How do you write a food review? There are no hard and fast rules. Everyone has his or her own style. Some restaurants need to be treated differently from others. And even a single critic can use different styles for different restaurants.
Here, however, are a few tips from my own experiences.
1. You are not writing for yourself. The point of writing a review is that you want to communicate your views to other people. So before you sit down to write, ask yourself: do I have anything interesting to say? What am I trying to communicate?
2. Do not write a school essay. Far too many reviews and blogs read like the kind of essays we wrote in Class Five on such subjects as “What I did in my vacation.”
Do not say things like “After I was shown to my table, my waiter gave me a plate of appetisers which were very yummy. Then I waited for my main course of mutton.”
It is still a school essay even if you think that by taking photos on your mobile phone, you are engaging in food journalism.
3. Try and understand the context of the food. If you go to a roadside Chinese joint, don’t complain that the food is not authentic. Judge a restaurant by what it is trying to achieve. If a fancy, high-priced five-star place has bad service, that is unforgivable. If a dhaba has bad service, well, service may never have been the point.
4. Reference points are good. It is not enough to try something for the first time and then say it was badly made. Perhaps that is the correct way of cooking it and you just don’t like it. Try and stick to dishes you have tried before or understand.
5. Try and be descriptive. To say “Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!” is not much of a review. Describe the experience and tell your readers why it is so awesome. As a general rule, use as few clichés as possible (not just ‘awesome’ but also ‘yum' or that horrible phase so beloved of Indian menu-writers: “cooked to perfection”).
6. Don’t settle scores: If you had a bad experience, it is your duty to report it. But don’t threaten the restaurant with things like “If I don’t get this right now I will post a bad review on Eazydiner.” These days, citizen-critics have enormous power. So use it wisely and cautiously.
Vir Sanghvi is India's best-known food writer and TV host. His book, Rude Food won the Cointreau Award for Best Food Literature book in the world and his food and travel shows on channels such as TLC and NDTV Good Times have won numerous awards and continue to be watched by millions.
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