Toast of New York turns on his critics after new London restaurant gets a roasting

Keith McNally accuses reviewers of being a 'back-stabbing bunch of narcissists'

Charlie Cooper
Friday 12 April 2013 01:06 BST

When Keith McNally, the British king of the New York restaurant scene, opened Balthazar in London in February, it was the biggest food event to hit the city in years.

The renowned restaurateur, toast of critics and celebrities in Manhattan, had returned to the country of his birth with every hope of being hailed as a prodigal son.

But barely two months in, things have gone sour.

In candid comments, Mr McNally has now spoken about his frustration with London's "back-stabbing" food and restaurant community.

Reviews of Balthazar, a copy of his most famous New York venue, have been distinctly mixed and Mr McNally has already had to defend his restaurant from one critic's accusation that it served "the worst food in Europe".

Mr McNally told The Independent: "My pet hate is the London food and restaurant community which, with two notable exceptions, is a petty, self-regarding, back-stabbing bunch of narcissists who should be put through a meat grinder and dumped into the Indian Ocean."

When asked to comment further he said that his comments were "just an observation from someone new to the food scene here".

The attack comes after Mr McNally hit back at The Times's food critic Giles Coren, who gave Balthazar a zero rating for food and told diners to expect "the best restaurant in London, but the worst food in Europe".

Mr McNally has dismissed the review as "clearly for controversy's sake", and claimed that there is "a strong sense of inferiority amongst many, but not all of, the press here [in London]. No one more so than Giles Coren."

Mr Coren also claimed "you can't get a good mouthful of food" in New York, adding that "London is … in the throes of a misguided and tragically one-sided fling with the Big Asshole which been baffling to me from the beginning."

Mr McNally called the critic's comments on New York City "clichéd and outdated", in a response posted on the American fine-dining blog Eater.

The restaurateur, who grew up in London's East End, worked as an actor before moving to New York to become pursue a career as a filmmaker.

Instead he became the darling of the city's restaurant scene after opening the Odeon restaurant in New York's Tribeca neighbourhood in 1980, which became a honeypot for celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Andy Warhol and Liz Taylor.

Other hugely popular restaurants and nightclubs followed, including Café Luxembourg, Nell's and Lucky Strike.

He took a break from restaurants in the 1990s to make more films and also ran his own farm in Martha's Vineyard before opening the world famous Balthazar in Lower Manhattan in 1997.

Two years ago he finally returned to London and the new Balthazar, in Covent Garden, central London, is his first restaurant outside of New York.

Mr McNally has said that the mixed reviews have not put off diners, pointing out that Balthazar had been packed every night and was "turning down 300 reservation requests a day".

The Independent's own food critic Tracey Macleod gave the food at the Balthazar four stars and the ambience five stars, writing that though "a pastiche of a pastiche", the restaurant had "that touch of mystery and magic that characterises all great restaurants".

Food fights: Killer reviews

AA Gill on San Lorenzo, Chelsea, London

"All things considered, quite the worst restaurant in London, maybe the world… serves horrendous food, grudgingly, in a room that is a museum to Italian waiters' taste circa 1976."

Fay Maschler on Chittagong Charlie, Golders Green

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone conjuring up a restaurant, even in their sleep, where the food in its mediocrity comes so close to inedible."

Jay Rayner on The Corinthian, Glasgow

"The offence of grievous bodily harm upon a lovely little sea bream really ought to carry some form of judicial penalty."

Kunal Dutta

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