The Restaurant Man

New series The Restaurant Man, starring Russell Norman, kicked off last night on BBC2. London based Russell is the founder of successful restaurant chain Polpo and is a very accomplished restaurateur. Looking like a cross between Robin Thicke and Pete Postlethwaite, he strode purposefully around London in the opening sequence telling us all of this, with success and trendiness practically pouring out of his shoulder bag. Can you sense the sarcasm?

First lucky duo to be given the Russell Norman treatment, were best buds Matt and Rich. Matt looked like quite a normal guy, but not Rich. He wore braces and a stripy blue T Shirt and actually had one of those French cartoon moustaches, perfectly twiddled into two little flicks. He might as well have a string of onions round his neck. Maybe Matt had met him at a French themed event. Who knows. So French cuisine it is then? Pas du tout! C’est le burger!

Matt and Rich wanted to take the upmarket burger (I’m assuming every time they said ‘upmarket’ they meant ‘disgustingly marked up’) to Southampton. ‘They want to what!?’ we shouted. People in Southampton still live in wattle and daub huts and boil whole hog’s heads for supper don’t they? They trade in grain and bits of flint. They won’t understand this trendy food from London! Surely Matt and Rich must be out of their minds? We were worried. So was Russell. ‘Is Southampton ready for the high end burger vibe’ Russell asked us in a worried tone. To be honest, we just didn’t know.

Rich had a little practise working in a burger kitchen first. Turns out neither he nor Matt had ever been in a kitchen before, so his burger flipping was a bit dodgy. They called in some burger experts who commented on the coarseness of the burger meat. Did you know there was a coarseness numbering system to burgers? I didn’t. But Matt and Rich’s burgers had a nice American vibe apparently. The expert said that ‘in America, everything is finer and easier to chew’. Surely not everything? Those massive cars they drive? Their huge buildings?

There was also the issue of decorating the restaurant. In the end they went for the ‘reclaimed distressed look’ which Russell told them was ‘perfect for the high end burger experience’. I have to agree with Russell there. On a Saturday night at 3am when I’m enjoying a burger in a doorway, I find the distressed look of the pavement really gives it that high end feel.

Not content with all the Southampton bashing so far, Russell continued to totally offend practically everyone by telling Matt and Rich, ‘this is not the sort of place people have expense account lunches. It’s a bit grotty’. Russell, you do realise this programme goes out nationally don’t you? It’s not just a special channel for people who live in London? Ok good, just checking…

So, to opening night. The simple folk of Southampton came suspiciously up to the door, peering in at the lights and fabulous distressed, reclaimed decor. Some of them even came in and amazingly, enjoyed the food. Sniffing it at first and then poking it with their staffs, they tucked right in. Rich’s moustache remained unflustered as he flipped thousands of burgers and he and Matt made a packet. Seems like the rest of the country is ready to spend £10 on a sandwich after all, just as long as it’s served to them in a distressed red plastic basket and they can sit on a reclaimed chair. I’ll be tuning in next week for more trendy tips.

First published by Cambridge News


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