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Critic Jay Rayner Claims Soho Restaurant Tried to Shut Down Review

Jay Rayner’s review of Martha’s, a new Soho restaurant, comes with a side of discussion about restaurant media in 2019

Jay Rayner’s review of Martha’s Soho in the Observer asks questions about London restaurant reviews in 2019 Jay Rayner: Getty Images; Martha’s: [Official Photo]; Composite: Eater London

Can a restaurant tell a critic it doesn’t want to be reviewed?

Jay Rayner, the Observer restaurant critic, ran into an unfamiliar difficulty in reviewing Martha’s, a new American-inspired bistro in Soho: a restaurant that had no desire at all to be reviewed. Contextualising the publication of his review with a thread of tweets, Rayner explained why the photos published were his, rather than done by an editorial photographer:

To recap after I visit we send a photographer to take pics of the restaurant and the dishes I had. Martha’s told us firmly that they did not wish to be reviewed. They clearly decided that the way to stop this happening was to refuse our request to photograph.

We could not let a restaurant dictate to us whether we could review or not. Martha’s has employed expensive PRs at launch. There were press releases, and coverage across various preview websites. They slapped pics of their food across social media. They were not shy.

And frankly it would set a terrible precedent if we allowed them to dictate our review choices. Plus There was no good reason for us not to run what I think is a fair appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses.

This is certainly an uncommon situation. It’s also striking for Rayner’s focus on Martha’s use of PR, press releases, and influencers to publicise itself: resources that the restaurant itself can control. Applying that dictation to a critic of any standing, let alone one of the most experienced and longest serving out there, is a remarkable move on the part of the restaurant; Eater has contacted Martha’s for comment on why it did not wish to be reviewed, and why it considers itself to be in a position to make such a stipulation. [Twitter]

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