Very cheap eats: Reviewing guidelines (and some rules)

This is, as Joe Strummer said, a public service announcement and it may “Rock the Casbah” a bit.The idea of Very Cheap Eats (Email me as gastrotomATgmailDOTcom if you’d like to become a reviewer) is to provide a guide to the best cheap food in Australian in the sort of places you’d actually choose to go out and spend an hour or so eating in. It is about meals of at least two courses costing less than $20 (or roundabouts) excluding beverages.It is not about takeaways and food courts. I’m happy to keep existing posts up but i just wanted to clarify this as it is important to stay true to the Very Cheap Eats vision.

The idea was bourn out of frustration of the existing guidebooks by AOF over at Confessions of Food Nazi. The Cheap Eats Guide some years ago lost the plot with even its price guide of $30 being fairly meaningless.

The Friday before the latest edition was published I ate at Cheap Eats Restaurant of the Year Rumi up at the far end of Lygon St. Aside from a couple of greasy stuffed fingers of pastry the food was pretty good. The service was excellent and they even went to the trouble of making a special iced tea for me (I was participating in the alcohol free charity event) that was off menu.I enjoyed the meal immensely despite having ordered too much. The fit out of the restaurant is delightful and the ambiance alluring (apart from one very loud woman nearby).But it cost about $80 for two. It was an incredibly good value meal. But it was not a Cheap Eat.Both Cheap Eats and The Good Food Guide give a very comprehensive coverage of Melbourne. But they have incrementally added so many features and seem to want to add more restaurants to their pages to bust the magic number of 500. This is the publishers chasing the dollar rather than serving the reader. They should each focus on what really are the best cheapest and simply the best eats of all.When AOF posted this I quickly registered a blogger account and a domain because this blog Very Cheap Eats is such a good idea. As far as I am concerned it is a community project and anybody can join (we have space for 100 contributors).But AOF and I feel there should be some strict guidelines to ensure we don’t go down the Cheap Eats route and lose the plot.

I’ve also given some guidelines to what should be covered to give a comprehensive review. I know this means a bit more work and observation but it also makes Very Cheap Eats a much better resource if you try and cover the items below.


1.The venue

It should be a sit down venue where you can enjoy two courses and a beverage of under $20 from ordering pretty much anything on the menu. If it’s a few dollars over that’s not too much of a problem. It could be a particular day of the week where the food is cheap. For instance, I must post about the Sunday Lunch at Madras Banyan Tree where the only option is a vegetarian banquet for about $20 plus drinks. Any other time and it would cost more to eat there but i think Sunday is within the spirit of Very Cheap Eats.

The location doesn’t matter. It can be anywhere in the world. Please include the name (linked to website if there is one), address and telephone number at the top of the post.

2. Double posting.

Yes, you can double posts and link back to your blog, as I have with this over at Tomato. It would also be nice to point to Cheap Eats to help build readership.

3. The food and ingredients

Is the food fresh and presented well? Does it taste good or inferior. Are the portions large or small? Don’t be scared to give your opinion.

4. Drinks

What did you drink? Does it serve coffee, tea, wine beer or anything else? How much do they cost?

5. Service

Is it self service or table service? Are the waiters attentive or lazy? Was service slow or quick or did they keep bringing you the wrong thing?

6. Money

How much did each thing you ate cost and do you think it was worth the money? Remember, broadly speaking you should be able to buy a meal of two courses for around $20 excluding drinks.What would be really useful for readers is to give the minimum and maximum prices for starters, mains and desserts and the price of coffee.

7. Ambience

This is important as we want to review proper cafes and restaurants that you would want to go out and eat in at night. We don’t want takeaway stores. Is it a place you’d want to spend time in or is it a horrible strip lit tiled room? The reader needs to know.

8. The best and worst of the venues

try and identify what you think is the best and the worst of the venue. Perhaps it is the horrible loos or the rude service. the reader wants to know. be ballsy and show some opinions because that’s what readers want. Don’t be frightened of opinion.