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Why the Brits Still Own the Restaurant Takedown, in Six Vicious Lines

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Critic Marina O'Loughlin eviscerates Cha Chaan Teng in London

Cha Chaan Teng

London restaurant critics have a reputation for being deliciously vicious, but why? Perhaps the British stereotype of acute and unfailing politeness — the old “stiff upper lip,” if you will — explains why readers take delight in such merciless takedowns: It’s a total deviation from their typically well-mannered civility.

Last year, for instance, critic Jay Rayner declared a chocolate dessert at London restaurant Sackville’s “the Rohypnol of desserts, a dish with the potential to slap you into a coma.”

The latest evisceration comes via the Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin: Today she published a scathing critique of Cha Chaan Teng, a London restaurant that describes its food as “a playful fusion of East and West serving comforting Chinese ... with a whimsical twist” — or, as O’Loughlin puts it, “a grab-bag of social media-friendly trends shoe–horned into a concept.”

Here, six lines from O’Loughlin that serve as a master class on how to thoroughly skewer a restaurant:

  1. On a starter of spring onion and kale pancake: “It’s leathery and chewy, whiffing of old fat.”
  2. More on that dreaded pancake: “If you were to eat something left to mature for weeks under the saddle of a horseman on the Manchurian steppe, it might taste something like this.”
  3. O’Loughlin also has some choice words for the steamed buns: “We have the salt-and-pepper squid version, stuffed with exhausted calamari rings whose coating appears to have been applied by nuclear fission, gritty with toasted coconut.”
  4. On the garnish adorning prawn crackers: “’s a dandruff of more coconut plus that dried garlic that tastes like snogging a post-kebab alkie.”
  5. On a failed rendition of a classic Sichuan dish, smashed cucumber: “The cucumbers aren’t even smashed. It makes me feel actual rage.”
  6. Even when describing a dessert that (seemingly?) tasted good, O’Loughlin is merciless: “I eat it with perverse pleasure; it gives me the kind of clammy shame I’d feel if I woke up post-bender to find myself the fifth Mrs Gregg Wallace.” (Wallace, a famous British TV chef, recently married for the fourth time.)

Cha Chaan Teng, London WC2: ‘This Is Frankenfood’ [The Guardian]
The Most Scathing Restaurant Reviews of 2015 [E]