Tuesday 5 October 2010

What Gavin King didn't say in the Cairns Post?

KitchenSlut is our most infamous local foodie observer. He is also a biting local economic observer. In King's latest piece on bad service in a Cairns restaurant, he all but outed the offending establishment.

When CairnsBlog questioned Gavin King to name the restaurant, he cheekily responded: "newspapers like us operate under strict defamation laws. Heard of them?"

Discussions about certain restaurants always gets people mobilised about their own experiences. In February, a disaster of a meal at Rimmi on Lake Street, got over 80 comments on CairnsBlog, concluding in the eventual new owners.

Here's KitchenSlut's take of King...

It wasn't until this morning that I sat down with my Weekend Post (it's a low priority for KS) and engaged in the rare pleasure of consuming Gavin King's opinion on restaurants in Cairns.

Kitchenslut intends a more detailed response and may even consider direct reply to the Post. There are things in this column I agree with and also some strongly opposed. Particularly there is an intrinsic contradiction in Gavin's request for a ratings system in a rant which disparages awards! Such reply will take further consideration however ......

The reason Kitchenslut first started a few years ago was discontent among a small group of friends who loved exploring food that there was no real independent opinion on food in Cairns. We had a sobering experience of posting negative comments on service only to subsequently be threatened with baseball bats (via unpublished comments)! That restaurant went broke quickly by the way!

However what Gavin didn't say is that the Cairns Post has actually been a problem here, not a solution. Its monopoly combined with an advertorial culture amidst a preponderance of tourism marketing publications has actually helped create what he now finds objectionable?

Update: The best unconfirmed guess feedback at an award winning restaurant for Gavin's distasteful meal is lamb shanks with bush tomato infused sauce, parsnip mash and gremolata ($30)? Guess who?


Leigh Dall'Osto said...

I posted my comment on your blog KS........nothing like knowing I can head to it before I go out and know what's out there.

Tony Hillier said...

Part of the problem is that the Compost and its various offshoots have never engaged in fair dinkum food reviewing. Instead, the local branch of the News Ltd stable over the years have published uninformative and insipid advertorials in return for ads.

In its heyday, Barfly, the city's sadly defunct street publication, had an authoritative and widely read restaurant review section, written by the erudite author and cordon bleu chef and catering manager Paul Cullen. It needs someone of his stature — Kitchen Slut perhaps — to resurrect this much needed service to the community.

MB said...

I posted a mini review of a northern beaches restaurant a couple of months ago on a Cairns Dining website.
The expensive meal was rather woeful, but to the establishment's credit the service was excellent and I'm not one to hold back on positive reflections.
My review was never taken up.
It appears this dining guide website only likes to post positive reviews. I no longer consult this website.
Obtaining objective reviews of restaurants in Cairns is almost impossible.

Tired said...

@Tony Hillier - *yawn*

Craig Squire, Ochre Restaurant said...

gavin bloody king. what a rant again, is this journalism or personal opinion publicly aired with the support of news limited. last week it was bigotry and racism this week a rambling article that began with tough lamb shanks, then atempts to tell all and sundry what to do and how to solve it. Not. Gavinyou seem to think you are an expert on a lot of things but you should research some facts before you spout off! from wild rivers stopping Indigenous industry on cape york. this legislation is only a couple of years old, was there any industry prior to that, that has ceased?, has anything that really benefits aboriginal people been stopped? do you actually know anything about what you write about?can you actually offer a solution, do you sit on a board or committee that have been and are constantly doing good and tangible things? probably not, what do you do for the community Gav?now this week another diatribe about how bad cairns restaurants are. don't tar all with the same brush, there are lots of good and great restaurants that work very hard at looking after the locals and tourists, that have held prices low over many years. you just have no idea (nor many of the commenters) what it takes to run a business. I agree that no doubt you may have had a bad meal, yet what about your wife's (if you can remember if she was there at all, mr "I think it was my anniversary" what a wanker!. yet what is really annoying is your inaccuracies and school boy journalism and being paid for it ! within the pages of news print. ie: the condescending way you describe the european waiter whom is also a tourist visiting our city. your bigoted comments would do more harm in attracting vistors than a bad dining experience.what makes a meal overpriced? how do you know that a similar dinner would be cheaper in southern capitals? I would beg to differ, in my discussions with colleagues and by experience Cairns mains are on average $5 to $10 cheaper than brisbane, melbourne and sydney. especially when food and beverage cost, rent, utility costs are taken into account. what you are doing with your article is giving fodder to the people who also don't understand the costs that make up a meal. ie" wages 35% and rising (thanks to the 'fair work act', COG's at 35%, overheads inc.rent 25%, that's approx 5% for profit, tax and reinvestment for plant and equipment. in fact most restaurants australia wide average 2% net or less. yes there are too many, many that sell too cheap, undermine the industry and eventually go broke with debts all over the community. yet restaurant prices are not overinflated, as long as the individual is happy. its not a price issue its a personal taste issue.you in your wisdom advise restaurants to get back to basics yet be innovative - that's an oxymoron.there are very few restaurants and tourism business's that have the attitude that the 'post' so often reiterates that we are just ripping off tourist's and dont give a toss. we do give a big toss, these local privately owned businesses work hard and invest in the destination to get every customer, both tourist and local, support lots of local community groups and activities. get your facts straight Gav, try something positive for a change, and stop bagging the hospitality industry because your false teeth got stuck in your lamb shanks. Your stirring maybe just a job to you but it is devisive and damaging within the community.
Posted by: Craig Squire, Ochre Restaurant of Cairns 8:51pm Monday

Cameron said...

right on Craig.

gavin king is the new john mckenzie.

Not going to ochre said...

Braised lamb shanks – bush tomato infused sauce – parsnip mash and gremolata $ 30
Christ I had no idea which place kingy was talking about but I think you just told us all 30 bucks for bloody shanks I Used to give my dogs and the bloody things were tough.

The menu Man said...

Ochre's menu......

Main Courses
Fresh daily fish and seafood – see our specials list - market price

Tuna 3 ways – sashimi with pickles, panko tempura with wasabi Mayo, grilled with papaya and riberry salsa $34

Twice cooked Mareeba pork shoulder – rice cake – master stock glaze – pineapple chilli jam $30

Roast chicken supreme – prosciutto wrapped – mozzarella herb pocket – honey roast pumpkin, tomato jelly $32

Braised lamb shanks – bush tomato infused sauce – parsnip mash and gremolata $30

Unknown said...

The thing about the European waiter annoyed me too. Would Gavin have been happier if it had been an Aussie waiter ?

The type who speaks with a strong Aussie accent, so foreign tourists can't understand a word he says ?

The type who hears that you have some sort of accent , immediately assumes you are a tourist and starts asking all sort of dumb, annoying questions ?

The type who believes that working as a waiter is beneath him and makes sure you know it too ?

The type that hangs around like a bad smell, constantly asks if everything is alright, but is no where to be seen when you want to pay and leave ?

The type that constantly tops up your glass and keeps hassling you to buy more drinks ?

As for the surprise at the bill. You know from the menu how much it will cost, so why the disgust ? Can't you add up, Gavin ?

I have never seen Gavin write anything positive about the Cairns CBD or seen a positive restaurant
review from him. Either he is just plain unlucky or he hasn't got a clue about restaurants and what food is supposed to taste like.

Either way, it was a very poorly written article and it wasn't funny either. Can I have my money back for paying for such a piece of crap journalism ? And don't go overseas whatever you do, Gavin, because there are lots of waiters out there with funny accents. Some don't even speak English at all.

Michael P Moore said...

Gavin King responds to Craig Squire of Orche Restaurant...

Craig Squire: I’ll respond to your comments on restaurants.

1) At the top of my page every Saturday you’ll see the words: "Opinion with The Weekend Post's Editor-at-Large". It’s an opinion column Craig, has been for the last four years or so.

2) I didn't tar all restaurants with the same brush. Unfortunately I couldn't name one bad restaurant in particular because of defamation laws. But I gave a positive mention to Fettas, Barnacle Bills, Perrottas & Hanuman because I personally find them consistently good in price, service & atmosphere. Over my time in Cairns I haven’t found that at many other restaurants, despite dining at most of them.

[No 3 or 4 - ed.]

5) You wrote "you just have no idea (nor many of the commenters)". You should remember that those commenters & I are potential customers & we are offering restaurants our feedback. I would’ve thought that accepting & adopting our criticsm is better than losing us as customers.

6) My wife's meal plus one of our two entrees were just as terrible as my lamb shanks. I didn't mention my wife's dish or our entrees because the restaurant in question would've been easily identified.

7) Our waiter was a bad waiter, so I don't really care that he was European or that he's a tourist. He provided bad service. End of story.

8) You say my "bigoted comments" will harm tourism more than a bad restaurant does? Do you honestly believe a newspaper or online column packs more marketing punch than word of mouth after dining at a bad restaurant? From what I know about marketing, you're misguided on this point.

9) I do know about the burden of running a small business. I’ve sat with business owners who have been on the verge of tears as they explained how difficult the economic climate is, particularly in the past two years. My suggestions - and those of people commenting here - should be taken on board to perhaps help restaurants meet the needs of their customers and, hopefully, survive and thrive.

10) In terms of your comments about prices at restaurants in capital cities compared with Cairns - you need to get out more.

11) It is simply not an oxymoron to say "get back to basics & be innovative". You can be innovative for $5 or $50. You can be innovative with the basics –just read “The Cook’s Companion” by Stephanie Alexander for examples.

12) So long as restaurants act like ostriches – with a head in the sand attitude - they're not listening to customers. Perhaps you should read my column & the comments of customers here again. We're trying to tell restaurants something about service, price & quality from a customer’s point of view.

Posted by: Gavin King of The Cairns Post 4:01pm today

Hunter said...

Worth a check out!!! Food critic saved by a gut feeling - the jury's

Melbourne Boy said...

$8 for stale EXTRA bread.

Bad attitudes at a popular and a newish bar, where on three occasions a group of well dressed and polite women and men from my work have been left feeling like we haven't showered and our breath stinks.

That was my unfortunate first impression of Cairns - during my first fortnight.

And it hasn't improved since.

I'm not a food or wine snob - but I can't stand bad attitude. And sadly, the staff I encouraged were worse than those at bars and restaurants where the bill is three times higher in Melbourne in Sydney.

My wages will never support the hip pocket of those who treat customers so badly.

KitchenSlut said...

Have posted this comment at Kings site:

"Gavin, you have referred to defamation the last prominent case I am aware of was Coco Roco in Sydney which sued the SMH after their critic had called half the food "unpalatable" and described "a dismal pyramid of sorbet". This case was thrown out. I'm not sure how that compares with "yak's vomit" but maybe a better journalist would have been able to make appropriate criticisms without hiding behind defamation. This would have been more credible and also been more constructively useful for diners and the community. At least the SMH is capable of independent and critical restaurant reviews unlike the Cairns Post."

I was looking for a link I thought I had on the most scathing restaurant review ever but is sadly lost however this in the UK Gaurdian maybe of interest:

I particularly like the line that after the defo action was overturned on a place " A subsequent visit to the place from Giles Coren resulted in his brutally brilliant, but clearly fair-comment, "I'd have guessed it was strips of mole poached in Ovaltine" review, a flamboyant celebration of the collective victory of extreme criticism."

This Gaurdian linbk also ends with maybe some worthwhile guidelines?

"1) always book in a name not your own; 2) if you don't pay the bill, don't write about the meal; 3) try to eat there more than once 4) take careful notes - a "substratum of truth" is what separates rudeness from libel. Paper-blazingly negative, even scatalogical reviews are always fun to read, and justified when an over-praised place needs to be taken down a peg or three, but 5) remember that, while the reader wants to know what sort of experience he'll have at a restaurant, he also wants to know what the chef is like at his best Do you agree?"

Danny Betros said...

The majority of Cairns and Beaches Restaurants are great but there are around half a dozen that just don't offer value for money and couldn't care less.They have been the same for years and will never change no matter how hard you complain. Word of mouth is the most powerfull marketing tool.
I recently had an absolute shocking experience in Port Douglas from a normally high standard restaurant. A day later i sent them an email and the manager rang me within an hour and agreed with me because he was sitting near us with his family from out of town and saw it for himself.
I greatly appreciated his attitude.
I notice that a lot of restaurants are serving smaller and smaller mains .There's nothing worse than ordering a meal only to see an entree size show up and you end up licking the plate or stealing your kids chips and bread to fill up.
If you get a crap meal complain and let them know why, if I owned a restaurant I would want to know

Quien Sabe said...

There is an axiom (saying) in Customer Service / Marketing 101:

"A customer with a good experience will tell one person about it, a customer with a bad experience will tell thirteen"...

Sits well with me...and with my experience of Cairns dining establishments

Quien Sabe said...

Ah for the days when lamb shanks could be purchased at the Mad Butcher for 50 cents each for inclusion in the New Years Day Hangi

Jude Johnston said...

We went to Port Douglas for a family birthday dinner and the birthday boy selected Zinc as the restaurant of choice, having spent the day perusing the menus on offer (he is a foodie). What an excellent choice. It was just sublime. The only hiccup came when the soup of the day ran out before it reached us. We were offered an alternative which we accepted and the waitress came back to tell us it would be complimentary. The staff, there were plenty of them, were like a well oiled machine and prompt, courteous, professional.

KitchenSlut said...

At the risk of overkill on the theme of my previous comment the world's most scathing restaurant critic I was trying to find is the notorious A.A. Gill who ironically works for News ltd at The Times. Apparently Gill was once tossed out of a restaurant by Gordon Ramsay.

An interview with Gill in Gourmet Traveller contains some interesting comments:

"What about defamation?
It’s a big thing in Australia, isn’t it? The nature of criticism is that we are civilisation’s traffic wardens. Our job is not to be there to be loved, our job is to make sure that the traffic moves.

Do you think that defamation laws impede that?
Anything that stands between the freedom of the press and the freedom to read hampers everything. I think the least important thing it hampers is the freedom of restaurant critics to write rude things about restaurants. In the scheme of what freedom of expression counts for, that’s a long way down the list, but it is a freedom. I would worry that if somebody was successfully suing a restaurant critic, I would worry about who else is being stopped from saying things. Once you get to restaurant critics, you’ve probably cut off an awful lot of other freedoms of speech.

If you were writing in Australia under these laws, there are still plenty of ways to say unpleasant things about restaurants if you wanted to?
Usually defamation is in making a statement which you write as a fact. The steak was underdone, or the vegetables were inedible. If you say, as far as I’m concerned, the steak was underdone, or, I couldn’t eat the vegetables, that’s something else. It’s very important that I write in the first-person. What I write is only my own opinion. I think my opinion is worth more than other people’s opinions. If I didn’t, how would I do what I do? That may sound arrogant, but it would be a lot more arrogant as a critic if you didn’t think your opinion was worth more than everyone else’s. That’s the nature of criticism. It isn’t the opinion of the newspaper in that third-person, grand, The-Times-writes way, it’s what I think, and I have the right to have thoughts. I think the right that you have as a private individual to walk out and say, Jesus, that was s***, which we all have the right to do – I think that if you can say it to a friend in the street, you should be able to write it in a newspaper. I don’t see what the difference, as an opinion, between those two things is. Sitting at a table and telling five people seems to me no difference between writing it in a newspaper and telling five million."


Unknown said...

MB can you email me on eat@cairnsdining.com about your mini review that wasn't taken up? We definitely don't refuse bad reviews, and I'm worried I might have missed it.

Nicky J said...

I organised and attended a conference of 55 people today, and we chose to have our conference dinner at Ochre Restaurant. I feel very confident that the Gavin King article was not about this restaurant, in fact, my experience was so overwhelmingly positive I feel I must share. When our conference went a bit haywire (anything that can go wrong, will) the staff were sensational, and even through their frustration were friendly and accommodating. Watching from the back room near the kitchen you can appreciate that this busy kitchen is exceptionally well organised and runs efficiently.

I heartily recommend Ochre to anyone looking to hold a function there. Oh, the food is great too! But to tonight it was the service that shone brightly.