comments 27

2012: To Review or Not to Review, that is the Question

And so on with 2012. Ta-da (that’s a little tap dance). I am ready. I have 5 to-do lists – things to cook | places to go in London/UK | places to go in Ireland | places to travel to | projects. I can’t wait to get stuck in.

Doing the round up and the to-do lists was very interesting. Stand out was how few London restaurant reviews I did last year. I ate out a lot but I think things were so busy that I didn’t want to feel like I was working when I was out, analysing every meal. I also didn’t want to carry my bulky camera everywhere, especially given it was stolen in September and was very expensive to replace.

Unless it was an exceptional or very interesting meal or somewhere where I love to spend my time, I wasn’t inspired to spend so much time editing photos, uploading them, and then going through each dish blow by blow. Even Duck Soup, where I have become a regular, took 5 visits before I managed to review it.

I guess, really it is that I am almost 5 years at this blogging lark now, and I needed a break from the reviewing unless it was somewhere that I really wanted to write about.

I was asked recently why I never criticised places as other bloggers do. It’s clear in my about page that I choose to write recommendations, really only 25% of where I eat out gets reviewed here. A lot of readers are new here though – from buying the book or similar – and they may not realise that. Personally, I prefer to receive recommendations from sources I trust, and I aim to do the same here except give them.

Which leaves me here wondering, do I want to do it? I definitely will continue to make recommendations of places that I think are worth a visit.

What do you think? Is that something you come here for? Or do you come here for the recipes and travel?

One thing is for sure, I am first and foremost a cook that loves to travel, and that will continue to be the main focus of what I do here.



Filed under: Random


Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.


  1. I’ve always loved reading your blog for the recipes, travel and inspiration. Any specific reviews can be great to read as a bi-product (I got some great tips for my visit to Barcelona last June, thank you) but I think your blog is so much more than a vehicle for restaurant reviews.
    I haven’t felt like reviewing many restaurants recently either – the blogosphere is so full of people reviewing soft launches and competing to be the first voice out there that by the time anything goes up it tends to be old news anyway :-)

    • Thanks for this!

      Yes – what you say re soft launches and competition is true, however, personally I read soft launch reviews out of interest occasionally but prefer a review from a little later. Also, I don’t read every review, but reviews from people who have similar taste to me. I think most people are like that.

  2. Linda (goodshoeday) says

    I come for the travel and recipes rather than restaurant reviews…I’d probably ask on twitter for suggestions of where to eat than look on blogs

    • Thanks Linda! Yes – this is what I thought. Crowd sourcing information on twitter is so useful.

  3. Five years is going some! Congratulations!! I would say keep with the positives, review and write about what gives you joy. At the risk of saying the obvious it is your blog ! i loved your travels amd tweets from China. :)

  4. Hi Niamh, it’s a tricky one and I know what you mean by the blow by blow account – I am always looking for interesting ways of presenting a review. I too have not slated any restaurant on my blog, I just don’t include negative experiences as in Cornwall you can destroy livelihoods and it’s just not worth it. I reckon a few reviews of places you really feel represent you and what you stand for is what people would expect on your blog but let travel and cooking dominate. Does that help?! the Cornish bunny

  5. Catherine Edwards says

    I think it’s nice that you’re so selective with reviews, your recipes and travel/food writing are so interesting and thorough that I’m not surprised at all that you want to relax when you eat out! But I must try Duck Soup soon….

  6. I love your site for the recipes (I mean, how did I ever live without N’duja devilled eggs or bacon jam?) and the vicarious pleasure I get from reading your travel blogs. I do like restaurant reviews, but I probably rely on the Sundays more for that.

  7. It’s funny: When I started blogging (quite recently) I felt confident I’d want to do reviews as well as recipes, as I have strong opinions about food, people ask me for restaurant recommendations all the time, and I thought I’d enjoy it. I do . . . somewhat, and not as much as I enjoy the cooking/recipe blogging. However I’ve found the restaurant write-ups have been useful in helping me develop networks with other bloggers, restaurant owners, supper clubs, and the like. But you have a well-established network, and your blog has become much more of a reflection of who you are as a person. So I say write what makes you happy. If it happens to be a review, great; if not, that’s absolutely fine as well, as people will come and read no matter what. (For example, although I love and have been inspired by your recipes, my favourite pieces to read on your blog are the travel pieces.) Good luck, and happy 2012!

  8. It’s your blog, clearly you should write about what you want. On a philosophical point though, surely recommendations are negative as well as positive? You can recommend people shouldn’t go somewhere, eat something as much as they should. So why not write about places you don’t like. I think from a reader’s perspective it allows you to triangulate the writer’s views and put them into context.

    • Hi Anthony,

      You’re right, but you know it’s always interesting to know what people are reading. I, of course, point out anything negative even in places I recommend, but if a restaurant isn’t somewhere I really want to go back to, I won’t bother writing about it. Another point for me which I didn’t put in the piece but should have, is that if I write about everywhere I go, it takes from other stuff I want to write about, I simply don’t have the time. At the moment anyway.


  9. Ed Shaerf says

    Blogging is very much a part of everyday life. People have relationships with the bloggers they read on a regular basis. From our side it is really rewarding reading reviews, and even seeing some foodies experiment further and new dishes blossom on from there.

    Blogs are a chance for us to hear fellow foodies say what they think, without being bound by word counts. This in itself is valuable to get a chance to really see it from the other side. Sometimes what isn’t mentioned is as important to us as what is. It’s great you write from a love of food and that you write about what you enjoy – you can tell.

    You ask whether we’d use restaurant reviewers bloggers, or online /print media to decide where to go when to eat out (we don’t get to do it all that often) – I suppose a lot depends on the integrity of the writer. If it is someone we regularly read we’re more likely to come across it. I suppose Twitter if in a rush, reviews if planning ahead – there is more time involved reading a review so you expect it to be a bit more on the nose then a tweet.

  10. Moel Faban secret supper club says

    I do write reviews on my blog but generally only of places that have been inspiring or outstanding experiences for me. But I do search other blogs for ideas on where to eat so I guess they are useful…Iif i’m going to be in London, or travelling about the country I definately take inspiration from other bloggers and I get a lot of hits on my blog of people searching for places I’ve written about…I like to write about and read about all things food related and eating out is one aspect :-)

  11. Given that I don’t live in London, I’m happy for you to do fewer restaurant reviews. Londoners may feel differently, of course.

    I would rather you did some round-up posts of places you would recommend in various cities than lots of reviews where you go through each dish blow by blow with lots of photos.

    • Hi Caitlin, I have intended to do city eating guides, the only thing stopping me is time. I have some drafted for everywhere I visited last year and hope to publish soon. Thanks for the comment.

  12. pria says

    I’ve been reading your blog for about five years now, and principally started reading because you write so wonderfully. There is a pleasure in itself from reading good writing, especially, for me, about food, and there is real appeal in opening a post and knowing it is going to have a delicious context and some positive energy. I used to very much enjoy your adventures around london and news from the market stall. Latterly, mostly for new recipes, and vicarious pleasure from the travel posts. China was SO enjoyable. I am an ex-londoner and so i like the reviews; i miss eating out in town. So i basically read the blog for the enthusiasm of your writing – whatever it is you are writing about.

  13. Karen says

    Ah, it’s working (just to note that this facility doesn’t work on my iPad…).

    Loving all the posts Niamh! With regards restaurant reviews, I think it’s acceptable (and agreeable) that you only post about positive restaurant experiences. However, is there a facility to search specifically for restaurant reviews on your blog? Perhaps categorised by city??? Coming from an involuntary luddite perspective, this may be too complex a function to put on a blog… Keep up the great writing!

    • Oh, that’s a bit worrying about the ipad. Thanks for letting me know. And thanks for the lovely comment, Karen :)

  14. Hi Niamh

    Happy New Year! As I live in London I especially appreciate your London restaurant recommendations though I enjoy reading about your exciting travels and recipes too. Like most of the others commenting, I’d say you should write about the things that are dear and important to you.


  15. michelle says

    Oh Niamh
    please keep up the recommendations – forget the others!
    I have more recipes than I will ever be able to cook, even if I dedicated the rest of my life to them, and I don’t really care where you have travelled – unless there’s a restaurant or market I might eat in some day.
    I probably won’t get to half the places you recommend – but that’s the beauty of gastroporn, isn’t it?

  16. I like your reviews too. Like you, I enjoy sharing the positive experiences more than the negative, and at the risk of looking like I don’t have a critical eye, they are the ones I want to share on my blog. I only have time to write about the places I feel most inspired about – mostly good, but the occasional really bad experience might warrant a warning. I like your balance – lots of great cooking and travel with the occasional review thrown in – but ultimately I think we’re tuning in for your voice and your enthusiasm regardless of the focus. Which gives you the freedom to do whatever takes your fancy at the time!

  17. Restless Native says

    Your reviews and recommendations are ones I would trust. You concentrate on what I look for in a review. Having the right amount of personnel detail and concentrating on the food.
    AA Gill and Giles Coren write so much pointless drivel. Almost like a review of themselves and not the restaurant/place
    Your Journeys abroad are always a joy to Read. I have also had my memories jogged, in a pleasant way, a few times.
    Happy New Year. Keep up the good work.
    P.S. my mother, like my self, loves your book. That is something; she has little time for many of today’s chefs.

Over to you! Your comments - I would love to hear from you :)