Newest Review: ... entertaining and you will be surprised at the kind of mishaps that occur! The Restaurant is on BBC 2 and BBC HD on Thursday nights at ... more
Member Name: jo1976
Date: 02/10/08, updated on 12/01/14 (182 review reads)
Advantages: Compelling viewing - couples trying to run their own restaurants
Disadvantages: Sometimes too painful to watch - I get stressed out watching it!
The Restaurant is currently being aired on BBC2 on Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm.
As somebody who isn't a big fan of reality tv programmes the first series of this really caught my imagination last year and I am already addicted to the second series. Despite having the 'reality tv' tag, the programme falls somewhere between The Apprentice and Masterchief, rather than the Big Brother school of reality tv. This means that the majority of the contestants have some modicum of talent and ability and aren't just fame-hungry morons.
The basic premise of the show is that nine couples have been chosen to compete for the opportunity to go into partnership with the celebrated chef, Raymond Blanc, and open a real-life restaurant with him. The couples aren't necessarily husband and wife, as the contestants include a father and daughter team and friends, as well as more traditional couples. They also have varying degrees of experience with regards to cooking and managing a restaurant, as some of the contestants are actually trained chefs, whereas some have just gained experience cooking for their own families. Each couple has one member responsible for running the kitchen and the other is 'front of house', taking bookings, dealing with customers and sorting out the inevitable cock-ups that occur every week!
It is the cock-ups and crises that make the show such compelling viewing for me. Sometimes I find it almost painful and stressful to watch, as you can see the mistakes and errors of judgement and can predict exactly what is going to go wrong for each team (and it does).
As part of the programme, each couple has been given a real-life restaurant to run which is open to real-life paying customers (poor folk!) This is where some of the couples get really stressed as, even though they may well be very talented cooks, it is very different trying to cater for huge numbers of people as well as trying to impress Raymond Blanc. Just to pile on the pressure even more, each week Raymond adds a particular theme or specific task against which each couple will be judged. This week, for example, the couples were each given a different country at random and had to promote that country's food within their own menu.
At the end of Wednesday's episode, the three worst-performing couples are selected and they then have to complete a 'challenge' which is shown on the Thursday. Previous challenges have included running an outlet at a motorway service station and feeding about 200 people at one of Oxford University's student halls. The couple who are deemed to fail the challenge are out of the running and their restaurant is closed. This bit is usually very hard to judge as most of the couples make fatal errors and try to cut corners, leading to major disappointment - usually at the poor customers' expense!
For me, the only criticism that I can think of is how little input Raymond Blanc has into the whole process. His role is akin to Alan Sugar in the Apprentice, in that he sends his minions out to assess the contestants performance during tasks and challenges who then provide feedback to Raymond. He then sits in judgement saying things along the lines of 'zis is not ze way to run a restaurant' although this week he actually said 'zis is bollocks' which took me completely by surpise! (Incidentally, that was over one couple misspelling an entire menu in both French and English - including a dessert of 'poached pairs'!) If I was Raymond and was seriously going to go into partnership with one of these couples, I would be a bit more hands-on about the whole business!
As we are now part way through the series, some of the couples have already tried and failed miserably. (As the voiceover states, 'their dreams over, their restaurant closed...forever.) There are still some couples left that I love to hate. My least favourite are Michele and Russell who I find totally nauseating. They are always gazing lovingly into each other's eyes and the woman never stops smiling - even when she is being berated by Raymond! The worst line from the series has to be when Michele described her hopes for the new restaurant...'We want people to feel like they're walking into a big cuddle!' I'm sorry but that alone would make me want to throw up - even before I'd tasted the dodgy food!
I also find myself getting annoyed with some of the other couples when they blatantly ignore the feedback from Raymond at the end of each episode and just go off and repeat the same old mistakes! For those reasons, the programme is painfully addictive and I love guessing which disastrous restaurant will be the next to face the chop (although it's often a close call and much more difficult to choose the restaurant worthy of becoming the 'restaurant of the week'!)
If you haven't seen an episode yet, you're missing a treat. Jamie Oliver, it ain't, and you're not going to pick up many cooking tips but as a guide of 'how not to run a restaurant' it takes some beating!
Edit May 09: Can't wait for the next series to start
Summary: The restaurant - watch it but don't book a table!