For many years I have wanted to be one of the diners at RTE's The Restaurant. Having applied many times this year was the first time I had the detailed phone interview with Lisa- a researcher with RTE. At first I was slightly nervous but I soon realised that I could answer any of Lisa's questions and by the end of the telephone conversation I felt like I was merely having a chat with someone who shared a passion for food. She has the difficult job of combing through thousands of applicants to find 32 diners for each show. Maitre'D John made us aware of how lucky we were to be 'the chosen ones'!!
Here I am with my fellow diners my sisters Fiona and Dervilla. Before we got near a dinner menu we were seated in the lounge area of The Wineport where wine was free flowing. Unfortunately we were one of the last tables to get seated so we had almost 2 1/2 hours here. We didn't mind as we were excited about the prospect of getting seated and the time pasted easily by chatting with other diners and watching the crew putting everything in its place for the show!
John Healy, the Maitre'D, giving the diners advise on what to say and more importantly not to say while on camera. His relaxed nature was quite calming for any that were beginning to feel a little 'camera shy'! His good humour and witty comments had everyone in stitches!
I must say that I wasn't terribly impressed with my meal but I wasn't disappointed either. We knew that the show was being filmed as a cook-off. On reading the menu we were sure that it must be a 3 star cook-off but after having the meal we were more convinced that it could be a 2 star cook-off. To our amazement(and the critics) it was a 5 star cook-off. However there were some good elements to the menu. Amanda Brunker (pictured below) was one of the chefs and even tough her menu didn't win our table actually preferred her choice of dishes. Her starter of scallops were fairly standard but delicious non the less! I enjoyed her Beef and Guinness Pie but again it wasn't extraordinary however I found her Mille Feuille dessert with Rhubarb and custard served with a ginger ice-cream overly sweet.
Fintan O' Toole was the other celebrity chef and even though he won the cook-off I would find it hard to compliment any aspects of his menu. He served his butternut squash soup (which was fairly nice) with game livers on toast. I'm neither a fan of game or livers and served this way would not encourage me to eat either in the future! His main was smoked mackerel and pork belly with beetroot and horseradish- all perfectly fine but it wasn't a combination that I particularly liked. Fintan's dessert was a baked toblerone cheesecake which sounds luscious but I found it to be fairly flavourless.
Even though we weren't blown away by the food the whole experience was fantastic. The staff and the team behind The Restaurant were all so friendly and each were eager to make sure all diners were enjoying their night out. It certainly would make one would feel like they were in a very well run restaurant and not on a television set!!
It was a real pleasure to meet Tom Doorley. He was warm and eager to engage in conversation with any interested diners. Earlier that week he had sent out a tweet looking for a recommendation for lunch. I suggested that he and Paulo should try The Fatted Calf in Glasson. This charming restaurant also impressed Tom and Paulo and both gave The Fatted Calf rave reviews in that weekends' papers.
Louise Lennox is as bubbly and friendly off camera as she appears on camera even after a long day in the kitchen. For a lady who self admittedly loves her desserts she is tiny!!!!
If you missed the show it will be on RTE Player until January 19th- The Restaurant- 5 star Cook Off