THE VENISON VENDETTA

In a dramatic turn of events, Coco’s Cantina have seemingly banned all food critics following Peter Calder’s review of Cazador, printed in The NZ Herald this weekend.

The review of Cazador began with Calder writing at length about his dislike for venison, before giving it a slightly lacklustre review, although he then rated Cazador 4.5/5.  The venison tirade seemed to be spurred by the multiple venison offerings on Cazador’s  menu.

Coco’s Cantina is a well-established K Road institution, with a loyal following, and a cavalier attitude towards criticism – so much so that negative Facebook reviews adorn their website for all potential customers to see.  Subsequent to The NZ Herald publishing Calder’s review of Cazador, Coco’s Cantina took to Instagram and Facebook to lash out at Peter Calder and ‘all the other self acclaimed food reviewers’ and verbally trespass them from their restaurant.  The posts have since been deleted.

However, this move has garnered a fair bit of backlash, some from fellow restaurant owners. These days, anyone with access to the internet can write an angry Facebook review after an unsatisfactory experience, which cannot be censored by restaurant owners, regardless if the review is even true.  The old adage say that a happy customer tells one person about their experience, and an unhappy customer tells nine – a figure which has grown exponentially with social media especially as more consumers look to social media for information on restaurants prior to dining.  Conversely, the rise of the ‘lifestyle’ blogger has lead to an increase in the type of ‘rose-tinted’ stories which are not always accurate, and tend to overstate the fabulousness of the experience.  The virtue of a qualified restaurant critic is that they know the ins and outs of hospitality, they understand how to critique food and experiences within the context of the restaurant and then clearly communicate this to consumers.  In the age where everyone has an opinion and lifestyle bloggers are around every corner, a knowledgable restaurant critic can rise above all the noise and actually give a helpful opinion on an experience thus informing consumers in an educated, thoughtful way.   Additionally, banning critics runs the risk of falling out of the top restaurant loop – as this move could hinder the judging of Metro Top 50 and other hospitality awards.

Cazador co-owner, Barbara Smidt, has spoken out to say she bears no grudge against Calder, but expects reviewers to come with an open mind, be fair, have expertise in the area, and engage in a constructive conversation.  Smidt also said she believed there was still a place for restaurant critics, and they don’t owe it to the restaurant be give a good review.