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A week when humble pie was on the menu for our food critic


Matter of taste: Joris Minne

Matter of taste: Joris Minne

© Press Eye - Belfast - Norther

Matter of taste: Joris Minne

A bit of a chuckle was had by manys a Tele reader last week at the expense of two normally solid entities.

First we had the glorious spectacle of seeing the village of Moira dismissed as a "poor man's Hillsborough".

And if that wasn't hilarious enough for those of you who love a slice of good oul' Norn Iron controversy, the man dishing out the dissing was forced to eat humble pie … and a rather large helping at that.

Restaurant reviewer Joris Minne may have one of the best 'jobs' on the paper, but be fair: it can't be easy spooning down large quantities of top class food week after boring week.

Steak, venison, truffles, langoustines, crème brulee … there is quite literally no end to the horror he endures, voluntarily remember, on your behalf.

So onerous is this task I'm told it sometimes even requires the odd glass of claret to wash it down. Or even two.

Seriously though, it can't be easy staying fresh and relevant about restaurants 52 times a year in a small place. For seven years or so.

Joris's column in the Saturday magazine is one of the best-read in the paper. Which of course makes it a big deal if he stumbles. Or says something less than complimentary about someone or, as he discovered recently, somewhere.

It was the opening line of his review of restaurant Wine and Brine, run by chef Chris McGowan (you may know him from TV's Great British Menu) and his wife Davina, that set the heather alight: "Moira, the poor man's Hillsborough, is more than a dormitory town."

Cue outrage on Twitter and elsewhere: "Pompous muppet" wrote one. "Disgraceful and demeaning", fumed another.

Such was the furore that Joris was duly dispatched to the lion's den for a follow-up feature - bravely allowing himself to be photographed beside the Moira road sign and interviewing various locals about how wonderful the place really is. Not the poor man's Hillsborough at all. No sir. Not even a teensy bit. Slur withdrawn.

(More concerning to me actually was that Chris McGowan's name was misspelt six times in the original review. It was correct in the follow-up article, but lo! reappeared again in the Joris Revisited slot. The words "glory" and "covered in" do not spring to mind).

Now everyone has had a good chuckle, it's worth pondering on the relationship between local newspapers and their community.

You see, national newspapers can slag off places as viciously as they like, regionals don't - they champion them, are proud of them, place themselves at the heart of their communities.

To put Joris into context, consider the brilliantly acid-tongued Sunday Times restaurant reviewer AA Gill on the Welsh: "bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls".

Or the English, who are apparently a "lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd". Apparently, everyone you see on the Isle of Man "is Benny from Crossroads or Benny in drag".

We've been spared what he thinks of us, but hopefully it's just as savage. Gill, by the way, claims to be Scottish but, with his cravat and plummy accent, sounds and looks hardcore Home Counties.

Joris's "attack" on Moira was, then, a storm in a teacup because local newspapers need to be close and supportive of their communities and readers therefore don't expect to see their town being 'trashed' in their local paper.

Belfast Telegraph