What a hoo-ha. In the blue corner, food bloggers The Critical Couple, taking the blows over their review of their disappointing experience at Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley; in the red corner, ladle swinging, Marcus himself who took such umbrage at the blog post he rang them personally to rant about it and – according to Mrs CC – made some rather personal comments, unbecoming to a supposedly professional chef.
Let the record show that The Critical Couple had previously been to his restaurant no less than six times , twice blogging their experience incredibly enthusiastically. This latest visit – a celebration birthday dinner, a fact completely ignored by the staff and their CRM system - cost them £600, no small amount. Their main gripes were the service – a new maitre d' and poor customer relations – and the fact that neither Wareing nor his head chef were in the kitchen, a fact they feel showed in some under-par dishes in their (obligatory on a Saturday night) Tasting Menu.
What's interesting is Wareing's attitude towards dissemination of information. He clearly felt that his paying guests did not have the right to publish a critical blog post, although it was also clearly fine for them to previously publish two rave reviews. The whole nasty saga seems to revolve around this: would he have felt the same if they had told their – let's suppose – extremely large circle of friends and acquaintances of their bad experience verbally, rather than writing it down? Does he in fact consider it libellous – despite this being their subjective viewpoint of their experience?
Once you've written down a review of your experience, you are apparently deemed fair game for the chef to hunt you down and harangue you until you capitulate or not, never mind that you are a regular who has spent perhaps thousands of pounds at your establishment and perhaps has earned the right to review the experience for better or worse – and that's the question.
What exactly does earn a customer the right to critically review and post said review through whichever chosen medium? Is it the simple matter of handing over cash? Or being a regular? Does Wareing have a case and if you dish it out, you should be prepared to have said dish thrown right back at you?