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Shadow reviews

There was a marketing questionnaire that came from Lonely Planet asking authors how many reviews they reckoned they'd written. I really wouldn't have a clue. As a guesstimate, there's hundreds in any guidebook you write then there's a gagillion food reviews, plus about a billion shadow reviews. These are the reviews you start writing then work out that your subject is never going to make it in, so you keep writing it just for yuks. Some of them are pure fiction while in others only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Here's a couple from the notebooks - including my Scotland blog:

The ambience is bright, fluorescently so, with an emphasis on brand names and logos that lends a pop culture chic. Chef “Hi, I’m Dave”, whose career we’ve followed from the Dandenong Rd’s Shell Servo, offers us the five chocolate bars for two dollars, but go for the house special – the caldo cane. Rolling over on a unique warmer/disinfector, the “dogs” (indulgently $2.95) are lured to a perfect brown at the hands of “Hi, I’m Dave” (his step-mother hopes he’s out chroming). Drizzled with a choice of sauces (our pick is the clag-lidded sweet chilli), the dog is far superior to the disappointingly still-frozen pastie. Cleanse the palette with a boysenberry Slurpee.

Cafe Kneehighs
They skip the babychinos for industrial double esspressos at this overrun joint. Mothers dodgem car for tables inside or employ armies of under-fives to conquer tables in what must once have been a garden, but is now a warzone. Distract a waiter from having their kneecaps bashed-in with an Etch-a-sketch to order a jammy pikelet or a serve of fruit toast that will be snatched away as a frisbee. Ham and cheese focaccias come cut to look like Dorothy the Dinosaur or mulched with toddler handprint. The red whizzer has enough chemicals to keep littlies juiced-up and squealing "I am the lizard king!" until just after a recess but in a diabetic coma by lunch. Kneeshighs is the compulsory stop for mums on the way to school.

The Brigands Arms (tel: XXXX; 22 somewhere in Glasgow; hours: open for football games, closing abruptly after) is where locals and tourists meet and occassionally beat. Provided you don't order half pints and steer clear of mentioning interest in any kind of football, you should escape with little more than a bruised ego and a sore elbow from lifting pints. Food ranges from Bloody Mary's to the special, Knuckle Sandwich.

Introduction to an unamed town
While Scrags Moat has no actual attractions to speak of, there are the twin jewels of free lavatories and rivalrously free parking.

If your idea of restored period features includes black tape holding down the carpet and a pool table with original cigarette burns, then the Badger and Ampersand (tel: withheld; The Laneway, OuterHebrides; hours: no time you'd want it to) is a spot you'll want to have World Heritage listed. The impressive display of cleaning chemicals on the loo window is a nod to a hygienic history (when this place used to be cleaned) and encourages interactivity in most patrons (if you don't clean it, who will?).


  1. cheeky but fun - i'd love to see yr review of MasterChef..!

  2. I think MasterChef has a restraining order out against me, but would love to review it if I get the chance.


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