The Restaurant: Food and Wine from the TV Series ***

The Restaurant While I was still in Ireland when The Restaurant programme started, the lack of a television set precluded me from actually seeing the stars in action but the recently published book of the series gives a good picture of how it worked. Each week The Restaurant played host to a celebrity chef who planned the menu, chose the wine and, together with what must have been the long-suffering kitchen staff, cooked the meal. The diners – including a selection of critics – are not told who the chef is until they have given their verdict on the meal and, from some of the comments in The Restaurant book, did not mince their words.

The book seems to be structured along the lines of the programme. Each chapter comprises of the celebrity chef talking about the pros and cons of their Restaurant experience, an introduction to the guest critic, the menu and what the critics had to say about it, some notes about the wine chosen and recipes for three dishes.

As a picture of a time and a place in Irish public life it is a fascinating document. The brave participants ranged from RTÉ news reporter Charlie Bird to writer and comedian Brendan O’Carroll, horse trainer Ted Walsh, Senator Mary O’Rourke and chick fic author Cathy Kelly. Their assessment of the day is interesting and it was surprising how many of the guest chefs would re-visit the experience.

As a recipe book it works surprisingly well. While there are definitely things that I can’t seen myself ever trying out – Brendan O’Carroll’s Sole aux Bananes, for instance – there are plenty of recipes that I will definitely use. O’Carroll’s Swiss Apple Pie looked like a winner, Charlie Bird’s Slow-Boiled Ham in Spiced Cider is a must-try, Joe Duffy‘s Cardamon Cream sounds like a great combination and I loved Paul Costello‘s grouping of Black Pudding and Red Onion Marmalade. Being a confirmed non-potato eater, I was unimpressed with their reliance on spuds, but I suppose it was to be expected in a country like Ireland! The regular occurrence of rhubarb on the menu was a welcome surprise as was George Hook‘s inclusion of those great Cork offal dishes, tripe and drisheen. On the minus side, it seems that Tracy Piggott was the only presenter to realise the importance of ingredients, placing a lot of emphasis on the quality of the raw produce she used.

Although it is a bit of a mixed bag, The Restaurant: Food and Wine from the TV Series is an entertaining read – and you just might walk away from the experience with a new favourite recipe.

The Restaurant: Food and Wine from the TV Series is published by Poolbeg.



Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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2 Responses

  1. Gary Flood says:

    Hi CarolineThanks for the kind review. The second series of The Restaurant is being repeated at the moment, getting bigger numbers than its first airing (go figure). The Restaurant show has been (and still is, as we begin making series three) great fun to work on. The learning curve for us “non-foodies” on the team has been damn near vertical over the last couple of years. Producing the book was certainly a challenge and I’m glad it’s getting a bit of notice from people whose opinions I respect.You reckon Kiwi TV might go for The Restaurant?Thanks again for the kind comments.

  2. Caroline says:

    Gary: Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad to hear that the show is going so well for you – from the book it certainly looks like you had your hands full to overflowing with the set-up. I did enjoy the book, particularly the after-the-fact comments of your guest chefs. So easy to retrospectively know how to do things right!

    I do think that The Restaurant could easily have a life outside Ireland. Half the fun of it seems to be in seeing public faces – that we’re used to seeing looking polished and completely in control – out of their element and struggling to cope. That’s a format that certainly should be able to travel. I’ll be watching out for it on TV here in the near future!

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