Born: June 28, 1954;

Died: December 10, 2016

AA GILL who has died aged 62, was a writer who made his name with his restaurant, and later television, reviews for The Sunday Times, which were generally reckoned sparklingly brilliant; he also produced several novels, universally panned as startlingly bad.

It was improbable that Gill should have written anything at all. He was so acutely dyslexic that his computer’s autocorrect was usually unable even to guess what word he might have meant, and he was obliged to dictate his copy from his own unintelligible notes.

He was, too, a latecomer to journalism, having spent his twenties as a painter, without much success, and becoming an alcoholic, in which sphere he demonstrated enough commitment to suffer from alcoholic gastritis, hepatitis and delirium tremens by the time he stopped, checking himself into rehab shortly before turning 30.

He then spent some time working in restaurant kitchens and teaching a cookery course, before breaking into newspapers and magazines in the early 1990s. At The Sunday Times, which he joined in 1993, he quickly became a star columnist.

Though Gill knew about food, he was emphatically a reviewer of restaurants rather than a cookery writer. The glamorous aspects of the London dining scene (like most reviewers, the overwhelming majority of the restaurants he covered were in London), celebrity-spotting, décor, and gossip about the owners were as much a feature of his pieces as evaluating the cooking. Unlike, for example, Jonathan Meades, his counterpart at The Times in the early days, Gill was unlikely to dwell on the history and techniques of the dish presented, though he might share what Joan Collins (an occasional dining companion) said to the proprietor.

And in this milieu Gill was thoroughly at home; his friends and acquaintances were drawn from the London media world: actors, journalists, broadcasters, magazine writers and successful entrepreneurs.

Adrian Anthony Gill was born on June 28 1954 in Edinburgh, the son of Michael Gill, a successful television director who went on to make Kenneth Clarke’s documentary series Civilisation and Alistair Cooke’s America and his wife Yvonne Gilan, an actress who appeared in Chariots of Fire and Empire of the Sun, and had a memorable role as a seductive Frenchwoman in an early episode of Fawlty Towers.

The family moved to the south of England when Adrian was a year old. Because of his dyslexia, he was sent to the progressive (and vegetarian) St Christopher’s School at Letchworth in Hertfordshire – also alma mater to his fellow Sunday Times restaurant critic, Michael Winner. After leaving, Gill studied art at Central Saint Martins and then at the Slade.

He was a good enough painter to stick at it for much of his 20s, but not, he thought “good enough to be top-rate. I could just about make a living, but it wasn’t really going anywhere.” He was very briefly married to the journalist Cressida Connolly. His alcoholism led to serious health problems, though he wrote in his memoir Pour Me last year that “the really destroying thing is the depression… a lot of being drunk is to do with being frightened all the time”.

After he stopped drinking (his byline AA, rather than Adrian, was a tribute to the 12-step programme), in 1990 he married Amber Rudd, who then worked in the City and later became a Conservative MP and is currently the Home Secretary. They had two children. He fell into journalism after writing art reviews for a small magazine and (under a pseudonym) a piece about rehab for Tatler the following year; it was followed by a cookery column. The Sunday Times recruited him two years later and he was launched.

During the next decade Gill’s reputation grew, though he was the subject of frequent complaints (none of which were upheld until 2010). He was not shy about condemning gastropubs, the Welsh, the Isle of Man, vegetarians, Cleethorpes, the rise of coffee shops and almost any other target with unrestrained glee.

Some found his attitude to women problematic. His columns were full of references to the beauty of “the Blonde”; his partner Nicola Formby, who was an editor at Tatler, and for whom he left his wife in 1995. They had a twin boy and girl together in 2007, and he had planned to marry her after he was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

But he got into hot water with the Press Complaints Commission in 2010 for calling the presenter Clare Balding a “dyke on a bike”, and later wrote that the classicist Mary Beard should be “kept away from cameras”. In 2009, there were widespread complaints about a piece he wrote describing his shooting of a baboon on a safari (he was a frequent visitor to Africa); he himself admitted that “there is absolutely no excuse for this”.

The acclaim which greeted his journalism did not extend to his novels. Sap Rising (1996) was mocked for embarrassingly gruesome sexual content, and won the Literary Review’s Bad Sex award; Starcrossed (1999) did not fare much better. On the other hand, various collection of his columns, notably AA Gill is Away (2003) and AA Gill is Further Away (2011), were well received.

He remained very proud of journalism, of which he mounted a spirited defence arguing that no other business could contrive to produce, by team effort, quite so many facts each day, in a product the length of a novel, while getting so little wrong. Gill used his column just a few weeks ago to announce his own diagnosis with “the full English” of cancers.

He is survived by his partner Nicola and their twins, and by his son and a daughter from his marriage to Amber Rudd.