Tag Archives: Auckland

Amateur reviewers – Parasites or Propagators

Hello Poncentricsters. This is my June Column for Ponsonby News. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I am a serial reviewer of cafés and restaurants. Trip Advisor, Yelp, Zomato, Urbanspoon, Menus. You name them, I’ve posted reviews on them.

So I noted with some interest a number of articles and stories recently about the role of “amateur” restaurant reviewers. Yes that’s me, and anyone else who has dared to post a review online!

My columnist colleague Lauraine Jacobs got the ball rolling when she declined an invitation to speak at an event organised by online review site Zomato.

In an article by Simon Plumb in the Herald on Sunday titled ‘When it comes to reviews, the ability to eat is not enough’ Lauraine is quoted as saying “In all conscience I cannot attend as I do not agree with commercial sites like [Zomato] that rely on unqualified and unpaid restaurant reviewers.” Oops that’s me she’s talking about!

I wouldn’t say the article, and Lauraine’s reported comments, got my hackles up, but it did pique my interest and get me thinking about the roles and responsibilities around reviewing eateries in particular.

Well it wasn’t long before the subject erupted in the media again when Mt Eden restaurant Molten hit back at a group of disgruntled diners who had given Molten a very low rating.

Molten owner Sven Nielsen labeled the review “unfair, unjust and a little bit vindictive” and responded to the disgruntled group with a vehement review of their own suggesting that the diners were “rather rude to the people that worked at our restaurant”.

As if the Molten meltdown was not enough, lo and behold the next day Jonny Rudduck from favoured Ponsonby eatery Il Buco chucked a hot chilli into the pot. He said we were parasites. Ouch!  Well actually that comment might have been directed at the review site but ouch anyway.

The New Zealand Herald joined in the act by running a poll in which it asked readers “Should restaurants have the right to fight back to online reviews?” Over 5,000 readers responded with a resounding 91% yes. Of course they should.

And just when I thought the matter was at an end Wellington’s Ekim Burger owner Mike Duffy as reported by Stuff’s Robert Kitchin “sparked a social media uproar with a vitriolic rant on the Wellington business’ Facebook page after a customer accused the burger bar of giving her son food poisoning”. A complete over reaction by Mike Duffy? I would have thought so.

But wait there’s more.

No sooner had we digested Mike Duffy’s burger bomb then respected reviewer Peter Calder joined the fray. Actually I think the burger bomb was more a case of indigestion! Anyway the Herald’s Calder, in a thoughtful story headlined “Waiter, these ‘parasites’ [are] not to my liking”, conducted a sympathetic symphony of support for restaurants in which he said it was “easy to feel for restaurants angered by bad reviews written by ill-informed diners in the safety of cyberspace”. Ouch again.

So what are we to make of all this?

Well to re-cap. Lauraine Jacobs suggested that ‘When it comes to reviews, the ability to eat is not enough’ and “I do not agree with commercial sites like [Zomato] that rely on unqualified and unpaid restaurant reviewers”.

Molten’s Sven Nielsen labeled a review “unfair, unjust and a little bit vindictive” and hit back with a stinging review of the disgruntled group.

Jonny Rudduck of Il Buco fame suggested “angry diners should boycott, not rant online”.

Ekim Burgers’ Mike Duffy had a death wish. Enough said.

And Peter Calder concluded by saying “it takes a good deal more curiosity and persistence than most casual browsers and surfers employ to separate the wheat from the chaff”. Fair point. Sort of.

Well I may well be an “unqualified” restaurant reviewer and I’m certainly unpaid but we amateurs have a role to play and are entitled to our (reasonable) opinion and to express it responsibly.

So how are we doing? Out of interest I checked on Zomato what customers are saying about Molten. Still averaging 4 out of 5. More interesting is Trip Advisor where 77 reviews yielded 82% excellent or very good and 1 terrible.

Interesting that the legendary Prego scores 4.3 out of 5 on Zomato and 245 reviews on Trip Advisor produce a score of 4.5, an 86% excellent or very good rating and there were 3 terribles. Quelle horreur!

So I checked out the big daddy of them all, The French Café, and found a Zomato rating of an excellent 4.7 and a Trip Advisor score of 4.5, with a 93.4% excellent or very good rating and 6 terribles. Sacre bleu!

My point?

You can’t please all of the punters all of the time. Not very original I know – but true nonetheless. Once in a while even the best are going to get it wrong. C’est la vie.

And negative reviews? See them in context; they represent less than 5% of opinion!

So what are the “professionals” getting all hot and bothered about? Beats me! But one things for sure, we “amateur” reviewers are here to stay.

Bon appetit. And by the way you can check out what Poncentric is up to at www.poncentric.com and https://www.facebook.com/poncentric

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VOP Coromandel: Well you have to don’t you for your summer holidays!!

Part 2 of our Christmas holidays – a bit late I know but at least posted while summer is still with us haha.

So after Christmas in Auckland, New Years in the Bay of Islands and a side trip to glorious Waiheke Island we headed off to Whangamata in early January for 2 weeks of R&R – we thought it would be rest and recreation but it had a fair dose of rock n roll!

For the third year in a row we rented a gorgeous European style villa right on the beach. Got there on the Saturday and by Sunday had the call from Rebecca (#1 daughter) saying that as she and Dan (partner) were working that week could we look after the new puppy. “Hadn’t you thought of that when you decided to ‘rescue’ the puppy from the SPCA”? How old – 12 weeks, toilet trained – well sort of. Greaaaat! So off I go to meet Dan half way back to Auckland to pick up the gorgeous Sybil!! The things we do!

New balls please! Jandal

New balls and jandals required thank you!

Anyway enough of the domestics. Here’s the pick of the cafes and eating places in the area:

Barside Espresso

We are always on the hunt for great coffee and as Supreme is our favourite brew (being regulars at Good One cafe in Ponsonby!!!) were delighted to find Barside Espresso. The coffee travels well and with friendly baristas it’s the perfect spot to get your (double) shot. Best in Whanga.

El Barrio

We always make a beeline for El Barrio as it does great coffee (Atomic) and a wide ranging menu. We go most days. First up we were there in the afternoon and had the eggs bene, Angus beef burger, Caesar salad and the chicken nibbles & curly fries for the 4 year old. All were pronounced excellent. I had the burger and it was one of the better ones. Full marks to owner Charles for providing genuine chicken drumsticks on the kids menu rather than those awful “nuggets” most places serve.

Next time Deb & I went in for coffee late morning and spied the toasties in the food cabinet so had the ham, cheese & pineapple and the meat lovers. Both were tasty and generously stacked.

Tasty toastiesGreat toastie

They have a Mexican influenced tapas range which we hadn’t tried before. In chatting to the very affable owner Charles he suggested we tried the fish (snapper) soft shelf taco w fresh salsa & hot sauce. It was very yummy.

The only night the café is open is Fridays so off we went on our last night for dinner with Al & Juls (last heard of in my Ostro review haha) and Juls’ brother Tom for an evening of sampling from the wonderful tapas menu – more fish tacos plus mussel fritters, scallops, fish sliders and calamari – all enhanced with a Mexican edge. Loved the lot.

Lovely tacosTasty calamari

El Barrio is the place to go to in Whangamata for great coffee and tasty food. It has two very pleasant outdoor eating areas that are well shaded and a cosy inside area that is always bustling. Staff are friendly and attentive. All in all Charles & Sandie do a fantastic job in creating a very pleasant cafe experience.

Waihi Beach Hotel and Eatery

The news that the Hip Group (Richmond Road Café, Ortolana + +) had opened in Waihi enticed us to make the trip from Whangamata to Waihi for lunch (an easy 40 minute drive).

Hip have done an excellent job in creating a very pleasant cafe space with an easy flow indoor/outdoor area. Being regulars at Hip establishments in Auckland we were keen to try their newest offering.

Scored a lovely table on the deck – essential given we had Sybie with us. And pleasingly no-one had a problem with the bundle of joy’s presence. The brunch/lunch menu is typically eclectic with everything from eggs bene to chopped liver to trevally escabeche (yes it is the correct spelling – a typical Mediterranean cuisine which refers to a dish of either poached or fried fish) on the breakfast side. More lunchy was the chicken cotoletta (an Italian word for veal breaded cutlet), flat iron steak and fish & chips. Amongst the 4 of us 2 had the fish & chips, one the market fish (Deb of course) and the 4 year old had the kids’ fish n chips.

The battered fish was trevally which I don’t recall ever having had – we used to use trevally for bait! – and which I faced with some trepidation. I need not have been concerned. It was very nice as were the chips and the little green salad complemented the dish nicely. The market fish was not so well received with Deb declaring it lacking in taste – the only real blemish on what proved to be an enjoyable experience.

Somehow tastierHealthy fish

Well actually there was one other small issue! The maître d’ had 4 attempts at providing us with the bill and eventually it was “sorted” by deduction!! Put it down to teething problems perhaps.

Service was attentive, the outdoor setting pleasant and there was a real bonus in having the ice-creamier on site for pudding as the 4 year old called it.

Delightful settingLoved the icecream

I know – gross

The playground is great for the littlies and the retro style accommodation block offers rooms at a very reasonable $120 per night.

All in all it was well worth the trip from Whangamata and Hip have certainly lifted the bar in this part of the Coromandel.

So we headed back to Auckland very reluctantly after 2 glorious weeks in Whangamata. Couldn’t wait really to get back to the joys of living in Ponsonby!!