Sam and Jacqui

Okay, so like I said, I’ve been rewatching The Restaurant.

I freely admit to being obsessed with the show. At the time, friends and I would merrily chat away about it in the office, or pub, or over dinner. Months later, we might still pass a little time by trying to list all the establishments across the three series (“The Treacle Well, Sorbet and Seasons … Nel’s”). Years on, though, I’m still devoted.

Why? Those first two runs were beautifully made, ambitiously staged productions. The third, less so.  Plus, there was something satisfying about the scheduling (a ‘regular’ episode followed the next day by ‘The Challenge’ – a real treat) and the fact the couples featured in the programme were mostly likeable.1 The drama didn’t lie in skewering people (although, see footnote). It was in the rigors of running an actual restaurant in a competition overseen with smiles and benevolence by Raymond Blanc.

And then there was the title sequence. Series one’s is replete with pleasing, resonant soundbites: “To start a business with someone you don’t bloody know – it’s a bit daunting!”… “They really, really have to sort that kitchen out”… “Where’s 6, guys? Come on!”… “If I feel I’m having to fight you as well!”/”You’re being so stubborn”.

I’m up to episode four at the moment. I’d say  to this point it’s all been about  Sam and Jacqui and their ambition to mash “hospitality and humour” at The Ostrich. I’d love to know where their story went after this. She, the likeable but wired American front-of-house, he, the pouting jazz drummer, forever going AWOL from the kitchen and messing about with those sodding drums.

I’ve condensed their time in the show into a little under three minutes. I think it gets all the salient points.

Love the “Woo” at 1 min 41 secs.


  1. Chris and Jade, excepted, perhaps – when their restaurant is closed in episode two, the show very deliberately and brutally makes time to point out that, as Laura says, there isn’t anything about them anyone will miss.

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.”