A Geordie businessman has become one of the most feared food critics in Britain – after being named as the most prolific restaurant reviewer on TripAdvisor.
Burly Phil Blackett, 52, has racked up 780 reviews of restaurants, takeaways and hotels, in an impressive 501 cities spread across 36 countries.
The sunglasses salesman travels the length and breadth of Britain for his work and meticulously rates every establishment he visits.
But the down-to-earth food fan is not easily impressed with fancy haute cuisine – and often rates fast food outlets above Michelin-starred restaurants.
Phil, of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, said: “I eat out every day, from Greggs to Michelin starred restaurants and they all get rated by me.
“I have given some of the top restaurants zero stars and the scruffiest of kebab shops high acclaim.
“I’m not fussy, I just have my standards.”
Phil travels extensively for his business Red Hot Sunglasses and started writing reviews on TripAdvisor under the pseudonym Dogsheep in 2008.
He has reviewed nearly 200 outlets in his home town of Newcastle and currently posts an average of one review a dayk, including restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions.
The father-of-two has posted reviews from as far afield as Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Venezuela.
According to statistics in his user profile, he has travelled 181,000 miles during his reviews and has travelled 31 per cent of the world.
“I travel the world with my business so there’s always opportunity to eat out,” he said.
“I’ve reviewed everything from kebab vans to posh hotels – although I would never write a review of my girlfriend’s cooking.”
His hard work paid off and he was crowned TripAdvisor’s most prolific UK reviewer of 2012, a feat which he hopes to repeat this year.
He said: “I was sent a huge hamper full of food and I was told I was the number one reviewer in the world. It got me thinking, no wonder my waist line was expanding.
“TripAdvisor were really happy that I took it seriously and appreciated the work that I do. I can think of worse jobs.
“It can’t be good for my health but I am eating out even more. I have put on a couple of stone going for the 2013 prize.
“Even when my missus just wants to make a Greek salad at home, I drag her out to a restaurant.
“I don’t think restaurant owners and waiting staff ever think I am such a prolific reviewer, so I get the treatment everyone else gets.
“If they are polite to a bloke like me then their service has to be five stars.”
Mild-mannered Phil has a list of six pet hates that turn him off any restaurant, and land them with a miserable review.
He said: “Rudeness really winds me up.
“No greeting at the door when you get there, and sloppy waiters drive me mad.
“Also, when restaurants play the wrong music, it really gets my goat. When I eat at an Indian restaurant, I want to listen to Indian music, not Radio One.
“Coloured crockery bugs the hell out of me. Food should be served on white or cream plates, no colours, not on slates and definitely not on any slates.
“Paper tablecloths and serviettes are another pet hate of mine.
“But saying all that, good food can overcome bad service.”
And Phil is not afraid to disagree with the world’s top restaurant critics – he blasted the two Michelin-starred Met Restaurant, in Venice, Italy, rating it a mere two out of five.
He wrote: “We were very excited to visit this acclaimed Michelin 2 starred Italian restaurant for my partner’s birthday only to be quite disappointed.
“The food was decent enough, service good, ambiance average.
“Some of these European Michelin starred places are just a little too bland and stuffy whereas in the UK are Michelin restaurants try a lot harder and tend to be more interesting and funky.
“Not very happy.”
And celebrity status means little to Phil, who savaged Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italian’ in Canary Wharf, London, describing it as a “half decent tourist attraction” and giving it three stars overall.
He wrote: “Great service, lovely staff, good quality charcuterie then it ended.
“The wine selection was poor as was our selection; Fritto misto very poor as were all of our pasta dishes.
“We won’t go back. Half decent tourist attraction.”
However, he was quick to sing the praises of fast food pizza takeaway Papa John’s, in Newcastle, which he gave a rare five-star review across the board.
He wrote: “We tried all of the usual suspects Dominoes, Pizza Hut and all of the locals and nothing comes near to Papa Johns. Fresh quality ingredients, regular consistency and excellent customer and delivery service.
“Try The Works and The Garden Party specials, and you will always return.”
But other outlets in his home town don’t rate so favourably.
Of Santana’s in Newcastle, he wrote: “I don’t for the life of me know why we visited this place. My son, daughter in law, granddaughter, daughter and me all with our trousers down. Tesco discount pizzas are better. Honestly, the service is dreadful and the restaurant is lifeless. Even the chairs are too low for the tables.”
Phil’s favourite restaurant is La Coupole in Paris, an art deco restaurant he reckons serves the best food in the world.
However, popular American chain TGI Friday’s in Newcastle also didn’t meet Phil’s exacting standards.
Giving them a one-star review, he wrote: “I really don’t know how these places survive. The food is certainly not fresh probably frozen. The service is so artificial.
“These English staff are trained in the American way but can’t pull it off. Poor, poor, plastic and poor.”
Phil’s sunglasses can be seen on www.redhotsunglasses.co.uk