Screenshot: Le Cinq website

When Guy Fieri opens a joint whose signature dish is donkey sauce, you can sorta expect the horrific reviews that will follow. Not so with the time-honored culinary institutions of the world, the expensive, high-end restaurants that ostensibly serve once-in-a-lifetime meals. Guardian restaurant critic Jay Rayner certainly didn’t think so when he decided visit Paris’ Le Cinq for “an observational piece” that he figured would be “full of moments of joy and bliss of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy.”

“We’d all have a good laugh at rich people,” he continues, “and then return to business as usual, a little wiser.” Things… didn’t go as planned.


Rayner’s searing review of Le Cinq, a Michelin three-star restaurant where single dishes can run up to €140 (currently $148), is a verbal takedown that makes Pete Wells’ New York Times review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar look downright tame. Credit Rayner’s deep quiver of razor-tipped insults, which find the writer describing one dish as a “Barbie-sized silicone breast implant” and another’s texture as “sticky like the floor at a teenager’s party.”

One can only imagine the chef huddled in a corner, shivering, after reading the following paragraph:

A dessert of frozen chocolate mousse cigars wrapped in tuile is fine, if you overlook the elastic flap of milk skin draped over it, like something that’s fallen off a burns victim. A cheesecake with lumps of frozen parsley powder is not fine. I ask the waitress what the green stuff is. She tells me and says brightly: “Isn’t it great!” No, I say. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten. It tastes of grass clippings. Parsley is brilliant with fish. But in cheesecake? They take it off the bill. With our mint tea, we are served an on-trend kouign amann, a laminated caramelised pastry. It’s burnt around the edges.


Even better are the photos Rayner took of the dishes, each of which contrasts wildly with the press photos the restaurant insisted that the Guardian run. He compares and contrasts them over on his own site, which you can peruse while trying not to retch at the concept of “milk skin.”