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TripAdvisor does Manchester

10 Oct

It was our first birthday last week ! So are we doing what we set out to do? The whole reason that I started this blog was to share some of the best food in Manchester, so being one year old, I wanted to see what a phenomenal impact I’d had on the world and the restaurant review landscape of the internet. Surprisingly not that much, but I did find a few interesting things. When looking at the view of food and dining in Manchester, the first place to look is on the review websites.
For visitors who don’t know any better though, you may come across TripAdvisor’s restaurant review. I wanted to show you a few choice examples of where TripAdvisor is suggesting. Bare in mind, the numbers represent how HIGHLY rated these places are. Here goes:

Pacifica Cantonese

#2 of 903 restaurants in Manchester

Photos of Pacifica Cantonese (Manchester), Manchester
This photo of Pacifica Cantonese (Manchester) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Bizarrely, I’ve had the pleasure of eating here. It’s fairly middle of the road Cantonese food and not a single thing about the menu stood out to me. I can’t for the life of me work out who thought this was a fantastic restaurant. I can’t for the life of me think why this is so highly rated and certainly not anywhere I’ve ever heard anyone talk about. Maybe I missed something while I was there, because judging by the comments, we should all be trying to get a table here.
I felt that my confusion was summed up by John H of Eccles, who gave Pacifica Cantonese a rave review for its excellence with somewhat contradictory  title “Never fails to dis-appoint……….”

Krispy Kreme

#35 of 903 Restaurants in Manchester

Photos of krispy kreme, Manchester
This photo of krispy kreme is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I like Krispy Kreme. It’s a great little treat, especially every now and then after suffering Death by Trafford Centre. Not only do I like the place, but as you can see from the adorable photo that someone put on  TripAdvisor, so do kids. It’s position in this restaurant list however,  I just have to chalk up as an anomaly  Not only is it 35 in a list of 903 restaurant in Manchester, but it is suggesting that Krispy Kreme is more highly considered than the following restaurants:

  • The Grill on the Alley (#41)
  • San Carlo (#49)
  • Yuzu (#54)
  • El Rincon de Rafa (#74)
  • Bakerie (#84 and Winner of Manchester Food and Drink Festival ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award)
  • Sam’s Chop House (#100)
  • Sweet Mandarin (#111)
  • Almost Famous (#147 and Winner of Manchester Food and Drink Festival ‘Food Pioneer’ award)
  • Yang Sing (#196)

You get the point anyway. Now I accept that these are personal opinions and that Krispy Kreme may be frequented by more people therefore receive more reviews, however this is not a good situation. If I’m looking through this list, am I getting an accurate guidance on where to eat? I some what doubt it. There is also the question of what it is doing to the better restaurants in our city. Are they getting any of the recognition that they should be getting through review sites. Well, take a look at the next one and I’ll let you tell me.

Aumbry

#3 of 14 Restaurants in Prestwich

Photos of Aumbry, Prestwich
This photo of Aumbry is courtesy of TripAdvisor

After their recent double success of wining Manchester Food and Drink Festival ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and the National Restaurant Awards listed it as the 57th Best Restaurant in the country, Aumbry seem to be setting the standard for dining in Greater Manchester… well not on Trip Advisor as they still trail behind Rare Grill and Restaurant and The Prachee. See for yourself here. Hopefully this may change soon.

In case you thought that was odd, Urbanspoon currently have Aumbry sharing a level pegging with the surely well-renowned ‘China Xpress’. Not heard of it? Well unless you’ve been getting your Chinese takeaway from Bury, then you probably wouldn’t have.

Joint-57th Best restaurant in the country? I doubt it. – image courtesy of Google Street View

So what does all of this tell us? Well if you’re a hardcore foodie, you probably know better than all of this and we know that one person’s great food is another person’s mediocre. However, there is a point to be made here. The point is that there is a major outlet for tourist information out there, giving a warped perspective of the dining options available in this city.

I have used Trip Advisor in other cities while on holiday to find places to eat when we’ve been stuck for ideas, but after these little revelations I may have to think again before trusting my dinner choices to these sites. I feel motivated to start leaving reviews and feedback, not just dismissing review websites as something to take from but never give back to.

While I’m not trying to start a moral crusade of ‘do-gooders’ leaving their informed opinions about restaurants, I would suggest that people use this as a warning that not all is as it seems when it comes to restaurant review websites.

Everyone’s a critic!

17 May

I hate being called a foodie. I can’t really avoid it but it’s one of those insipid words which seems to attach itself to being a food blogger like a slimy leech. Foodie conjures an image of a certain type of person. A middle-aged, bloated imbecile whose pretension is matched only by his smarminess. He will trap you in a corner at a party and spout drivel at you. He’ll bore you senseless with his diatribe on the foolishness of drinking any Argentinian Malbec other than those from Mendoza’s high altitude wine regions. The only thing worse than him telling you about the latest food trends is him telling you about the trends that are ‘so last year’. He wants to know what your favourite delicatessen is, he can’t wait to tell you that he’s visited the birthplace of his favourite cheese and God forbid he find out you’ve bought your weekly shop from a supermarket because he will rain down vengeance upon you! 

If you’ve ever been telling someone something along the lines of ‘Oh, we went to this pub down the road. The Sunday roast was quite nice.’ and this was closely followed by the sound of someone chipping in with counter points and ‘better’ recommendations, that’s the sound of Capt. Muppet from Tosspot Division. He’s on the case and he’ll get to the bottom of your inferior gastronomic knowledge in no time. My advise: run. And I can speak on some authority here as I used to do some of these things. But the thing that stopped me was the realisation that honestly, no-one really wants to hear it.

“…and I’ve just found this new pop-up Gastro supper club that serves Liberian food out of a tramp’s shoe. Have you been yet? Have you? HAVE YOU?!”

*sigh* I’ve been lectured too many times on the need to shop local, buy a slow cooker, try a gluten free diet or avoid deep fried food (as if that’s going to happen). The point is, I can’t understand why ‘foodies’ feel that they are allowed a degree of moral superiority due to that fact that they essentially just eat different stuff than other people. I’ve been lucky enough to try some spectacular foods. I’ve had fresh crab in Ha Long bay,  truffled macaroni cheese in London and amazing Polish bloomers from Barbakan deli in Chorlton. On the flip side though I’m not above the other end of the food spectrum. Cold curry sandwiches from leftover greasy take-away curry are one of life’s great pleasures. I’m not sure I could make it through the week without something full of fat, sugar and inordinate e-numbers. I’m not however stomping around the place demanding people eat more saveloy, try a veg-free diet and telling them they simply must get the new ‘Just Eat’ app.

Why? Because food is such a personal experience. The foods that I love and hate may be based on taste or they could be based on the preparation, where they come from and the history of the dish. Childhood dishes, family dishes, pick-me-up dishes and everything in between. We love food for a hundred different reasons. People should also be smart about food of course, it’s the main thing that keeps us all alive, but there’s a fine line between sharing your knowledge and preaching bullshit.

Knowledge is power and as Uncle Ben says ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. The responsibility of every ‘Foodie’ is to not turn in to a condescending pillock.