Bristol bloggers bonanza at The Square

14 10 2012

The Square Kitchen must have blown their marketing budget this month on inviting half a dozen bloggers to dine at the restaurant. Not many people are able to turn down the offer of free food, but to paraphrase an old adage, there’s no such thing as a free tasting menu, so it is expected that once the diner has (hopefully) enjoyed their meal, they will write about it in their blog.

What The Square were probably not expecting was venison being compared to a “turd”, service being universally criticised and one table of four all refusing to eat their snails because they are “slimy cabbage munching beasts”.

To use another well-worn phrase, those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and I was also invited to sample the new menu. I went as the guest of another blogger, Jo, writer of Ephemeral Digest, although we barely exchanged a word as we both took turns to follow our 19-month-old daughter around the restaurant.

Most of the bloggers documented their meals in immaculate course-by-course detail.

Bristol Bites proclaimed the pea and ham soup to be the best she has ever tasted, but was confused by the spicy mini meringues, and further confused by the wine flight:

“We were a little confused that the first of the wines was brought out with the first course rather than the second – which it had been matched with – and that we had no explanation as to what the wine was and why it had been chosen.”

It was Wuthering Bites who compared venison to poo:

“I really want to say good things about this dish, but it really did just look like a section of my back garden – the vension kinda like a turd in the corner. Although a bit mean, that is what i thought it looked like on instant, and i can’t lie about that!”

Bristol Eating Adventures and her table of four all refused to eat the snails. Not particularly adventurous then.

“Snails are not something that most people would want to eat so, anyone who says otherwise has to be lying, so putting them on a menu is a massive risk… As I picked (a shell) up the snail fell out, I shuddered inwardly, and squeaked outwardly.”

It’s Just Nice were thrilled just to be invited (“it meant that people are actually reading It’s Just Nice, and not just our mums! And that…is very exciting!”) and wrote a gushing review of the scallops:

“Scallops, oh how I love you so- you’re so yummy and juicy… And lady Apple, you’re my number one! Me and you are BFFs! Seriously though, who’d have thought that Mrs Granny Smith would work so well with a scallop.”

Ephemeral Digest was not the only blogger to comment on the savoury Battenburg, made with ham hock, duck confit and foie gras.

“The Battenberg was fantastic although the piccalilli was rather pointless. Even as a mostly meat-averse diner I enjoyed this dish more than all the rest and we were even discussing it with the staff at the end of the night. A definite highlight.”

If all publicity is good publicity, then The Square must be thrilled. But I can’t help but think that inviting Bristol’s bloggers to review their food is an experiment that they will not be repeating.


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32 responses

14 10 2012
Steve

Hello Martin. I’m glad you have found a nice outlet for you to be so nasty about other people, but if you continue to print in public such bitchy things about my girlfriend, then you and I are going to have a serious problem. I just about found enough restraint to tolerate your last slagging off of her blog, but if it happens again, you will have pushed my patience a little too far. If you feel the need to be so small and bitter at other bloggers, don’t when you meet them try to make out you’re all friends with them. It’s pathetic.

The reviews of The Square were fair, and considering the taster menu is £55 a head any write-up of it needs to be critically honest, as it’s hardly a cheap night out for anyone. £55 a meal needs to be exceptional don’t you agree?

Perhaps you should start being more honest with your blog readers and let them know just how many freebies you get, and your policy of phoning venues up demanding free food. You say ‘people in glass houses’, but frankly yours is looking quite fragile.

14 10 2012
Steve

Also, if you and your girlfriend could stop leaving such spiteful comments on Twitter, that would be just grand. And also a bit more grown up.

14 10 2012
Martin

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your comment. Just as a matter of record, I have never
and would never “demand” free food from restaurants.

Best wishes,

Martin

14 10 2012
Joanna

Dear Steve,

I assume you mean this tweet: https://twitter.com/stillawake/status/257400997117304832

You have threatened and libelled Martin and were wrong when you called me his girlfriend. I think I was being rather polite when for the sake of diplomacy I stuck to just calling you a dodo.

Joanna

14 10 2012
Wuthering Bites

Hi Martin,

Thanks for the re-post, even though my comments were taken out of context. When reviewing food at a restaurant you should feel no obligation to solely focus on the positives, but demonstrate constructive feedback – whether negative or positive. Therefore pasting in my comments on one dish that was unappealing in presentation, I find a little pointless. I accept in hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone as far to say a turd resembled it – but the word was used purely for comedic value to elaborate my point.

All in all, The Square Taster Menu wasn’t to everyone’s liking, with the point of my attendance there to highlight the GF renditions (which was critiqued fairly); but the evening had moments of excitement and imagination that was most welcomed.

Best wishes
wbites

14 10 2012
Alex

You’re very clever and funny, Martine!

14 10 2012
Bristol Bites (@BristolBites)

Martin,

Thanks for the re-post here too. Agree with Wuthering Bites, though, in that a lot of these comments are taken out of context and focus more on the negatives than on the positives that every review contains – I think all reviews I’ve read so far of the place have been pretty balanced.

Would be good to hear your personal thoughts on the meal?

Em.

14 10 2012
Martin

I thought that the Battenburg was superb, definitely my favourite course. The Thai-themed dessert was also an intriguing idea. Great presentation all the way through, and I can recommend the view from underneath the tables.

14 10 2012
Lucy

I am confused about how Martin can be accused of being nasty when all he has done is repeat statements that others have made, some of which were positive.

I also think that people should be careful about posting remarks that could be perceived as threatening on a public website.

Lucy

14 10 2012
Sandra Heath

I’m a great follower of all the Bristol-based blogs including yours which I usually read with relish up until now. You’ve just taken snippets of everyone’s posts and put them all out of context. Also why the negative attitude to fellow bloggers in the same city as you? From where I’m standing, it looks bitter, very poor form and unprofessional. Disappointed.

14 10 2012
Alex

There’s clearly only one Bristol blog worth reading…
I know I can rely on your high standards for choice of venue!

(Martin, payment for the above compliment by one of those dinners you’ve demanded for free is fine… Cheers)

15 10 2012
Josh

This is the problem with local food bloggers – they forget they’re just normal people whose opinions shouldn’t really be taken too seriously.

Proper food journos know that by saying a course resembles a turd means they’re putting their neck on the line and they could lose their job. They take calculated gambles with their negative feedback. They can’t bite the hand that feeds them.

Those reviews (other than BC’s it has to be said) just read like they’re complete randomers being offered a free meal.

As for the blogger “It’s just nice”, she reads like a late 20’s woman trapped in a meaningless void somewhere between a bag of flour and repeats of sex and the city. I’m sure fashion and food really *matter* to her now but once marriage and children come on the cards, she’ll realise how much of a joke her life has been.

15 10 2012
Steve

Josh, why do you feel the need to be a nasty person to people you have never met? All of the food bloggers are nice people, good people too, including Martin on the two times I have met him. Which is why it is a shame that he feels the need to slag people off at a distance.

Negative feedback is one thing, but there is no need to just belittle people and be nasty about it or criticise peoples life choices.

But you must be a real big man to attack a woman who you have never met, or have little chance of ever meeting.

15 10 2012
thebristolblogger

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”

15 10 2012
Josh

As far as I can see it, he’s not slagging you off, he’s just taking snippets of your ‘reviews’. These may not show you in the best of light but it’s what any competent journalist does. Do you really think anyone cares about how someone thought the starter was good when they say the main looked like a turd??!

Trust me, there’s no chance I’ll ever want to meet someone who thinks it’s a great idea to start a blog called ‘nice things’ or whatever it is. Besides, her use of the English language is borderline criminal.

15 10 2012
Joanna

The utterly amazing thing here is that this post is probably one of the blandest on the blog. The damning part is the use of the quotations and they are verbatim and not out of context at all.

The idea that as a blogger you have no responsibility when reviewing someone’s means to a living and affecting the livelihood of staff and business is utterly ridiculous. If you insult someone’s food in private then there is very little consequence apart from perhaps inhibiting one or two people from visiting. When you do it in a public forum you affect a business. This responsibility is huge.

Writing is a great job but it’s not done in a vacuum. Being quoted by another writer is the least of it. If you read through the post without the shame of being singled out you will find barely a critique. Certainly not anything as bad as calling diners liars for enjoying snails and the ridiculous description of venison.

15 10 2012
Clara

Wowzers – Steve is a sensitive chappy isn’t he?! I don’t know any of you, but I don’t think Bristol Culture’s article was in the least bit bitchy – lazy definitely, but he certainly wasn’t slagging anyone off. Although hats off to Steve for the middle class equivalent of a ‘do you want to take this outside, bruv’. Houmous fiiiiiiiiiight! May I suggest that the food bloggers of Bristol have a look at their ego’s and REIGN IT IN. What a bunch of diva’s! x

15 10 2012
Snide Park

Hi Martin,

As a long time fan of your writing I’m saddened to hear you’ve fallen out with your cyber-chums in the Bristol blogosphere.

Perhaps there is a newer, trendier town you could PARACHUTE in to and become an instant expert on?

I understand Tunbridge Wells is lovely at this time of year. It has many village fetes and vibrant tea houses for you to photograph.

Doubtless there will be a steep learning curve, but with your dazzling social skills and KEEN EYE for a story I’m sure you’ll win over the locals and build an ARDENT fan base in no time!

Best wishes

P.S. If you move fast you can catch Calendar Girls at the Assembly Hall Theatre, it’s selling fast!

15 10 2012
Sel

Bloggers should remember that they are writers just like journalists, novelists, etc. These people always have their work critiqued so bloggers should be ready to expect the same, so this post should not be taken so personally or with such shock.

However I do feel that Bristol Culture framing this post as a comment on the marketing strategies of The Square (rather than just a cut & paste through other people’s actual content) is possibly a bit of a thin premise.

15 10 2012
Jon

Martin is just a bit of a nasty, and cowardly, chappy though isn’t he? And Jo is not much better. For anyone who wants to learn more about Martin and his desire to ignore his child for the first year of its life, you can all go to Jo’s blog and read about it!

And Steve is at least standing up for his girlfriend. Fair play. Also, Jo might need to learn the correct definition of libel

15 10 2012
Martin

Jon – I cannot let you say things like that and not respond. How dare you bring my one-year-old child into this debate. How outrageously provocative, disrespectful and sickening.

If I was, as you suggest, nasty and cowardly, I would like to see the company that you work for, which I shall not name, burn down and never sell a piece of oak furniture again.

But I am not nasty and cowardly, so I will not say that. Instead, I shall just call you a lowlife scumbag, not worth to even be a venison-shaped turd on the bottom of my shoe.

15 10 2012
Anni

Jon this comment is really inappropriate and unnecessary

16 10 2012
Emily

Well done Jon. Bring a child into it, and some incorrect personal information. For the record – anyone reading this who doesn’t know Martin should know that anyone who sees him with his daughter knows what a great dad he is.

15 10 2012
Joanna

Jon, you are wrong about everything you have written.

Steve, do not be misled, what you wrote was libelous – your claim that Martin calls up restaurants and demands free food is false, malicious and can cause “special damage or financial loss to the claimant” since being a reviewer is what he does professionally. Here is a link that may help:

Click to access Defamation_&-malicious_falsehoods.pdf

15 10 2012
Avi NiteGlow (@NiteGlow)

Why wasn’t I invited? 😉

15 10 2012
Jason

I’m getting bored of this whole ‘turdgate’/Bristol blogger slagathon. This is getting out of hand. People slagging of because someone didn’t try snails or made a mistake on their blog – what big man (or woman) gets pleasure out of having a personal vendetta against lovely people one off post?! This will all be forgotten in the next 3 posts so everyone hold back on the threats and life style questions and get back to what you do best. Blogging.

Wbites – made a mistake. Apologised, regretted it. Can we move on?
BristolEating – didn’t eat an unappealing snail, big deal. I wouldn’t eat a snake heart in a shot of vodka – call me a baby too. Forget it.
ItsJustNice – different style of blog to what you read? Then don’t read it. Move on.

This has probably put plenty of all the above blogfans from wanting to go down the blogging path themselves – which tells me the damage has been done. Grown ups make mistakes. No matter what they do, whether for a living or for a past-time. Children are the ones that can’t move on.

15 10 2012
Jason

Also. I do enjoy the updates on your blog Martin. And threats/questions over parenting skills is certainly unacceptable.

15 10 2012
Bristol Anorexic

Only one thing left to complete the comment thread:
Hitler.
And we’re done.

15 10 2012
Xian Sung

Totally agree with Jason on this.
From a neutral perspective I agree somewhat that this post gives off an air of spite:

1. Bristol Eating Adventures… “not very adventurous then”
2. It’s Just Nice… “Thrilled just to be invited”, “wrote a gushing review”.

The coverage on twitter has also been exhausted.

Time to begrudgingly move on and absolutely disagree with the threats and stab in the darks on bloggers personal lifestyles – none of us know anything about what kind of people they really are.

16 10 2012
Jim

This is so funny. Please don’t stop; it’s hilarious (apart from the kid comment obviously, that was utterly pathetic).

17 10 2012
Lucy

Steve and Jon:

I am still completely in the dark about how Martin has been ‘nasty’ about other bloggers. The more I read his review the more I am of the opinion that the only people who should take offence are the staff at The Square whose menu has not been received brilliantly.

If certain bloggers want to accuse diners of ‘lying’ if they say they like snails or compare food to turds that is their prerogative. I do not think that these comments are inappropriate but from a completely objective point of view they seem more nasty than anything that Martin wrote.

The comments you two are making are completely without foundation and remind me of a lesson I taught on cyber bullying to a group of 12 year old students last year. I would like to make it very clear that I am not accusing you of cyber bullying but I would like you to consider whether you would be comfortable making these remarks to Martin’s face rather than just electronically. If the answer is no then you probably shouldn’t be posting them in a public forum.

I cannot believe the hypocrisy of Jon’s remarks. Your post is the most petty and obscene one on here and yet you still accuse others of being ‘nasty’. I’m not sure where you got your information about Martin’s relationship with his daughter but I can assure you there is plenty of evidence (on the internet and elsewhere) to document the positive role he has played throughout her entire life. I do believe you need to look up the definition of ‘libel’ and possible ‘defamation’ as well. I am glad that I do not personally know any person who would stoop so low as to bring a child into a debate like this.

Finally I would suggest that everyone is responsible for what they write in blogs, on Twitter or in comments. Surely the mature way to behave is to read through what you write before you post it and consider how you would feel if other people retweet, repost or review your comments. If you are not comfortable with this possibility then don’t post things in a forum where anyone in the world can read it!

If you want to publicise your opinions you have to accept you will get negative feedback as well as positive.

18 10 2012
Jim

It doesn’t matter whether Martin is a good dad or not (I personally don’t know him at all and don’t care or judge him either way; he’s still a good writer) the point is that doesn’t matter, surely. It’s just pointlessly personal, whether true or (a lot more likely, coming from someone that would post something like that) false. So why give someone like that the time of day to reply to their comment (a totally paradoxical final statement on that subject but still thought I’d say it). Blimey, this whole thing is so ridiculous. Shrug off criticism like the chef who has had to read his food resembles a turd. Chef’s have had to learn to shrug off criticism or look foolish (like Ramsay ejecting A. A. Gill from Hospital Road mid meal: foolish). Sadly I think you guys may need to catch up and start mentally blocking out reviews of your work or you will continue, and let me be very clear that you have started, to look silly.

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