How have you been? Hope it’s nice and bright and filled with chocolate and coffee and fairy cakes wherever you are (can you tell a dieting me is craving snacks?). This is just a quickity quick post on Restaurant Wars which aired two nights ago. It was the icing on the cake, the climax with a bright red cherry on top (this is a foodie writing a foodie post, be prepared for food puns galore).
Compulsive viewing – there’s no other way to describe it. Over the course of the all too short series (come on BBC, make more of these deliciously edgy programmes), we watched sweary but loveable chefs carve out a name for themselves. What I adored about Restaurant Wars is the behind the scenes viewing, because I love seeing food created from scratch. It’s so much more than just cooking dishes in a restaurant; it’s the thought process that goes behind it, from matching specific flavours to branding, PR strategy and teamwork.
We saw more enchanting dishes created by Team Byrne and Team Rogan. I loved Aiden’s passion-fruit Marie rose which in all its scientific glory, made me want to reach into my TV set and gulp down the orange orb like a starved circus fire-eater. Last week saw Aiden dine at his rival’s restaurant; this time round, Simon Rogan returned the favour and popped round for a bite to eat at Manchester House. It was really heart-warming to see these two chefs hug it out, because only they know what it’s truly like to feel that steaming hot pressure of making a restaurant work.
There was a scene reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet where Rogan and Byrne shared a moment in Manchester House. It was directly after Rogan had finished his dinner, where the two chefs were chewing the fat about their new ventures and mutual glances were filled with respect and tenderness. It’s like the couple who can never be, being on opposite sides of a torrid restaurant war. (I know it’s not war, and I know it’s no West Side Story, but I’m a romantic soul filled with sarcasm, so give me this one.) I think it’s downright fabulous how both chefs like the other’s cooking, both valiantly proclaiming that “it’s different to what I cook”. I know both cuisines are different, but the end goal is the same – the battle for that pesky Michelin star.
Which leads me nicely to the biggest let-down since Ferguson’s departure. The French wasn’t handed a Michelin star. To quote Barney Stinson, WHAT? Seriously Michelin, if by any chance you’re reading this (ooh, did you see a spit-roast pig fly by?), then it’s high time you took Manchester seriously. We have fine dining places a plenty and just because we’re not in the southern locale (it’s the north / south divide, I tell you!) doesn’t make us any less capable of producing world-class cuisine.
It was however nice to see Simon get his Best Chef Award though and next year, Aiden will be able to compete for Michelin stardom. I sincerely hope Manchester House or The French is successful in grabbing that elusive Michelin star. I know it’s not any consolation, but both restaurants have legions of fans and food at both restaurants looks delicious (I’m in the process of finalising dates to dine at both restaurants for a compare and contrast post, watch this space).
One teeny tiny thing that did confuse me, was Simon Rogan and Michael Magrane’s jaunt to France. In last week’s episode, we heard Simon give orders for closing down one of his UK restaurants, because he was spreading himself too thinly. Yet we soon learnt that he was contemplating opening a French restaurant. Bit contradictory, no? That’s how I understood it (people, feel free to correct me if I misunderstood). It’s a tiny niggle, but I’m OCD like that; if I don’t “get” something, I need to know how/why that came to be.
Overall, a highly satisfactory series and one that made me feel that I’d known Aiden and Simon all my life. So, am I Team Byrne or Team Rogan? I’ll let you know once I’ve dined at both establishments. I do agree with Aiden that food is so much more than just morsels on a plate. It’s about theatre and art and telling a story. You just have to be careful that you don’t go overboard and dress up the food so much, that you forget it’s meant to be eaten. I wish both restaurants the best of luck in the whole wide world. And to Aiden and Simon, I look forward to seeing you soon.