I’ve just got in after dining at Hell’s Kitchen (courtesy of Hobart) and I’m determined to tell you what it was like to be fed by Marco Pierre White and his ragtag band of celebrities before I hit the sack.
Filming is taking place in a pretty insalubrious part of East London. As I drove past kebab shops and derelict tower blocks, I became convinced I was in the wrong part of town. But then the cluster of paparazzi around the doorway into the studio told me I was in the right place. Remarkably, their lenses all seemed to be lowered as I swept past them. I guess they were all changing films rolls, and must have missed me …
Inside, we were whisked past an imposing, wall-high image of Marco wielding a meat cleaver and to our table by an ITV producer, who explained en route that all phones were to be turned off and no visits to the toilet were to be paid between nine and ten pm.
As we walked through the dining room to our table, I spied Marco, sporting a kamikazi-style bandana, barking orders from the pass at a wan-looking Anneka Rice. Stopping only to marvel at how tall Paul Young is, I passed on to our table.
Once sat down, we immediately began celeb-spotting. I spotted George Galloway sporting a rather poor beard. A fellow diner pointed out Carol Thatcher. Does one have to have been in a reality show to eat out Hell’s Kitchen? If so, what was I doing there? A small boy with a jet-black quiff the size and shape of a duck breezed in. “He’s off Pop Idol”, a companion told me, “or was it X-Factor?” Show host, Angus Deayton wanders from table to table filming links to camera. Ooh, isn’t he small, people whisper, as he passes.
Dinner was excellent: ragout of shellfish, pig’s trotter in a morel sauce and blackberry souffle. But sadly, there were no screaming matches at the pass, no tears, wailing or gnashing of teeth from humiliated celebs; and no forcible ejections, by Marco, of diners daring to ask for the salt cellar to pep up their meal. In short, the service went by calmly and uneventfully. Didn’t anyone bother to brief Chef that slick service makes for dull telly?
A trio of small girls with big hairdo’s swang past to the loo. Are they married to footballers, I wondered, or in a pop band? Or perhaps both? Who could say. Either way, they were probably in junior school when Marco last stepped behind the stove.
By ten thirty, all diners had been fed and watered. I grabbed a few words with Marco, who was beaming with pride at the slickness of the operation, and did the universal chefs’ signage for hard work: the clenched fist pumping horizontally backward and forward from the tummy button.
As I left, a text came through on my mobile from a friend. “Punch George Galloway in the face and I’ll buy you a pint”. But George, Carol and the bloke with the black duck on his head had already left the building, leaving me to wonder how I would ever get home from the arse-end of nowhere on the night of a tube strike.