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The Vote: Is food that grim up north?

Food critic Michael Winner says northern restaurants are terrible beyond human belief. Is he right?

Published on March 1st 2010.

The Vote: Is food that grim up north?

Food cooked in the North of England is universally dreadful.

So says Michael Winner. The film director turned critic has been in darkest Lancs filming Michael Winner's Dining Stars. He might be unearthing some domestic gods and goddesses, but as far as our restaurants go, he is adamant that there aren't any of note.

"The people are very nice, but they provide food that is absolutely pathetic and are incapable of cooking, so where I am going does not totally thrill me," he says.

And he told BBC Radio Five Live: “Every time I went for a meal... when we stopped in various restaurants, they were all terrible. Terrible beyond human belief.”

It follows a trashing in his Sunday Times column of the Duke William pub in Longridge near Preston recently.

After ordering his meal Winner was unhappy when the ketchup arrived in tiny plastic packets rather than a dish. He went on to criticise staff for not asking him how he wanted his burger cooked.

<p.“the>Paul Heathcote - 'Winner is losing his marbles'

Would that bother you? It's only a pub burger at the end of the day, isn't it? It's only a sachet of ketchup, isn't it? Or if we can't get that right, is there any hope for us?

Critic AA Gill has often gauged restaurants outside the capital against London values, sometimes refusing to review places on the grounds that they “wouldn't last a minute in Putney”.

And it's not just the food. What we may see as a fine dining experience is deemed pretentious by some critics. This is the Observer's Jay Rayner, who reviewed Cabbage Hall in Little Budworth, recently: “I try to eat outside London as often as possible, but the truth is that it's the gaucheness of restaurants like Cabbage Hall which mean that, too often, I embark upon those journeys with bitter trepidation.”

Micheal Winner 'Terrible beyond human belief'

But Paul Heathcote, who runs Simply Heathcotes and the Olive Press in Liverpool, hit back.

"Michael Winner is losing his marbles and obviously hasn’t found the right places to eat. If you look at the food in London, a lot of the suppliers are from the North of England. We have good produce and know how to use it. Most restaurants don’t think of Michael Winner as a serious critic, he is about sensationalism."

And Enzo Mauro, who runs Osteria Mauro in Prestbury and who was been named best chef in the North West, says: "I don’t think he knows what he is talking about. There are lots of good restaurants in the North. The people here are down to earth, and poncey food with patterns on the plate doesn’t survive here. We provide good, genuine food and value for money with quality ingredients."

But what do you think? Are we generally the poor relation when it comes to eating out in this country? Is this reflected by our lack of Michelin stars? Or is that a bogus argument and are they, as Winner also says, “all nonsense”?

Would our biggest Liverpool and Manchester names be able to cut the mustard if they were dropped into the middle of London, or would they be out of business overnight?

Or does none of that matter and is Michael Winner a silly old fart who should stick to selling insurance?

Go, go, go and vote on the homepage.

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49 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2010.

If he's so fond of London why doesn't the ugly fat pretentious whinging unadventurous slimy excuse for a soft arsed Southerner do us all a favour and stay there with all his hangers on he calls chums munching Offal at 200 quid a saucerful?He was quick to grab the cash and come up here just to get his grid on the TV though, methinks. Greedy too? surely not....And his adverts irritate. Hes more wooden than the stupid props in his so irritating stupid insurance ads. And why does he keep telling everyone that he's Michael Winner? Is he so scared people will forget who he actually is? Will they care?

London RoadFebruary 25th 2010.

The food up here is pretty dire, I have to say. I have lived in London for the last 20 years and dread coming up to see the relatives. The pretensions of one or two places that charge London prices are laughable. They would be laughed out of town in the real world.

Lech SakimboFebruary 25th 2010.

Weren't his legs at risk of falling off last year, from decades of over indulgence? Perhaps we could dine on them. How would you like them cooked Mr Wobbler Sir?

Consultant SturgeonFebruary 25th 2010.

That's right, they had him naked on the hospital bed amidst major confusion as looking at him, the nurse could not figure out which end to shove the suppository in.

ADFebruary 25th 2010.

There are lots of good places to eat in liverpool but I cant think of anywhere special. When I try to go for a really great meal I'm always disapointed despite there being plenty of expensive places, they just dont deliver. Winner is without doubt a prat, but his critisism is not without foundation.

DigFebruary 25th 2010.

I don't think Aiden Byrne, Pierre White, Michael Caines or Simon Rimmer would agree with Winner. The list could go on.

that'smrbollockstoyouFebruary 25th 2010.

Who listens to Winner anyway. He's another blinkered bonehead who rarely ventures past the northern apex of the M25. And to base his argument about food oop north on simple pub grub and a plain old burger is just bigotry. Read his review on line and realize what a tosser he is. Especially when it comes with a picture of him smiling, his chummy arms around the shoulders of the pub owner and the chef whom he then duly stabbed in their respective backs. Yak! Horrible creature.

MalHFebruary 25th 2010.

Why, oh why, do we fall for this every time. The silly old goat is an ageing has-been [who has never been much of an ever-been]. Why rise to the bait? Why give him the publicity and attention he craves, needs and has never desrved? Worse still, we are showing our lack of confidence. Just ignore the stupid arse and get on with enjoying our food, life and city.

Salad DazeFebruary 25th 2010.

At least no-one's said 'calm down'. Or was that Bob Monkhouse?

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2010.

I really have to agree with him, for the most part anyway!I have spent my working life in the food industry, from school canteens to kebab houses, aswell as importing and distributuion, and for the most part in the north, it is quite dreadful. There is no denying that battered sausage in Yorkshire, and pie in peas in Wigan, really don't have any sort of cosmapolitan jingle! I would suggest that the food around the Liverpool metro area is of a better standard that that of its neighbours, but Michael Winner really has got a point.

that'smrbollockstoyouFebruary 25th 2010.

Who listens to Winner anyway. He's another blinkered bonehead who rarely ventures past the northern apex of the M25. And to base his argument about food oop north on simple pub grub and a plain old burger is just bigotry. Read his review on line and realize what a tosser he is. Especially when it comes with a picture of him smiling, his chummy arms around the shoulders of the pub owner and the chef whom he then duly stabbed in their respective backs. Yak! Horrible creature.

Salad DazeFebruary 25th 2010.

PS That's an anagram of 'ricin wheelman'. Surely that must be significant.

Salad DazeFebruary 25th 2010.

I've just voted 300 times in this poll. Can we have an electoral commission?

Devout Beatles Fan from BasingstokeFebruary 25th 2010.

I know one thing is absolutely certain is that you get the very best Harry Ramsden restaurants and takeaways in the north of England. As they are really dire in the south, the managers who run south of England's Harry Ramsdens just do not have a clue how to run them. Just a shame the Harry Ramsden in Liverpool closed down, after falling victim to the waterside apartments. I went to the Liverpool Harry Ramsdens in 1994 really large haddock, mountain of chips and mushy peas -I wondered whether I was going to finish it all before getting soaking wet and wishing I'd gone in the restaurant instead of the takeaway. That southern fried chicken takeaway in Mathew Street I found was very good -used to be Lennon's cafe with Lennon's bar underneath. Also how anyone say that scouse is dire, I had that in 1994 in the scouse house kitchen in the Albert Dock, haven't been in Maggie May's yet, and once had scouse in the Cavern pub. I would never take any notice of the utter crap that Winner says. I certainly agree wholeheartedly with Paul Heathcote.

Sorry but...February 25th 2010.

Maggie May's scouse comes out of a tin. Rethink!

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2010.

what kind of food critic would even consider a burger, who cares how it's cooked, it will always be inedible.

AndyFebruary 25th 2010.

Dear oh dear, isn't it obvious that these highly paid meeja luvvies are paid to trash restaurants. (not literally I might add. Like AA Gill, that's their brief from their editors. For what it's worth, I've tried several Good Food Guide listed restaurants in London, and with the exception of one (Chinese) they have been completely underwhelming. Here's one - The Oxo Tower on the South bank. Crammed in like sardines, rushed to leave your table by rude staff, average food and then an eye-watering bill. But hey, It's London, it's trendy and you've got a view over the Thames. Wow.

FudeDoodFebruary 25th 2010.

I have a very good friend who lives in the South and he really knows his onions. When he comes to visit it's difficult or nigh impossible to come up with somewhere that wil impress him, the best we've managed so far is the restaurant at Hard Day's Night hotel. That was good enough but I know I couldn't take him to somewhere like Heathcotes where the food comes second to the chef's ego or any of our other expensive hotels who rely on central catering.We now look much further down the scale for interesting curry houses in Rusholme and decent local speciality places like The Stables in Garston.Winner is a complete tosser but he knows quality food and I doubt he'll find the kind of stuff he's looking for in our area.

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2010.

Your friend must equate high cost with quality then, is all I can say. There are plenty of people like that, otherwise places like HDN wouldn't survive

Northern ChuckFebruary 25th 2010.

Mr Loser didn't sample the delightful fish 'n chips from Chris's in Aigburth Vale. The DEcho made it chippier of the year so it must be good.

ADFebruary 25th 2010.

Chris's is Rose lane isnt it? and steve's aigburth vale?

I've been everywhere man !February 25th 2010.

The Ivy is no more expensive that Heathcotes or the Panoramic except the wine is a bit batty. High rents down there dictate. However our good restaurants are ok but deteriorate over time, the bistro types are excellent like Neighbourhood, Puschka and a couple in Lark Lane and as mentioned Stables in Garston there are loads. Hope Street was tired last time I went and the floor looked as if a football match had been played on it.

Norther ChuckFebruary 25th 2010.

Spot on AD. Chris's is in Rose Lane, a chip butty's throw from Steve's in the Vale. Both have won the Echo Chippy of the Year Oscar, which is why there are so many happy dumpling shaped people in that neck of the woods.

FudeDoodFebruary 25th 2010.

Anonymous doesn't understand that although cost and quality are (and must be) related it is not a fixed ratio. The problem is that there are plenty of good restaurants but no truly great ones. If one is trying to show off our region it's best to avoid challenging a gourmet. Until we have more demanding diners with more educated palates we will never achieve the standards Winner is looking for.Anyone who claims that we have top class restaurants around here is simply advertising their ignorance of the subject.

FudeDoodFebruary 25th 2010.

I agree about Chris's, they do provide the finest fried fish. Shame about the pale, limp chips.

Jezb89February 25th 2010.

Didn't someone say on here that they found a pube in their Friday night supper from the one in Aigburth Vale?

Roger MooreFebruary 25th 2010.

I am afraid that if you wanted to prove my friend Michael Winner right about food in the north being fodder for brainless oiks then you only have to look at the people on here talking about the favourite chip shop as voted for by the city's downmarket rag which is fit only for consuming the said potato and grease products from. What next, a discussion about our favourite kebab meat?

YozzerFebruary 25th 2010.

My favourite kebab is from The Olympic in The Old Roan. Free chips as well because the owner nobbed my auntie a few years ago.

lesbeeFebruary 25th 2010.

If you read Michael Winner regularly in the Sunday Times you will know that he travels to some top class restaurants and hotels all over Europe as well as London. He pays top bat prices and expects the best.He hardly if ever comes up North so has no idea what to expect- not surprised he has a complaint as some of our restaurants turn out quite ordinary food at top prices.If he went to Spire in Penny Lane he would find excellent food always at very reasonable prices as well as terrific service - always busy every day which proves the point

Tinker TaylorFebruary 25th 2010.

I agree with Truculent. Hope Street is littered with pretentious snobbery built on very average talent

FudeDoodFebruary 25th 2010.

Returning to Sir Roger's comments about fish and chips I might add that although Chris's can fry fish to perfection (one should remove the batter before serving) it should be noted that peas are not fluorescent in nature.

Fealias FogFebruary 25th 2010.

Dog's are very edible. On my travels I was taken to a Dog Banquet Restaurant in Asia. Not my favourite meat, have to say. But in emerging, cosmopolitan Liverpool, we could easily accomodate a doggie-eaterie here. Plenty of fresh supplies. Here's my favourite dishes for starters....German Shepherds Pie, Crispy Poodle, Spaniel Omlette, Chow Main, Collie Flower Cheese. Yummie, yummie

Sir David FrostFebruary 25th 2010.

Have you been out for the night in Victoria Street lately, Fog?

Al SationFebruary 25th 2010.

That's in very paw taste.

Truculent of ToxtethFebruary 25th 2010.

It wasn't Hope Street in particular I was referring to, it's any of the fashionable places, many of which have been reviewed in Liverpool Confidential. If you are paying though the nose is it too much to ask that the staff wear something a bit smarter than a black t-shirt?

that'smrbollockstoyouFebruary 25th 2010.

Spot on, Yozzer. The Olympic at the Old Roan also does the most magnificent fresh chips and mushy peas in a luscious onion gravy with a generously free plastic fork of quality design thrown in. No free chips, alas, but maybe that's because the owner hasn't knobbed my auntie. Well not as far as I know. She is 80 after all.

Ann DrexFebruary 25th 2010.

I tried a dog restaurant once - I had the ****su.Never again

R. SwipeFebruary 25th 2010.

Oops! What happened there?

Michael WinalotFebruary 25th 2010.

Eating dogs? Well if that don't take the biscuit. I was once covered in whippet cream, but that dog always was a bit over friendly.

TourmanFebruary 25th 2010.

Went to that sports place owned by an LFC player. It was like eating in Curry's window, all those tellys flashing away, with the sound turned down. Music was playing, far too loud. What is the point of that. The Spagetti was a solid lump. Not an experience I am going to repeat.

You have Bandit my friend?February 25th 2010.

El Macho stories anyone?

Freedom fromWiFiFebruary 25th 2010.

Protect and preserve us from restaurants offering free wifi. When I go for a meal the last thing I want is to see some office oath stuffing his, or her gob, while hammering away on a laptop. The same people usually spend the rest of the time on their mobiles, in between the burbs caused by not concentrating properly on their mastication.When I spot a restaurant advertising wi-fi I give it a wide birth. I mean would these people like it if I marched to their office desks, sat down and starting eating food as they tried to work.Horses for (food) courses - leave the laptop packed away and enjoy your food.Please lets have more restaurants advertising No WiFi, No Mobile Phones at dining tables . p-l-e-a-s-e

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2010.

Interesting to see that 75 percent of voters agree with Winner on this. What hope is there for us?

H. P. SauceFebruary 25th 2010.

There's nothing to stop Liverpool restaurateurs pulling their fingers out and taking their job seriously. Too many seem to run restaurants to attract footballers and other local figures of notoriety in order to feature in 'By Invitation Only' in the Oldham Daily Post rather than to provide a pleasurable experience for all their diners.

Afelia StifadoFebruary 25th 2010.

Why is it that Indian, Chinese, etc., restaurants can run to proper tablecloths, starched napkins and pleasant waiting staff whereas the overpriced trendy places have all the spartan charm of canteens or those ‘eat-all-you-can’ “restaurants”?

Stuart SullivanFebruary 25th 2010.

There's nothing worse than sitting at a table perhaps actually eating and catching the spray as a bare, dirty tabletop nearby is wiped down or even sprayed from a bottle!

x-manFebruary 25th 2010.

I have had two terrible meals in 24 hours in Liverpool

CymbalFebruary 25th 2010.


Bon VivantFebruary 25th 2010.

Just because the restaurants on offer to us in Liverpool are provincial, it doesn't mean that we also have to be provincial.

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