A few weeks ago, I was given a complimentary copy of Zomato’s Restaurant Guide for review. Having made it clear that my review may or may not turn out to be flattering, I diligently tried to use the book every time I felt like eating out.
Having done so, here’s my verdict: as a directory, it just about makes the grade; as a restaurant guide, I am not impressed.
First, the good.
Excellent production quality; nice, thick covers; glossy, well-designed pages, great photography on the section divider pages. A nice size and shape – just right to slip into a handbag. Cheap, at just under Rs.200 (Flipkart is currently offering it at Rs.149).
I also appreciated the fact that the index attempts to categorize restaurants based on the kind of experience a reader is seeking, rather than by cuisine alone, which doesn’t tell you anything about ambiance. So, for instance, you can decide whether you are looking for “Beer in a Bar” or a “Romantic Dinner”. Nice.
Individual entries in the Zomato Restaurant Guide carry a QR code, giving smartphone users instant access to a restaurant’s menu on the Zomato site. Pretty cool! Entries also feature a sidebar of “don’t miss” dishes, making it easier for you to decide what to order when you get there.
Another thing I liked was the fact that the “average user rating” clearly states how many users voted, lending context to the otherwise meaningless numbers – a rating of 3/5 across eight users (Pinxx), for example, doesn’t carry as much weight as a rating of 3.1/5 across 73 users (Punjab Grill).
And now the bad news.
There is no categorization by locality. Yup, you read that right. As a result, certain areas (North Bangalore, for example) are grossly underrepresented. What’s more, this crucial omission also makes the guide somewhat frustrating to use.
While the Zomato Restaurant Guide claims to “distill the zomato.com experience” into print format, discrepancies abound. For example, the entry for Copper Chimney (page 97) claims a rating of 3.4 from 22 user votes; however, Zomato.com carries a total of 69 user ratings across both the restaurant’s locations. And yes, I do realize that more ratings could have been made on the site while the book was in print… which is exactly why trying to create a print version of an online directory is a bad, bad, idea.
And then there are the “user reviews“, which, ostensibly, are a restaurant guide’s raison d etre. I am sorry to say that these are utter pap. Sample this gem:
Coorg (page 97): “With artifacts, pictures, and posters that breathe Coorg, this house turned restaurant is open only during the weekend. This restaurant specializes in Coorgi food.”
That’s it. The sum total of the restaurant “review”. Gee, that tells me everything I need to know about the place. And with a name like “Coorg”, I would never have guessed that it specializes in Kodava (NOT “Coorgi”, thank you very much!) cuisine. Worse, despite the fact that this is labelled as a “user review” in the book, it isn’t culled from either of the online reviews I found for this restaurant on the Zomato site. There goes credibility… sigh.
The Zomato guide’s closing list of “restaurants you just cannot miss” lists Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, Daily Bread, KFC, and McDonalds, among others. I can only assume they mean “restaurants that are so ubiquitous that you can’t help seeing them on every street corner” rather than “don’t miss out on the experience of visiting these restaurants.” It’s precisely this kind of sloppy writing and editing that round out my grouse list: “one can witness the wide range of baked products…”; “provides diners with an atmosphere to truly appreciate fine Chinese food with high quality service”; and the consistent use of “it’s” instead of “its”, to cite a few examples.
I guess it’s a good thing I got this edition for free, because no, I wouldn’t pay Rs. 200 for it. Let’s hope the next edition does a better job!