London chef Richard Wilkins has accused Daily Telegraph restaurant critic William Sitwell of ‘playing the victim’, following a public feud over a negative restaurant review.
The disagreement began when Sitwell published a less than positive review of 104 Restaurant in Notting Hill, which is the brainchild of Wilkins.
In his Telegraph column, Sitwell wrote that he was largely unimpressed with 104, pointing out that he found a dish of Challans duck with watercress to be “undercooked and chewy”, while he labelled a dessert of chocolate moelleux as being “too cold.”
Richard Wilkins disagrees with William Sitwell's negative review of his restaurant
Following our coverage of the story earlier today, Wilkins got in touch with SquareMeal to give his version of events. During a lengthy phone call, he admitted to leaving the reported voicemails and text messages, but believes his words were taken out of context.
"Firstly, I didn’t actually see the review until about three or four days after it was published” says the chef. “The first contact I had with Mr. Sitwell is when we spoke on the phone and he said he would call me the next day to discuss. I then received a voicemail from Mr. Sitwell saying he didnt want to talk to me because I am not professional.”
“What I meant by saying I would come to one of his supper clubs is that I wanted to give him a chance to explain himself in person. I think it’s unfair to label this as threatening, as that implies a threat of physical violence. Asking someone to meet up and talk isn’t violent.”
During our chat, Wilkins also spoke about what he considers to be an obvious conflict of interest.
Marianne Lumb has cooked at Sitwell's supper club
“Marianne Lumb, who used to occupy the space where my restaurant now sits, is a close friend of William Sitwell” says the chef. “She has cooked at his supper clubs and there are pictures of them on Instagram together. I worked with Marianne when she operated the restaurant and we didn’t get on very well – I think she’s bitter that I am now operating a restaurant on the site which was once hers.”
Wilkins believes that Sitwell wrote a bad review of his restaurant because of his allegedly close relationship with Marianne Lumb. He points out that he has taken other criticism by restaurant critics on the chin.
“We’ve had Fay Maschler, Giles Coren and Andy Hayler all come in, and I’ve thanked them all for their reviews and their feedback – I’m a fair person. However, I believe in this instance Sitwell has used his position of privilege to try and step on someone to make himself look better.”
William Sitwell has been the Telegraph's restaurant critic since January 2019
Wilkins also says that he made an official complaint to the Telegraph, but that the newspaper neglected to remove the review from its website.
Despite their public falling out, Wilkins did say that he is happy to meet up with Sitwell to resolve things.
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