Meet the Real Picky Gourmet

Wed 10 Sep 2014 @ 15:31
Author Paul Dring

For the new issue of the magazine, I visited Zurich. Despite its stunning setting at the tip of the lake that bears its name, Switzerland's largest city has had something of an image problem over the years, being more associated with corpulent bankers than good, honest food. I was determined to seek out the truth, to unearth the hard-working and talented restaurateurs, chefs and food producers whom, I felt sure, were to be found if only one knew where to look. But where should I look?

Thankfully, I managed to enlist the help of Zurich food blogger, the Real Picky Gourmet, pictured above in characteristically incognito pose, who was able to introduce me to some of the city's finest. RPG, as I like to think of him, has been dining out and documenting Zurich's restaurant scene for the past six years and if anyone can help sort the wheat from the chaff when it comes to getting a good meal in the city, it is him. I caught up with him recently to ask him for more of the inside track on his hometown...

Jamie Magazine: Why did you decide to start writing a blog?
RPG: It was a combination of not liking the local press' food reviews, the desire to have a diary of where I ate and forcing myself to try something new almost every time Iíd go out.

How often do you eat out for your blog?
I dare not say but itís 4-5 days a week. When asked how I finance this I always reply, "no wife, no car, no kids!Ē

Do you always visit restaurants incognito? Why?
Yes, always! I truly believe this is the only way to review a restaurant. I want to portray a standard dining experience that most people would have when going to the same venue. If you show up as well-known critic, youíre not only fuelling your own ego instead of focusing on the experience, but youíre creating a highly artificial setting. Is Prince William ever going to get sloppy service and a chef not trying hard enough when dining out in London ? I doubt so, but his personal secretary will.

What's the best place you've discovered recently?
Strangely, it wasn't in Zurich. It was the Hawksmoor Guildhall in London. I went there on the last day of a business trip and had a fantastic breakfast, with a side dish of bone marrow. Espresso wasnít very good, but hey - itís England!

What's the strangest experience you've had while eating out for your blog?
It was when, by chance, I was sitting at a table with a restaurateur whose restaurant I had visited and he started to rant about the feedback he had got in one of my reviews. I decided to keep quiet and enjoy. It was a fascinating experience, seeing him dissing the cowardly reviewer. In terms of dining, though, Iíve seen many weird dishes from pizza poles to a concept that put multiple courses on a single plate. Service-wise, the really weird ones are always when the chef prefers to be in the dining room, sometimes leading to a mad frenzy as he dashes in and out of the kitchen between cooking and schmoozing the guests.

What are the big restaurant trends in Zurich at the moment?
There are always cuisine fads from gourmet burgers to balsamic reductions. But two things have been driving virtually most restaurants Ė a strong focus on regional and seasonal products (not all walk the walk though) and more casual dining.

If a visitor to Zurich had the opportunity to visit just one restaurant in Zurich, which would you recommend?
I refuse to answer that question, since this depends on your interests. For example none of the restaurants I would recommend would please any of those vegan souls that have strayed from the path of great dining.

Do you see yourself moving into the printed media or is digital where it's at?
I like the informality of digital and I dislike deadlines - both donít seem to work great with print, so Iíll happily leave that to the pros.

Have you ever been bribed ?
Not in the classical sense, the bribery is slightly more subtle. Especially restaurants with PR firms keep trying to get you to events. These are always free and alcohol is free-flowing.

You can read the latest reviews from the Real Picky Gourmet on his blog.



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