John Walsh: The perils of reviewing restaurants - think of us, dear reader

I willnever forget the intestinal mayhem wrought by a single naga chilli I ate in a Sussex field

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The Independent Online

Poor Frank Bruni deserves our sympathy. His plight reveals a truth that's often obscured by the envy of newspaper readers; that it's not all beer and skittles in restaurant-critic land. Sure, we get paid to sample the wagyu steak in Park Lane, the Beaulieu pheasant at the Pig Hotel and the Coupé Lucian at the Delaunay, but believe me we suffer for our efforts.

Given my dietary regimen, I'm amazed I haven't yet succumbed to gout – whose triggers are "a surfeit of alcohol" and "a plenitude of red meat" – but I've become a cripple to other things. Like chronic dyspepsia, brought on by the fatal combination of fruity pudding and red wine (you're duty-bound to eat a pudding when you review a restaurant). Or the volcanic flatulence that's brought on by the raw-meat-on-raw-meat-on-lentils-pulses-and-beans cooking you get at the London sister restaurants of Terroirs, Brawn and Soif, leaving you experiencing what Anthony Burgess called borborygmic eructations for 12 hours.

Or the intestinal mayhem wrought by a single, tiny naga chilli that I decided to try – a committed food writer should try everything – at a chilli festival in a Sussex field. It left me writhing on the greensward for 10 minutes and, briefly, speaking in tongues.

The biggest danger, however, isn't to your oesophagus, stomach lining or bowel. It's to your memory. Being a restaurant critic means you learn to suffer terrible combinations of tastes and textures that should never have left the kitchen.

In Gloucestershire once I was given a starter of boiled-'til-mushy sweetcorn with crayfish consomme, topped with a frizz of sweet coconut. It was unspeakably revolting. The memory can still jerk me awake at 4am, terminally bruised.

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