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Wednesday, July 15, 1998 Published at 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK


Times off the menu in Taunton

Taunton residents are angry how they are depicted in the article

Residents of in the West Country are fuming after a restaurant critic condemned their home town as "boorish" and "unleavened by physical beauty".

BBC Correspondent Clinton Rogers examines the West Country furore
Jonathan Meades, food critic of The Times, went to the Somerset town for the opening of a new restaurant.

But while the menu and ambience met his approval,Taunton did not.

[ image: The article in The Times calls locals
The article in The Times calls locals "sheep shaggers"
His article has angered residents so much that the MP has demanded an apology.

Meades asked in The Times article if the restaurant would thrive in the town.

He questions whether the "three headed sheep shaggers" would come down from the hills to support the establishment.

And if they did, he continues, where would they park their combine harvester or tie up their cow?

[ image: Restaurant goers would have nowhere to tie up their cows, says Mr Meades]
Restaurant goers would have nowhere to tie up their cows, says Mr Meades
The article has outraged residents of a town which prides itself on its county town affluence and new town centre, fine restaurants and Britain in Bloom standing.

But his view has been supported by fellow-columnist Auberon Waugh, who lives nearby, and who described the town as "hell on Earth".

He said: "Everybody in Somerset tries to avoid it.

"It's been made much much worse by the Liberal Democrats since they came to power.

"They've pedestrianised the whole place so you have to walk - you can't park your combine harvester anywhere."

[ image: Local MP Jackie Ballard wants an apology]
Local MP Jackie Ballard wants an apology
Local reaction to the article has led the town's Liberal Democrat MP Jackie Ballard to table a Common's motion seeking an apology.

She said: "I think its a disgraceful slur on the county town of Somerset and also Mr Meades made some crude comments on the natives of Somerset who he thinks are not sophisticated enough to enjoy a good restaurant.

"I can assure him they are."

Mr Meades said he will not withdraw his comments as they were meant light heartedly .

He said: "She has no sense of humour, she is after all a Liberal Democrat."

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