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3.9 out of 5 stars16
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 30 August 2008
I have not read too much of Jay Rayner's work in the papers, or his novels, so this is my introduction to the man and his appetite. I completely fell in love with his writing - I think he has the most beautiful, original, and apt turn of phrase of any food writer I can think of today. And so funny! It must take him days to think up some of those lines. They continue to give me pleasure now.

But he has a lot of acute and important observations to make about the fine dining restaurant business, and like another reviewer, I was particularly appreciative of his comments re: Ramsay et al, and global brand domination, and insights into the dubious world of the Moscow restaurant scene. This all sounds very dull - in his skilled hands, it really isn't, it's absolutely compelling, and good to know someone (thankfully a warrior-sized someone) is pointing the finger.

I don't agree that Rayner likes restaurants populated by stick-thin posh types - in fact, he repeatedly asks questions about the nature of who it is that eats in top-class restaurants, and whether or not they are the kind who would most appreciate what it is that they are eating, and paying top dollar for. And he's scrupulously honest about his own membership to this elite club, and what that means about him, and his future eating habits and pleasures.

This reads like a novel in some ways (which makes sense, I guess), in that Rayner goes on a journey, there's a learning curve. He starts out starry-eyed, ambitious, somewhat in thrall to the restaurant auteurs, but falls out of love on more than one occasion with them, with the excesses and wastage that attend fine dining, and with writing about food for a living. He challenges himself. He has revelations. He is humbled. And finally, towards the end, finds a way back to loving to eat, and to doing what he does best.

I find Jay the perfect dining companion. I urge others to seek out his company - and a good few interesting dinners - in these pages too.
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on 20 January 2010
Many of the snippets on the covers of the book claimed that it would make the reader laugh out loud. Well, it didn't, but this is a very nice tale of a food critic who goes off in the search of the most perfect meal that can be had. He does approach the task with sense of festiveness in most cases, and he can be as sarcastic as any food critic can be when the time for that is right, not least about himself. Particularly fun for me was his chapter on the garish nouveau-riche of Russia, as I live next door in Latvia. Of great interest was the chapter in which the author had a Michelin-starred meal every day for an entire week ... an experience which may sound delightful to the uninitiated, of course, but ... well, read for yourself. This is certainly a very fine book for foodies. Mr Rayner is a well-known critic, and I read the book with great interest. Only without laughing out loud.
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on 29 July 2009
Resaturant critic for the Observer Jay Rayner decides to try and explore the best restaurants in the world by eating the best meals in 7 of the world's great cities. However, he is struck not by the magnificence of the food but by the theatricality and artificiality of the experience in cities such as Las Vegas and Moscow and begins to question the worth of such temples of food.

Rayner knows his subject well and explores the development of current culinary fads in a gentle and humourous way- he writes tenderly about the meals he particularly enjoys describing what makes the experience so memorable but he is also honest and informative about the meals that he doesn't enjoy. He contemplates the effect that eating such banquets may have on his health and he writes about the creators of the meals with warmth and affection.

Yet at the end of the book, we are left questioning whether eating expensive tasting meals at the world's great restaurants is just an exercise in ostentation. Rayner rightly considers the environmental impact of the demand for such food.

This is a wise and interesting book that opens the doors of such places for those of us who can't afford the luxurious meals and describes superb meals in sumptuous detail but which also considers the darker side to such establishments.
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on 31 May 2010
I love food but I'm no foodie. Stiff, starched Michelin-starred restaurants are my idea of hell - as they are Rayner's wife's - so the author's globe-trotting in search of the perfect meal, involving some of the world's most expensive and exclusive restaurants, appealed only as an ideally entertaining read. Most readers couldn't afford these meals, if they were even deemed worthy of a table in the first place.
Initially I had admired his honesty, stating why he went for this kind of food snobbery, when others might find it distasteful - he stuck with his guns. But as his journeys continued the veneer of reason began to fade and the hedonism became ugly. Rayner goes on a Michelin-nosh one-night crawl in New York with an uber-rich author of a foodie blog. At one point, a waiter who has the temerity to be unaware of their magnificent plan, and who tries to offer them "cocktails and menus" - as if they'd need menus! - is "got rid of". It left a nasty taste in my mouth, as did their celebrations when meals were declared 'on the house'.
Increasingly the author dreams up gimmicky plans - the NY crawl, seven three-star restaurants in as many days in Paris - to avoid this feeling like a sequence of reviews, and a sense of gluttony creeps in. I went off Rayner. (As for the reviews on the cover - 'Laugh-out-loud funny' and 'Often hilarious' - I'm afraid my lips failed to curl upwards once, but then humour is so subjective.)
On the positive side, I did make it to the end, purely on the strength of the author's way with words. Were he to invite me out for a Michelin meal, even if he picked up the bill, I'd have to pass. Admittedly the invitation seems unlikely.
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on 25 April 2013
I'm a regular reader of Jay's newspaper column so I'm very familiar with his style of writing. I like the way that he obviously loves eating, is affected emotionally by the quality of his meal, the even-handed reviews he writes and the intensely readable descriptions of the food on his plate.

That said, this book feels like a set of reviews fashioned into a gastronomic journey rather than a solid book with plenty of added food details. He eats at all the top places in the World and often his narrative seems like just an excuse to go on to the next venue rather than a passionate need to explore the unknown pleasures of the city he visits (pleasures he is already well acquainted with one feels).

The writing as usual is good and it's an easy to pick up hard to put down type of book. The point lost is for the structure, that is a little too obvious.
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on 30 January 2013
Not sure what I was expecting when I started this, interesting enough read about the author's search for the perfect meal however it got a little bit tedious and thankfully he also discussed other issues with the country he visited. If you are a real foodie this is the book for you!
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on 9 October 2013
As a huge fan of Jay Rayner's Guardian column I couldn't wait to get my hands on this - and my, it didn't just live up to expectations, it exceeded them. Brilliantly funny, well observed and eloquently written, Jay Rayner continues to prove himself as not just a fine food commentator, but a magnificent author.
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on 2 December 2014
Jay's writing makes me laugh out loud, then go to the fridge, and gorge myself silly. He's one of my favourite food writers... no, scrap that: he's one of my favourite writers.

This book is a celebration of dining out, and I bought it for a foodie friend, who was utterly delighted by it.
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on 13 May 2012
Rayner may dismiss the 'cult of authenticity' but his absolute worship of the cult of exclusivity means that all you get from this book is a snobby and self-indulgent account of the most expensive and least accessible restaurants in the world. If this, rather than food, is what you're interested in then you will love this book.
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on 22 July 2014
Absolutely loved reading this. It was highly entertaining and also educational. Jay Rayner has a real gift with words.
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