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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The failings of restaurant guides

One of the reasons for us starting this modest blog was the unreliability of the ‘official’ guides. If you think about it, it is just impossible (apart from any more sinister consideration ) that homogeneity and accuracy of judgement can be produced by a guide across the board when there are thousands of restaurants to inspect and classify. Mistakes, and some gross ones at that, are not only unavoidable but probable. So we find all guides mostly useless.

Nonetheless, we confess: sometimes we succumb to laziness and instead of doing proper research we do rely on guides when deciding which restaurant to visit. The last time we did that, our moral frailty was met with a just punishment…but at least we found a confirmation of the absurdities present even in the most illustrious of publications.

We picked a restaurant in Bologna (Italy) rewarded by the Michelin guide with the coveted Bib Gourmand title: it’s the Ristorante Posta, Via della Grada, 21/A 40122 Bologna, Italy, which specialises in Tuscan cuisine (the owner/manager is from Tuscany). Apart from the cuisine, which was generally mediocre, we were flabbergasted by the lack of interest and knowledge on the part of all staff for the food they served, and this in a ‘trattoria’ style place where the simple cooking will not mask any fault in the raw material. For example nobody, not the waiters, not the manager, could tell us where these mushrooms (€13) came from:

‘Probably from Yugoslavia’ was the best we could get from the manager. While the lack of knowledge is nothing more than a worrying signal of how the restaurant is run, the sheer badness of this simple dish was memorable. The mushrooms themselves were watery and lacked any primary flavour, but the inept grilling had conferred them one single flavour: burned bitterness. Yugoslavian or not, these mushrooms should not have been served.

Having made our way to the desserts, we asked the waitress whether these ‘peach al cartoccio’ and chocolate cake (‘morbidina al cioccolato’) were made on the premises:

‘The peach is made on the premises, but the cake is not’

Ah, and where is it made?’

‘I don’t know, it comes from a box’.

Funnily enough, the chocolate cake was one of the best dishes of the night, though Man and Woman worried about the list of ingredients they might have read on that box…

The impression we got was that this establishment focuses on appearance more than on substance look for example at how cute the room is:

It is sad that the Michelin inspectors should fall for this type of operation. While ultimately only the mushrooms were seriously bad, the rest being merely forgettable, there are hundreds of better trattorias than this one in Italy, which are based on real care for the raw materials and on simple but expressive cooking. Remember: in Italy the raw material is at the core of traditional cuisine, and any serious owner or chef will scurry around and make a strenuous effort to find the supplier which is ‘just right’.

We are afraid the Bib Gourmand does not belong in Ristorante Posta in Bologna (rather, for example, here and here).



Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your blog quite often :-)
I am from Bologna and I can tell you that the guides are generally unreliable when it comes to suggesting restaurants, sometimes I think most of them are written for people on a business trip who just wanna hang out one night or so. As for La Posta, I quite agree, I would never dine there.
Sorry you did :-(

Man-Woman said...

Glad you agree, let us know your recommendation for Bologna and we'll try it the next time we happen to be there!

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