Patricia Murphy: Behind the scenes of TV3’s The Restaurant - 'I'll be watching my episode through my fingers'
Irish celebrities stressing, chefs roaring and critics struggling to find anything positive to say The Restaurant, formerly housed on RTE and now on TV3, has always held the recipe for perfect food telly.
Having long been a fan of the series I was thrilled to hear of its return and even more excited to head to Glasson Co. Westmeath to dine alongside the critics last November crossing my fingers for a five star evening.
For those who aren’t familiar each episode of The Restaurant involves an Irish celebrity swapping their day job for chef whites and planning and executing a menu that will please a room full of diners as well as resident critics Paolo Tullio and Tom Doorley.
The unfortunate chef spends the day in the kitchen preparing the three course menu, in the hopes that it will please the intimidating restaurant but more often than not the diners, inspired by the cameras, suddenly become very hard to satisfy.
After weeks of excitement, my friend Denise and I set off on our midweek media adventure, bound for the idyllic home of The Restaurant, The Wineport Lodge. We had promised one another that we wouldn’t be cruel critics but merely offer constructive comments from our temporary high horse.
We toddled up to The Wineport Lodge’s makeshift red carpet and were quickly told we would be doing the first Kim K of our careers; hopping into a BMW for a 40 second drive before jumping out in front of a crowd of waiting cameras.
As we were welcomed into the reception room we had the best intentions to limit ourselves to just one glass so as to A) not make a show of ourselves on telly and B) not make a mortal enemy out of an Irish celebrity, but the amount of time spent waiting to be seated meant that we were a bit more loose-lipped than we would have preferred.
After being seated at our table, which was with earshot of the critics, we analysed the menu. Thinking ourselves clever we guessed that the chef was Tommy Bowe only to have our theories dramatically quashed at the eventual unveiling.
Having not eaten lunch by now we were absolutely starving. We quickly learned the making of good TV takes time, which meant long waits between courses.
Even though some of our dishes didn’t live up to much on the evening (namely the main ‘Mum’s Roast Chicken’ which was a bit of an ordeal) everything in sight was eaten because we were famished which I’m sure will look a bit silly on our part when the episode airs in a few weeks.
As the evening went on, we allowed ourselves one more glass of wine and by the time the main came I fear our promise to be constructive critics may have fallen by the waist-side in favour of brutal honesty. Apart from dessert, which was a stroke of genius, I fear we may have been a bit too harsh and possibly made that aforementioned mortal celebrity enemy.
You have no idea how much we wanted to take back everything we said when we clasped eyes upon the hunky guest chef. His identity remains a secret, but rest assured he is the subject of many Ulster daydreams.
Despite the waiting, which we should have expected of TV production, the experience in The Restaurant was hugely enjoyable as a long-time admirer. The final show is mainly focused on the goings-on in the kitchen, which I’m sure are more exciting when the night isn’t going as well as expected.
Thankfully we weren’t asked to offer more opinions or give our personal star rating as we left The Restaurant which was a blessing in disguise as we may have caused enough hurt feelings already with our constructive turned destructive comments.
I am so happy to see the show’s reinvention and return to TV3 but when our night comes around I’ll be armed with a huge glass of wine watching it through my fingers.
The Restaurant airs on TV3 tonight at 9PM.