I have written before and elsewhere of my high regard for Rayner’s witty restaurant review writing in The Observer Magazine. The witticisms reach their zenith when erring on the caustically critical climb, but he is also a graceful appreciator of what pleases. Above all, his creativity in expressing both pain and pleasure is boundless, as well as relentless, especially with the former emotion.
An additional part of my significant liking is for the man himself because of one particular encounter. Briefly, and some years ago now, an A level English student of mine wrote an exceptionally gifted ‘mock’ restaurant review as part of a writing unit exploring language registers and genre. Using Rayner’s work as exemplar, her creation was outstanding: linguistically rich, especially in its articulate, elegant and creative use of an apt semantic field, and comically brilliant. Rayner could not have bettered it himself.
As he freely and generously acknowledged himself. To support their creative writing pieces, students had to present an accompanying critical commentary. Having previously sought and obtained feedback from exemplar authors themselves to inform such commentaries, I therefore took a chance on contacting Rayner through The Observer to request the same for this girl’s stunning work. To his tremendous credit he responded with a letter full of genuine, effusive praise for her writing. And it was the unreserved, richly glowing expression of that praise that so pleased, and impressed.
In today’s review of The Holy Birds restaurant in London titled Divine Retribution, Rayner is as usual on fine form. You can and should read the whole here, but I will quote a snippet that, as always, had me smiling as I read,
The room in front of that kitchen is orange. Very orange. It’s like they’ve broken Donald Trump down for parts and used them to kit out a dining room. There’s an orange counter, orange dangly lights and orange banquettes, plus various bits of midcentury modern furniture and wood panelling. If the art director on Mad Men had got completely off their tits on Fanta and then set to work, it would look like this.
I may later add the two previous references to reviews I have posted before, but it is always best to read his current work, and I look forward to next Sunday. I will never forget his thoughtfulness in writing so fulsomely to my former student. I am sure there are very many who wouldn’t be bothered to do so.