Earlier this week, UK critic Jay Rayner filed a particularly scathing review of Le Cinq, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant at the Four Seasons Hôtel George V in Paris. In his piece for the Guardian, the famously acerbic restaurant critic wrote, “In terms of value for money and expectation Le Cinq supplied by far the worst restaurant experience I have endured in my 18 years in this job.” Rayner goes on to describe the room, “decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you,” compares the canapé to “a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant,” and calls out the €600 price tag.
Now, the French media is reacting to Rayner taking on the bastion to (the finest of) fine dining, or as he puts it, “the scene of the crime.” Not ones to shrug off a British attack, it should come as no surprise that they’re not into it. Here’s a look at how France’s most respected publications are taking the slam:
French daily Le Figaro characterizes Rayner’s critique as a violent attack, and asks, given that Le Cinq has been recognized for excellence, [translated], “What fly stung the treacherous critic?” Le Figaro journalist Alice Bosio writes that Rayner’s critique of each course of the meal is a “diatribe as violent as it is a caricature,” and goes on to point out that Rayner’s opinion is tailor-made for creating buzz — buzz that the English public is sure to eat up.
Libération: “Pourquoi Le “Guardian” a-t-il Dézingué Le Cinq?”
Libération’s Elvire von Bardeleben, who had enjoyed her own meal at Le Cinq in 2015, had harsher criticism for the critic. After listing the accolades the restaurant and chef Christian Le Squer have received in the past, she notes that taste is subjective, but Rayner crosses the line when he begins to complain about the restaurant’s opulence when admittedly choosing to dine at the place because of said opulence.
Her sources at Le Cinq confirm that nothing was amiss in the kitchen when Rayner dined, and she quotes a source close to the chef [translated]:
“This isn’t criticism, it’s entertainment. It’s very excessive to provoke laughter. The readers of the Guardian respond well to ‘rich bashing.’ He came to make fun of a French chef with a funny and effective speech on anti-rich rhetoric. It’s difficult to parry that. It’s also a logical Englishman versus pretentious French frog eaters.”
Rayner’s review, von Bardeleben notes, reads like a joke, based on the fact that the food was not to Rayner’s taste, with some hypocrisy thrown in for good measure. She writes [translated], “But is the British critic also joking when, after vomiting all over the gilding and the cost of George V, he advises [readers] to go to the bar at the Ritz instead?”
Le Monde, France’s leading news outlet, has, so far, remained silent on the matter.