Ok, it’s time to get a bit contentious. One of the reasons I created Singapore Foodie was to write independent and impartial food blogs for people who like the same sorts of things in a restaurant that I do. Namely; great food, decent service (I’m not asking for miracles here people), good ambience and value for the money I spend. I’ve lost count of the times though where I’ve read reviews that rave about the food and fail to mention that the restaurant is located in the middle of nowhere and has the ambience of a supermarket. Sounds rather simple but in Singapore finding this combination is no mean feat. Do you want to read food reviews that only talk about the good things at a restaurant? Or that only talk about the food and not the environment where you’ll be dining? Are you after a more honest view of the restaurant experience? If you want honesty then that is what I’ll give you. I want you to hear the whole story and not just the shiny, happy bits.
Why Do You Read a Food Blog?
I, probably like you, like to try new restaurants, especially when there’s the hope that you’re going to get wonderful food, in an amazing setting and at reasonable prices. Well that combination doesn’t happen very often in Singapore so I’m on a perpetual hunt to find the best of the bunch. I recently wrote about the 10 best places where I’ve consistently found the best combination of food, service and experience. From the feedback on twitter and emails I realised I am not alone in my quest. The trick is that often you need to visit a restaurant multiple times so you can average out the experience, taking into account the foibles that occur at a restaurant on any given night. Next week I’ve booked into four restaurants I’ve never visited previously, as part of Singapore Restaurant Week, so I can decide whether to re-visit them and pay the usual prices that are charged. After that I’ll decide whether to write about the experiences.
What’s Wrong With Singapore Food Blogs?
There’s a big difference between going out for hawker food and dining out in a restaurant for two or three hours. There are great Singapore food bloggers that will reveal the best places to go for your Char Kway Teow or your Bak Kut Teh. But if you’re after restaurant reviews that offer an impartial and independent opinion about the entire eating experience then you need to delve deeper. There are times when I’ve read a review that waxes lyrical about the amazing food, but fails to mention the ambience feels more like a church hall than a place to while away the hours on a Saturday afternoon. The Ascot (pictured above, and unsurprisingly now closed) is a case in point. I booked the venue for lunch with friends after reading several rave reviews about the food. My disappointment on arrival when I saw the faux brickwork, gravel floor and fake leather couches was palpable. Yes, the food was good. But failing to mention the rather odd ambience and the fact that service was poor is a complete oversight. And part of the problem is that so many Singapore food blogs are sponsored.
Why Is This a Problem?
There are several reasons why I think sponsored reviews are a problem. A lot of food bloggers write about meals they’ve enjoyed as part of a ‘media event’ where the restaurant is closed to the public so that VIPs can enjoy dedicated service in an environment fully prepared to wow them with every bell and whistle on hand. The problem here is that you’re not able to ‘appreciate’ the service that the average punter will receive when they walk in the door. So you can hardly comment on the restaurant in its entirety if the service is out of the equation. As I’ve said on many occasions, eating out is an experience that starts from the time you choose your venue, it’s the expectations, the service, the food, the ambience and the price all rolled into one.
Aside from the service, if the meal is provided ‘free of charge’ even if there’s no guarantee of a good review, I think it’s very difficult to be impartial about what you write if you’re not spending your own money. The ‘value’ you receive for the meal is compromised if you are not handing over your own hard earned cash. Now I’m prepared to debate this topic. In fact my own husband disagrees with me on this one (although every time we discuss it I end up winning the argument).
There are times when I’ve enjoyed a meal and a friend or company has picked up the tab, but if I want to write about it I’ll re-visit the restaurant and write a review based on the entirety of my experiences. And sometimes my view changes.
Maybe my resolve will be tested in the future as I’m invited to more food related events, and I’ll have to work out how to deal with that. But I vow to only blog about food experiences from my own perspective, after I’ve paid for my own experience, taking into account all the factors I like to enjoy when eating out.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest I’m off to find some good food
Tell me what you think.
Are you a food blogger in Singapore?
Have I got it wrong?
Do you think that locals and expats have different expectations about restaurants?