Ronay sees red over blue plaques

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The Independent Online
THE FOOD critic Egon Ronay has never been afraid to wade into battle with anyone who slights his reputation, and he is once again on the warpath.

Mr Ronay, whose name is synonymous gastronomic excellence, has asked hundreds of restaurants, cafes and bars to take down their plaques bearing his name.

Not normally one to shy away from free publicity, Mr Ronay said the plaques were handed out by the former owner of the food guides bearing his name, who failed to meet his high standards and he has no wish to be associated with them.

Mr Ronay, now in his seventies, won back the rights to his books last year after a legal battle with the previous owner, Leading Guides International, which was forced to close down.

He sued the company alleging that it had failed to pay promptly the inspectors who tour Britain filing reports for the guides. But he was also concerned that the adverse publicity had tarnished his reputation.

"I feel that the credibility of the guides has been undermined and that it reflects poorly on me," he said at the time.

"I have always been known for my reliability and integrity. I earn my living on the basis of my good name, and now it has been soiled. This is an unsavoury situation with a bad odour, and I wish to divorce myself from it."

But once again, Mr Ronay feels that his good name is under threat. Under the ownership of Leading Guides, later known as Global Infocom Ltd, any restaurant that qualified for the Egon Ronay Guide was allowed to display a blue plaque. But now back at the helm of his business, Mr Ronay has no truck with such gimmicks.

"I have never handed out such things and I never will," he said. "Now I have taken back the guide I want nothing to do with them. People will think I recommended these restaurants, but I did not and it is in the public interest to have these plaques removed."

Mr Ronay said he could not force the restaurants to move the plaques, but was "pleading" with them to do so. "It is a fact that not all the inspectors were as meticulous as they should have been and it is an absurd situation that my name is outside all these restaurants and bars.

"I have got to ensure that my name means what it used to and to do that I cannot have these plaques around the place. People come up to me when they have eaten in one of these places and they think it is me who recommended it and I have not even heard of these places."

However, the proprietors of Baslow Hall, in Derbyshire, the 1995 Egon Ronay Guide Restaurant of the Year, said they had no intention of removing their plaque.

Susan Fischer who, with her husband Max, has run the award-winning restaurant for the past nine years, said: "Mr Ronay would have to show up with a court order if he wanted us to remove our plaque. He can request and can express his feelings as much as he wishes but we have worked hard to earn that right and unless he can legally enforce it we have no intention of removal."

Food for


Egon Ronay's views on

Airline food: "Pre- meditated gastronomic murder."

The diet industry: "It arrogantly claims it always knows better than nature."

His palate, insured for pounds 250,000: "Sculptors earn their living with their hands. They are their tools. Mine is my palate.''

Other guide books: "It is a hair-raising outrage that the AA has stripped of its fifth rosette what I am convinced is by far the country's best restaurant .... the AA Guide which should perhaps be "inspected".