The Restaurant
What have I been doing since I mothballed the original version of this website back in 2010? I’ve been doing a lot of freeze-framing and Google Mapping to identify the locations of all the eateries featured in the first two series of BBC2’s Raymond Blanc-helmed The Restaurant

View The Restaurant’s restaurants in a larger map

Look how close Studio New York (series 1) was to The Blue Goose (series 2) – and how the M40 is a kind of Route 66 through ex-Blanc establishments…

The Restaurant ran for three series over 2007 and 2009 – the first two being perhaps the most sublime British example of the reality show genre. By the third, the programme had relocated to Bristol, with fewer actual restaurants opening, the separate ‘Challenge’ episode  ditched and Raymond ultimately going into business with the culinary-clueless barmen JJ and James. It made for comparatively unsatisfying television, but one can perhaps respect M. Blanc’s reasoning for his decision. Which goes like this…

I had a bunch of people that the BBC found for me, who were pretty useless. Pretty dismal. What was missing? Love! What was missing? Interest! Curiosity! Basic ability to cook! Knowledge of produce! A lot was missing. And I was looking at a bunch of misfits and thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to lose another £200,000!” And then I looked at the CVs and there were two boys called JJ and James. One kept winking at me, and the other kept flicking his hair back all the time, thinking he was Apollo. But on their CV: the best mixologist in Great Britain. That changed everything. So instead of doing a restaurant with them, we did a cocktail bar. Now JJ and James are opening their third cocktail bar in London. They’re hard working, they’ve stopped winking at me… they may not be able to cook, but my God, they can do the greatest cocktails.

For the umpteenth time, I’m rewatching the series and, oh look, in episode one, there’s Nigel Leck (the project manager in BBC2’s The Million Pound Property Experiment, 2003) having a bad time in Studio New York…

Nigel Leck in The Restaurant

“..the chips were just frozen chips; not very well cooked. And the bun was burnt.”


Peter Capaldi revealed as the Twelfth Doctor

Peter Capaldi revealed as the Twelfth Doctor

The “Aneurin Barnard is the Twelfth Doctor” holding page on the BBC website? A nonsense, a ruse, I was told last night when I arrived at Elstree for Doctor Who Live. “But could you not tweet that for now? We want to keep it going for a little longer”.

As a piece of misdirection from the publicity team, it had been masterful. But not quite as masterful as the moment the whole evening was pointing at – the reveal of Peter Capadli as the Twelfth Doctor. Instantly, this just felt right. And as sad as I am that Matt Smith is going, I’m now mostly excited. That’s how this should work, right?

From whence Digital Spy filed

From whence Digital Spy filed

No.12 signs his first autographs

No.12 signs his first autographs

I was lucky enough to be in the press room before and after the recording. From here, the dailies and various news sites were going to be frantically filing copy.

The studio where the Muppets once lit the lights

The studio where the Muppets once lit the lights

For the main event, though, I watched the show sat beside Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who Magazine. Naturally, then, I took the opportunity to get his very first thoughts on Capaldi as soon as the recording finished – hence the background music and chatter – which you can listen to here.

Afterwards, we returned to the press room for a drink – and the news Steven Moffat was going to pop by. Here’s how that encounter between him and we journalists played out, in full…

Steven Moffat Steven Moffat

That’s brilliant casting.

Thank you.

It feels right.

I hope so.

When did he come on the radar?

Well a fair amount of time ago. I’m sorry, Morgan [from Digital Spy], I lied to you. Quite a while back. I happened to know he’s a very, very big fan. There’s something rather seductive about an utterly brilliant, arresting looking leading man actor – one of the most talented actors in Britain – who you happen to know is a big fan of the show. And you do start to think, “Maybe we should do something about that”. So quite a long time ago.

Did you have a short list?

Yes, the list went: Peter Capaldi.

A very short list.

A very, very short list. Honestly, there was only one audition this time. And it wasn’t an audition really so much as saying… he came around my house and we put him on video to see what he looked like as the Doctor and, gosh, he was terribly good. He’s been doing that most nights I think.

Are you disappointed it leaked online? And are you surprised how many people put bets on it?

Well, I’ve made a tidy profit out of it! Compared to some of our recent leaks it’s comparatively minor!

Do you think people are betting on it and making money – is there a leak problem? Is it a bit of a scandal that this is coming out? 1

I think there are bigger scandals in the world to worry about than this. Seriously. Let’s not get too worried about it.

You haven’t seen any of your staff getting a new Ferrari or anything?

I don’t think you’d get a Ferrari out of it. I got a pogo stick actually. Which is brilliant.

Did you ever shy away from it because in some ways he does feel so right?

No. That is the feeling when you get the casting right. I didn’t make it up when I said he did flick through my mind when we were replacing David, and it didn’t feel right at all. Actually, I think if you think about that, it wouldn’t have been right at all. Not then. But there’s something about Matt’s Doctor that paves the way for Peter’s Doctor.

So you think in the context of the previous guy?

It’s one character going… and that’s the important thing to remember in Doctor Who. One character going through his life played by a succession of different actors and you have to get to that place each time. I can somehow absolutely believe that the strange old-young Matt Smith will turn into the strange young-old Peter Capaldi. I have no problem with that.

What did you want Peter to bring to this?

A brilliance, but to be absolutely honest, let’s let Peter do that job. I’m not going to tell him how to play the Doctor. I’m going to write the Doctor. And you’d be surprised how similar the Doctors are on paper. They really are. If you look at discarded scenes from previous eras – so if you haven’t ever heard the Doctor say it – you’ll see he’s kind of always the same. When I put the three audition scenes online – or rather in Doctor Who Magazine, they went online – and everyone said, “Oh, they sound like Matt,” no they don’t. That’s the most dominant voice you’ve got in your head. One of them was an adapted Matt scene, one of them was an adapted David scene and one of them was an adapted Chris scene. It was the three that we’ve had in the modern era. It’s just that when you put him on paper, he’s just the Doctor. He’s just that very, very clever man. He walks around with a different voice and face. It becomes very different. I remember when I wrote ‘The Eleventh Hour’ and everyone said when I handed it in, “It’s exactly David”. And then a few weeks later we cast Matt, and everyone was complimenting me hugely – and I accepted the compliments – how well I’d rewritten it for Matt. I hadn’t touched a word. They were just looking at it and imagining Matt. The Doctor is the Doctor. That’s really, really important, but he’s going to have a new face and a new voice.

What did Peter do in the audition? Was there anything in particular he did that made you think, “Wow”?

I don’t think it is in particular. It’s just you know when the Doctor is in the room – you just do. I mean I’ve seen the Doctor not be in the room when people say those lines out loud. Me, for instance. I’m crap at it when I do that. Every night I try. And I’m never any good at it. You just know. Just to check we weren’t mad we showed it to, like, Ben [Stephenson, the BBC’s head of drama] and so on. And we just went, “Yes, obviously, that’s it – the Doctor is in the room.” When you watched him walk out tonight didn’t you just think, “Well there he is”? That’s the Doctor, isn’t it? Suddenly he’s the Doctor. Malcolm Tucker is knocked out of the way. He’s just suddenly this magnificent leading man. How did that happen? I don’t know.

Was there a conscious decision to go older this time?

Do you mean on my part? Yeah, I’ve been consciously aging for a while now. I could age the other way if I wanted. Not particularly. The apparent age of the Doctor makes no narrative sense at all. He’s been anything from his 20s to his 70s. Obviously he doesn’t care. He just sort of picks a face off the rack and goes with it. So, not especially. I think it’s good that we’ve got a different age, just because I cannot imagine what somebody in their 20s would do with the Doctor after Matt showed us all how to be a 20s Doctor. I don’t know what you would do after that because he was so perfect. You’d have to be an alternative or deliberate contradiction – it wouldn’t work, I don’t think. So it makes life easier I suppose that Peter is different. But that wasn’t the reason. The reason was the Doctor was in the room, and that’s it. You don’t argue with that.

How good are you at keeping a secret?

I’m not telling you. [Pause] That was a brilliant answer. Can I get a little more respect for that? That was a phenomenal answer. [Brief ripple of applause]

Well you kept Sherlock’s death and revival a secret.

He’s not dead, he’s behind a tree.

So how hard was it? Everybody quizzing you.

Well, it’s really not hard at all, you just say, “I’m not telling you”. Or you lie. I’m sorry again, Morgan.

Do you think you’ll be able to keep him in the role for a while? You want to keep him for as long as you can, don’t you?

Yes. To that end we have his family in the cellar. That’s the only way to go with that.

What kind of Doctor is he going to be?

Magnificent. I don’t know. The truth is we don’t know. We’ve seen… I’ve seen him do Doctor-ish stuff and it’s worked. I’ve seen him deal with the technobabble, I’ve seen him deal with the nonsense. I wrote scenes that were deliberately impossible, with deliberately impossible dialogue. Just to see: can you do the impossible even without gunk being poured on you? And now we’re going to pour gunk on you and throw a lizard at you and ask you to say all this stuff and explain the plot. So we don’t know yet. We’re going to work on that. And, as with Matt – you know how Matt developed hugely as he approached the part over the first few episodes – we will do the same with Peter.

What’s he going to wear?

Clothes. Anything else would just be really shocking. I don’t know. Nobody takes the slightest interest in any of my views on costume let me tell you. I’ve never had the slightest influence. I can’t imagine what.

How fraught was tonight to make happen?

I was absolutely thrilled that no one had mentioned the possibility of Peter at all(!) I mean, God, it must have been a shock when he walked out. I worry about the person who didn’t know and might not have been watching. I thought we should have phoned them and said, “Are you home? Well we’ll start the show when you are.” It was fraught – not for the reasons of the secrecy. Does it matter? No, not very much. It matters that people love the choice, that’s it. And what we were looking at when we saw there was some minor-degree hints out there that it was going to be Peter, everyone was rapturous about the idea. I said to Peter before he went on tonight – he was a little bit nervous, obviously – I was saying, “Imagine you weren’t Peter Capaldi and you had to walk out tonight. He’d be mown down. It has to be you. If it had been somebody else we would have kidnapped you and brought you to the studio.” We’d have no choice. So it wasn’t fraught from the point of view of the secrecy because, honestly, if the secret breaks, nothing happens. Nothing happens at all. Somebody makes a tremendous profit in the betting shop. Ben Stephenson.

Did you ever seriously consider a woman?

It’s absolutely narratively possible and when it’s the right decision, maybe we’ll do it. It didn’t feel to me, right now, right. I didn’t feel enough people wanted it. Oddly enough most people who said they were dead against it – and I know I’ll get into trouble for saying this – were women. Saying, “No, no, don’t make him a woman!” Not that I was influenced by that. I’m influenced by nothing. Obviously.

What will you say to Helen Mirren?

It’s time that a man played the Queen. Step aside for a man.

What’s the time-frame? When’s he start work?

Erm, he’ll do a very, very short scene at Christmas.



Here’s Peter Capaldi’s 1970s sketch of a Sea Devil as published in Volume 1 of The Doctor Who Fanclub.

Sea Devil!


  1. I’m guessing this was a tabloid journalist looking for their ‘line’, but really, was there such a leak? Capaldi’s name certainly was out there, but alongside a good half-a-dozen contenders
Nice beveling, Andy!

Nice beveling, Andy!

I’ve been watching Changing Rooms.

A whole internet of TV to choose from, and I choose Changing Rooms. Episodes back-to-back. In this hot weather, with the windows open, one imagines my neighbours thinking, “No, that can’t be…” as they catch snatches of Phil Burns’ 1 urgently upbeat theme tune tootling through the haze.

It’s strange revisiting a once-TV phenomenon like this. Something that came along in 1996, perkily changed lifestyle programming forever – and neighbours’ homes less permanently – then DIY’d a sudden death in 2004 and was never spoken of again.

The several or so episodes I watched were spread across the series’ lifespan, opening with decoupage in Woolton Village, Liverpool, and a cream and biscuit colour scheme from Graham Wynne. Decoupage. Graham Wynne. I’m certain no-one’s typed either phrase for 10 years.

"Here's a handy tip to age it - teabags!"

“Here’s a handy tip to age it – teabags!”

"I'm *really* happy with it, Carol"

“I’m *really* happy with it, Carol”

Watching the show feels like attending a party where everyone’s there under sufferance, but keen to jolly things along. There’s a tinge of desperation to each exchange, as people who aren’t necessarily witty look for humour – “Ah! Mr Kane! How are you getting on with that fretwork?”/”I’ll give you fretwork in a minute, gal! ” And interjecting regularly are those shrill musical stings, as if anxiously shuffling guests from buffet to bar area.

I kept watching.

"Oh you!"

“Oh you!”

Quintessential shot of LLB essaying his bold paint choice to this week's possibly LGB couple

Quintessential shot of LLB essaying his bold paint choice to this week’s possibly LGB couple

By the time I got to the 1998 episodes 2 we have the Changing Rooms leitmotif captured in the opening titles – Graham’s tart “oh you!” expression as he busily exits a room. There are other things going on too. Linda Barker brings out a big stencil, but insists it need not be naff; the show now aware of its own cliches. And there are same-sex couples joining in the fun but it’s never a thing, which is quietly impressive.

As I continue, a second generation of designers arrive. The Tank Girl-esque Laura McCree who’s desperate to ‘do’ the banter but can’t quite put it together. Oliver Heath unpacks technical drawings and scaffold poles and then there’s Michael Jewitt. I refuse to pop a grab of him onto the site, because I got a real thrill from not only realising that’s a name I’d comprehensively forgotten, but also a face too. Michael Jewitt, eh? Used to watch him on Wednesday nights. There’s also an evolution within the old guard. By 2002 Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen had (PVC) trousered a more grown-up gig on BBC2 with Home Front: Inside Out, and it’s notable that here he begins to refer to his design ideas a little loftily as “the scheme”.

I actually think LLB has been ill-served by television, because he’s a natural and effortless educator. A Johnny Ball in a massive shirt. But it’s he who quickly sinks Changing Rooms when Carol Smiley exits in 2003.

Captured here is the moment the leak is sprung. It’s all about to happen in Conisborough on Changing Rooms

It’s wrong, isn’t it? That level of self-awareness. Sure, you could argue it’s prescient – this we-know-we’re-a-bit-crap-really style of presentation has become the standard mode of address for some of the BBC’s more arch entertainment shows. But on Changing Rooms? You’ve got to be in the moment, not outside it, smirking. As a result, the feeling of urgency goes 3 and the programme brought down the (distressed in wax) shutters the following year.

We didn’t want our show trying to be clever. We wanted a clutch of good-hearted, resoundingly average folk coming together to make a nice thing within a spuriously prescribed time-frame. We wanted medium-density fun.


  1. Of course he has a website
  2. The point at which the show transferred from BBC2 to BBC1
  3. …along with those bluebottle-esque musical stings
Warming up

Warming up

Hello. Off The Telly is back! sort of.

Between 1999 and 2010, I ran OTT as a kind of online monthly TV magazine and during that time amassed a hell of a lot of content from a brilliant array of contributors. Then things got tricky. Mostly, because by the mid-2000s I was actually working in TV journalism, and that threw up a myriad conflicts of interest. So I stopped doing OTT.

But recently I’ve felt like I want to do something again. Some kind of internet-y TV writing. Which I might tweet about too. Nothing especially about current telly. Nothing that might cause me problems. But tangential stuff. And stuff maybe tapping into a  more recent but somehow lost era of programming. The ‘Say: “Gouranga”‘ years.

As I’m still sat on the domain, I thought I might as well use it again, but not before preserving the old site and everyone’s hard work. I’ve  shifted it to this location.

Make no mistake – this OTT won’t be as good as the old one. This will be sparse; no subsections, no massive essays. Just one stream of blog. I’ve no expectations  anyone else will contribute, although if someone wants to that could be fun. I know what my next post is going to be about – but not the one after that.