14/20 Is the Loneliest Number

Regular visitors to these parts know of this site’s ongoing interest in Sydney Morning Herald restaurant critic and man-about-town Terry “14-out-of-20” Durack, who lately has developed a bit of a knack for turning up wherever the Pricks have decided to go to dinner.

Today Durack reports on the new Rocks bistro Ananas (his verdict: 13/20), leading the Prick to wonder, where have all the 14/20s gone? Along with Ananas, in the past few weeks since our latest run-in, Durack has hit the new Sailors Club (to which he gave a very generous 15/20; the Pricks’ experience was decidedly more mixed and the crowd-sourced reviews over at Urbanspoon would tend to agree) as well as Petersham favourite Blancmange (which received 13/20, though his review read far more positively than the score would indicate). Has Durack gotten self-conscious about what was once his go-to rating?

In any case, the Herald’s point system for restaurants is all but meaningless. Hard-working chefs and restaurateurs on the receiving end of a 13/20 (“good if not great”, according to the scale) must wonder where the line lies between that score and a 14/20 (“solid and enjoyable”) and even a 15/20 (“very good”). The answer, of course, is that differences are likely as attributable to chance as to effort: the fine texturing of the 20 point scale creates an illusion of precision where the critic’s vocabulary falls short. If ratings must be used, less rather than more is the way to go. At least with more traditional “star” systems, i.e. the New York Times zero-to-four scale, the difference between a two or a three or a four-star establishment should be pretty clear and understood by all. The way the Herald does things, it’s pretty much throwing darts at the fat bit of the bell curve.

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6 Responses to 14/20 Is the Loneliest Number

  1. Darryl Martin says:

    Very, very well said. You have just voiced the opinions of the majority of the Sydney restaurant scene. Even the top end can agree with what you’ve just said.
    Keep it up

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