Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not a good signal

In an attention-getting libel case, a Belfast restaurant successfully sued The Irish News paper over a bad review. Coverage here, here, and here. One thing that might have gotten the reviewer annoyed right at the start: an Italian restaurant trading as Goodfellas.

UPDATE: It's not easy to find the original review, but here's the gist of it from the Irish News report of the day their reviewer gave testimony in the libel case --

[1 February 2007; The Irish News; Pg. 3] On the third day of the hearing before Mr Justice Coghlin and a jury of four men and three women, Mrs Workman recalled her visit to Goodfellas with two friends and said her overall impression was "hugely disappointing" because she had expected an authentic Italian meal of fairly decent food.

"I had been recommended this place by a friend living in west Belfast and I had very poor food," she said. "It had not been a pleasant experience."

Mrs Workman was taken through her review by Brian Fee QC, appearing with Bernard Fitzpatrick for The Irish News, and she told the jury that although she and her friends requested 'non-smoking' the general atmosphere was quite smokey. She said that at the table next to them people were smoking and there were lit cigarettes in the ashtray.

"We ordered Cokes and, as I described in the article, they were flat, not chilled and tasted watery," she said. Mrs Workman said the garnish accompanying a prawn starter dish was also floating in a warm sauce, the pate had not much flavour and when she cut a ring of her squid dish the meat was a grey translucent colour. "It did not taste like fresh squid and in the article I said it was reconstituted fish meat because it did not have the uniformity of texture," she said.

Turning to the main courses which all of her group tasted, Mrs Workman, who now lives in Cork, said the chicken marsala was smothered in a fairly thick sauce which did not taste as though marsala wine had been used. "It is a typical Italian dish which I have cooked myself and this dish bore no resemblance to real chicken marsala," she said.

The court was told that the pasta in a spaghetti dish was overcooked and soggy while the salami in a pizza was processed and of a spongy texture.

Mr Fee referred Mrs Workman to her rating in which she gave Goodfellas one mark out of five. At the opening of the case the mark was said to correspond to "Stay at home."

FINAL UPDATE 8 MARCH: A New York Times article about restaurant review litigating mentions the Irish News case, although it at one point incorrectly mentions the Irish Times as the newspaper in question, and it also refers to the Belfast case as reflecting properties of the legal system in "Ireland."

Note: The verdict is being appealed.

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