going to places and getting something bad- in fact, Mooshka is right near where I stay when I am at the coast so it conveniently could have become a regular haunt, but no, instead, I now walk by wondering where it all went wrong.

Walking into Mooshka, it was clear that they were not the run of the mill, clean cut coastal eatery. The place is decked out with odds and ends, with a very retro feel. Nothing is the same i.e glasses and cutlery are all odd, and settling into the back corner, facing a green velour arm chair, almost made me feel like I was at an Londoner townouse in the 70's. I'm not sure if the set-up was cool or naff but at this point, there were no complaints from me because they had done something unique, and created their own atmosphere.

Until my entree arrived- The disaster dish of the night. Tempura Zucchini flowers with pomegranate molasses for $18 sounds impressive and looked pretty good. Until I took the first bite. The batter was not light and tempurish at all and the heavy batter made me wonder if they had borrowed the oil from the fish shop up the road. The molasses didn't really have a distinct pomegranate flavour and the leaves were bitter and horrible and overall the salad lacked finesse. Strike one. I didn't even finish eating my zucchini flowers- which I usually love so much I could eat them endlessly. (apologies again for the photos... they are terrible and the red lighting didn't help my already horrible photography skills)

For my main, I ordered another entree, the crispy calamari with nam jim for $16. Again the crumbing/batter lacked flavour and was quite oily- but the calamari was not tough which was a (the only) redeeming feature. The nam jim again lacked flavour and to be honest, I could have been eating calamari from a packet.

C ordered a pizza that looked delicious and different on the menu - Pepperoni, chicken, mushrooms, olives, chilli and pecorrino - $18. The menu did have a good range of pizzas, ranging from a reasonable $16-$18. Unfortunately, the pizza just didn't stand up to it. The base was soggy, the toppings were tasteless and the chilli was barely noticable.

My other PIE, L, ordered the sweet potato polenta, with field mushrooms, rocket, capers, olives, pesto and dressing @ $20, which once again, sounded promising. Unbelievably or believably at this point, the polenta was awful and dry and had no flavour and with the main attraction being so boring, the rest of the meal was rather uninspiring. L also left his plate unfinished, which is basically unheard of.

I can't believe that all four dishes were lacklustre. There was really not much to excite me at Mooska, and there was no way I was willing to order dessert after the disappointing entree and mains.

Whilst the meals were bad, the service was good. The staff were attentive and polite, kept the water coming, and did their best to accomodate any requests.

Mooshka, I'm so sad. You have your own vibe going, the menu looks good, you are in a great position, the staff were good, the prices are reasonable, the drinks list was unique -but the food was just terrible. I so badly wanted you to be good, but you were so good at being bad. Please, please, please- I do want to come back and try again, mainly because of your location, but if you strike out as badly as you did last time, then I won't even feel bad about this review.

So tell me, have you had a terrible experience when someone else seems to have had a fantastic time? Do other bloggers feel as bad as I do when writing a bad review?

13 fabulous comments:

Barbara said...

What a disappointment for you. I admire anyone who writes a review (good or bad). I don't have the confidence or concentration required to write a review..

Joy said...

I feel your pain - I went to Watt the other day which people have raved about for years - and it was crap.

I always wonder about "off days" or judgement etc and realistically - I think a Restaurant is only as good as it's last meal.

But then again... Matt Preston is a very recognisable face - you would have to be living under a rock not to know who he is - I would be very surprised if he didn't get something a little more "special" whipped up by the Chef :(

Do you send your reviews to the Restarants? Maybe you should...?

beeso said...

I don't eat ot that much but i'm quite happy to savage my own cooking

Reemski said...

I have written a bad review of a very high end Perth restaurant, and not felt bad about it all. When it's that bad you have to say so. I also let the restaurant know in the feedback form they gave us with the bill. But I think you have to write to them and let them know, how else will they find out???

laire @ the raw noodle said...

It is true, I think it's hard to write a bad review for many reasons. I'm not an expert on food and I am still learning (and loving it), and I guess there are times where I dont feel qualified to comment? But then again, as a reader, I would probably want to read about real experiences.

I appreciate your honest review -if it is what you experienced you shouldn't feel bad! :)

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I think it's important to be honest, truthful, descriptive but not insulting. Statements such as, 'It tasted like crap' don't offer much explanation so I appreciate you listing the features of the dish which you don't find pleasing. And that's all you can do, really.

food bling, Brisbane said...

I think if you're Matt Preston, a restaurant will go out of its way to make sure you get the royal treatment. If you're an anonymous diner (like most food bloggers) you're more likely to get the same treatment that all the other customers receive. So your review is just as important (or probably more important) as Matt Preston's.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Ahh how disappointing. And isn't red lighting the absolute worst for photos! An honest review is an honest review and that's always going to be what people want to read :) I try and [hrase things as tactfully as possible but I absolutely won't say that I enjoyed something if I didn't. That's my #1 rule :)

Ladybird said...

Oh Gastronomy Girl, I totally know how you feel :( It feels awful having to write about a negative experience, especially when everyone else seems to have had such a positive experience at the place.

This happened to me with Cafe Sydney. It was so disappointing, and I felt soo sad about it. What made it all much worse was the fact that the meal was to celebrate my hubby's 30th birthday.

I blogged about it, and I personally wrote to the restaurant to complain and received no response...

I totally agree with you - If you didn't like something, it is important to say so.

wishfulpantry said...

I think I would definitely trust your review over Delicious/Matt Preston- after working in a fine dining environment in London, we kept photos of reviewers, important peeps in general taped to the office wall. So don't feel bad at all! (Also I think you're super brave for taking photos in a restaurant, I always get so self-conscious and feel like a bit of an idiot)

Anita said...

:( very disappointing. It has happened to me before - people raved on and on about a bakery/patisserie. I went out of my way to buy a horde or goodies from there... and disappointment all the way...

Suzie said...

There is nothing worse than having to shell out your hard-earneds for something that disappointing. And should you do an honest review of your experience? Yes. Presumably, if someone from the restaurant reads your review they will get their batters and seasonings sorted - good for them as well as for the next punters who come in.

Another Outspoken Female said...

There's been grumblings elsewhere about issues with the very small and well known restaurant review fraternity in this country. Matt Preston is too well known and with that bulk and ugly mug, let alone his insistence on wearing a cravat could never disguise himself to get an unbiased experience in an Australian restaurant. I loved Ruth Reichl's memoir, when she returned to her hometown to become the food critic for the NYTimes. She had a variety of disguises, fake names and always went to a place at least 3 times before writing a review. She found interesting things - like if she dressed as a dowdy, older woman (she's quite beautiful in real life), unaccompanied by a man she'd be given bad tables and poor service and when she ate at the same restaurant further down the track as herself, could really contrast the experiences.

So who'd I trust Preston or a blogger? Well it depends on the blogger. When they show an understanding of food rather than say they liked or didn't like something it gives it more credibility, when its based on numerous visits, when they disclose any biases - they all add up to a more credible review than the likes of a well known reviewer. It's not like a movie review. When critics review a movie, David Stratton hasn't had his version recut for him removing any hand held cameras. But how can any half decent eating establishment not slaver for a known reviewer, keep a track of their likes or dislikes and given them preferential treatment?

Have I done a bad review? Yes, though I tend to steer away from reviewing, I'm more interested in blogging about home cooking and thoughts on food generally. Have I got into trouble - yes. I had a chef/co-owner of a restaurant who felt he was slighted by what had been discussed, mostly in my response to people who commented, track me down, found out who I am and made an abusive phone call to me at my work. (Did I blog that- no, I'm waiting to see if they close down in the next 6 months and only if that happens will i publicly tell the story). Interestingly, his "voice"/tone and language was identical to the the supposed fans of the restaurant that bombarded me with comments. On the phone when he eventually calmed down and pointed out that I had in fact encouraged people to go there and try it for themselves because I wanted their opinions he backed off, told me a heap of stuff about the restaurant that I'm sure he hopes I'll forget and never publish!

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