It’s easy to think, when it comes to food critics, that those who can’t do, criticise.
But then having seen the heat, stress and exhausting hours that those in kitchens undergo, I know which side of the swing doors I’d rather be working. Still, I was given the chance to find out for myself on Monday at a dinner where food critics cooked for a number of chefs.
The dinner was held at Canaletto, a new development of luxury apartments, next to a canal in north London (we’re so property-obsessed now that even blocks of flats get fancy pre-launch parties). A selection of high-profile critics were among those in the kitchen, while at the table I was sitting next to Tom Aikens, a chef with two Michelin stars and numerous awards. As I am a journalist, and friends with a couple of critics, I was naturally biased, but I was seriously impressed with what we were served cerviche, hake and a peaches cooked sous vide in bourbon. Indeed I have eaten far worse in so-called good restaurants. Even Aikens next to me declared the dishes delicious. Next year, I would like to see how chefs write restaurant reviews: with so much anger there I think we could see some brilliant hatchet jobs.
* The wine critics, meanwhile, were out in force at Christie’s on Wednesday. The occasion, hushed in secrecy beforehand, was for the launch of a new release of Graham’s port called Ne Oublie. The reason for the excitement was that the old tawny port was put into barrels in 1882, the first year the Symington Family started running the business (five generations later, they are still there).
The event coincided with Christie’s launching a sale of impressionists and modern art. The works on display provided not only a beautiful setting in which to enjoy the surprisingly smooth, silky drink, but also some important context. Many of the artists (such as Alberto Giacometti, Egon Schiele, Rene Magritte and Tamara de Lempicka) were born after this port was made – Pablo Picasso just a year before.
Plus, given that the star piece of the show – a bronze Giacometti sculpture of a hand called La Main – has a reserve price of between £10,000,000 and £15,000,000, the location also made the price of a bottle of the 132-year-old (around £4,500), seem slightly less expensive.
Perhaps to encourage bidders, the auctioneers can throw a bottle of the 1882 to whoever buys the sculpture…
Luke Blackall is a video journalist for London Live