The Principles - SOMEONE HAS TO KEEP UP THE STANDARDS

LONGITUDINAL ASSESSMENT

The evaluations occurred over decades by the same person or persons, so that the continuity of assessment is preserved,  quality can be recognised over time, and the slow and gradual lowering or rising of quality standards is diagnosed.   Our oldest reviews go back to the late 1970s.  

 

Few of today's reviewers have eaten in top restaurant and tasted wines since the 1980s, or flew the Concorde and experienced travel in the days before mobile phones and GPS, as well as today.  

 

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THE RATINGS and NUMBERS

we score from 0/5 up to 5/5, 5/5 denoting perfection.  3/5 is a good experience, 2/5-2.75/5 is mediocre, a rating under 2/5 is not an experience we would strive to repeat, and a rating under one signals serious deficiencies.   The full-number ratings will be the most reproducible of course.  We fine-tune our ratings up to the quarter unit, e.g. 1/5, 1.25/5, 1.5/5 etc.   We do not skew the numbers to make them look better for marketing or other purposes.  This is what some wine raters do, who have scores from 0-100, but only use, for instance,  80-100 to make it look better.  After all, 81/100 sounds better that 1/20.  Many other reviewers are marketers, implicitly or explicitly.

 

Ref.:

(1) https://www.wine-searcher.com/critics-17-wine+enthusiast: "Score range: 80 – 100 points." Accessed 21/7/2019.

(2) https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2018/06/wine-writings-lack-of-judgment Accessed 7 August 2019

 

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THE BENCHMARK

Either and objective standard representing the best is taken as 5/5, or the best experience and quality ever experienced is taken as 5/5, i.e. the perfect score.  We aim at objectivity, i.e. even if we personally dislike a product or service, if the standards are fulfilled, our subjective negativity and dislikes need to be ignored.

 

For the Benchmarks in detail, see https://www.civilisedthoughtconsultants.com/the-benchmarks/

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IN DUBIO PRO REO

In case we cannot decide between two adjacent scores, i.e. 3.5/5 or 3.75/5, we will round it up to the better score.  This is out of respect for the effort that the providers, often professionals and the teams behind them have made or purported to make.

 

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RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Scores:

Food 3.5/5  hygiene, freshness, creativity, cheese.

Rest 1.5/5: Wine Service and glassware, decoration, hygiene incl. tablecloth (white is best).  Absence of undue noise. (1)

TOTAL 5/5. 

 

Minimum Requirements:

Food, incl. freshness and hygiene, wine or sake selection, tablecloth and napkins (preferably white to assess the wine's colour), service, cleanliness, fair payment conditions as far as we are aware, good cutlery/silverware and stemware

(omitting tablecloths and carpets raises the noise levels; omitting cutlery certainly increases the profit).  Restaurants without acceptable cutlery, without proper tablecloth, without proper glassware, without proper printed wine list, or with excessive noise will not be accepted for review.

 

Complexity, refinement and creativity score highest, but a simple and classic dish executed perfectly scores nearly as high. 

 

Cultural Exception: in Zen-style minimalist Japanese Restaurants in Japan, presuming absolute cleanliness and low noise levels, no tablecloth is required, and if a superb sake list is available, no wine list in necessary to achieve top scores for the wine list.  For restaurants outside Japan who call themselves “Japanese” our Japanese team member will decide whether they reach the quality standards necessary to include them in our reviews. 

 

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References:

(1) Noise levels in restaurants:  https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2018/4/18/17168504/restaurants-noise-levels-loud-decibels

Accessed 26/5/18. 
(2) An email I received in July 2019 about omitting cutlery:
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FOOD HYGIENE STANDARDS IN GENERAL

Restaurants with poor Govenment Food Ratings will usually not be reviewed.

 

Basic Food Hygiene is important, even in less public  eateries without tablecloths like Membership Clubs, Airport or Hotel Lounges; e.g. cutlery must not directly touch the table.


The cutlery must not touch the table.

 

WINE/SPIRITS REVIEWS 

Bouquet, taste, balance, intensity, fruit, tannin, longevity, complexity, texture,  length and character of the finish are taken into account.   Screwcaps create an airtight seal that prevents oxygen entry and hence maturation of the wine.  Screwcaps also make is more difficult to assess heat and storage damage; this enables wine merchants to sell unfit wine much easier.  Additionally, the sulphur in some white wines accumulates under the screwcap and tends to spoil the bouquet of a white wine.  Therefore, wines with screwcap closure will not be reviewed.  Wines with composite corks will have 0.25 points deducted from the score as there is a risk of contamination from the binding chemicals; wines with glass stops or plastic corks will not be accepted for the same reasons as for the rejection of screwcaps.   We review wines blinded and unblinded; eventually all blind tastings tend to be unblinded.

 

Ref.:

(1)https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2019/08/the-blind-cant-lead-the-blind-tasting?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190807-article01 Accesses 7 August 2019.

(2) https://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2018/06/wine-writings-lack-of-judgment Accessed 7 August 2019.

 

WATER REVIEWS

Our guide is the Berkely Springs Water Tasting system, see http://berkeleyspringswatertasting.com/:appearance, odor, flavor, mouthfeel, aftertaste, and overall impression.  We also incorporate the principles of Daniela Hammer's Diploma Thesis at Vienna University Beurteilung der Qualität von österreichischen Mineralwässern pp. 59-68.

Ref:  http://othes.univie.ac.at/1321/1/2008-10-06_0202826.pdf

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PIPE TOBACCO REVIEWS

Pipe Tobaccos are reviewed without filters in the pipe.

 

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HOTEL REVIEWS

Safety is paramount in our assessment.  Additionally, good design, cleanliness, amenities and the availability and quality of the services offered, including front desk, concierge, housekeeping and room service.  Furthermore, location and design, whether traditional or modern, is included in our rating.

 

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AIRLINE SERVICES REVIEW

Safety is not rated, as independent sites are available for that purpose.  We select airlines based on safety foremost.  

Check-in, transfer to lounge, Quality of Lounge (also separately rated)

In-flight and lounge meal service analogue to restaurants, taking the particular circumstances of airborne dining into consideration.  

 

Airline flights are rated individually and as average of several flights taken.  Rated are seats, staff, food, wine/drinks, cutlery and glassware, amenities. 

 

Airline lounges: design space, noise, showers/toilets, quality of food, drinks, glassware, staff assistance, transfer/escort to plane, amenities.  

 

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TRAVEL REPORTS AND TRAVELER PROGRAMMES

When we report about travels, incl airlines, hotels etc., we are not focusing on how to use miles, points etc. optimally.  This is not a website about frequent flyer programmes, like many other websites are.   Whilst we are members of various such programmes and  share our experiences and hints from time to time, this is not a website mainly dedicated to such Frequent Flyer schemes.

 

Although we try to use our miles or points optimally, of course, the vast majority of the hotels and transfers (like flights, train trips , hotel stays etc.) is properly paid; most of our travel is paid for in full and is self-financed or employer-paid.  The travel for valid reasons, mainly for work.  We are no AvGeeks.

 

MEMBERSHIP IN FREQUENT TRAVELER PROGRAMMES

Due to out travels we have qualified for premium tiers in a number of airline and hotel loyalty rewards programmes (e.g. Star Alliance Gold, United World Emerald, Sky Team Elite, years of top tier membership in the Starwood, Hyatt and Accor hotel loyalty programmes etc.), which might result preferential treatment that other members of the same tier would receive too.

Higher tiers give us the usual upgrades and amenities the these premier tiers entail, which gives us a chance too see how the service provider honours these entitlements.   We are focusing on the quality of serviced in general though, especially the service that is provided to all people independent of their tier in the relevant loyalty programme.

 

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FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE:

All evaluated goods and services are self-financed.  None of the goods and services rated were marketed or sold by us. No “free”offers or offers that were entailing a conflict of interest were accepted.  Discounts were only accepted if they were offered to others/the public equally.  No payments from producers, wholesalers, retailers or marketers related to the products we review were accepted. 

 

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SELECTION CRITERIA

We keep ourselves informed and at times go by the recommendation of others, and we also exploring spontaneously the areas we are staying or traveling in at any given time.   We do not, of course, claim to evaluate all establishments, services, products or companies that exist, but only a small selection. 

 


"COMMENTS"

Sometimes we add items without rating them - we call it "Comments".  Some photos fall into this category.   In these cases we feel unable to give precise rating for various reasons.

 

 

OUR PHOTOS

The vast majority of our photos are taken on the run, as part our real life, by ourselves.  We do not spend much time taking them, nor do we spend hours waiting do the perfect shot, as photographers who photograph for marketing pictures might do. 

 

We avoid "photos courtesy of [insert the establishment photographed]', which are marketing pictured to show the chocolate side of the establishment only.

 

We try to avoid photographs that might identify persons without their consent, and we respect the privacy of others.  In cases where photographing is inappropriate, we will refrain from it and rather leave our preview without photos.  This is especially valid for older reviews from times where cameras were clunkier, and taking photos in public was much less acceptable.