I have been watching too much of BBC2’s The Restaurant Man.
Or maybe not too much – I’ve only watched five episodes, which is all there have been – but rather, too devotedly.
The programme follows new restaurant openings across the country, given help and guidance by the current king of Soho dining. Lovely tall Russell Norman, with his gentle manner and his insistence on pronouncing “restaurateur” correctly in the face of doubt, has become my new hero. He has both enriched my life, and ruined 95 per cent of restaurants for me forever.
Even as someone who has been paid to review restaurants (“what do you mean, this is free? IT’S ALL DELICIOUS. MORE PLEASE.”), I’ve never had quite so many opinions on the matter as I do now.
I realised it this week when I went to a new-ish pizza place in Brighton and started critiquing the font on the menu. “Tsch, wouldn’t have used Lucida Handwriting,” I muttered before my coat was even off. “It looks like my Year 7 topic book on the Victorians.”
By the time our (very nice) pizzas arrived I’d noted about eight things that I thought needed changing. The wall décor was slightly naff. They didn’t have the very specific drink that I very specifically wanted. They were playing a compilation album titled Songs Mums Liked in 2006.
Everything else was perfectly lovely, but this unrealised potential only frustrated me more. Like noble Mr Norman, I was going to be the dining oracle who saved the day!
“I might tell them all my ideas…” I said as we left. “Don’t tell them,” came the five-strong reply.
Of course what actually needed to happen was for me to shut up and start counting my culinary blessings. Because meanwhile, elsewhere, there is Pizza Hut’s cheeseburger crust pizza. A fast food mutant so heinously grease-laden that it’s prompted international outcry and obesity concern and fuelled the protest against global food waste. By which I mean, Jay Rayner wrote an article in The Guardian.
Such stuff as Joey Tribbiani’s fever dreams are made of, the pizza has 10 mini mozzarella-topped burgers embedded in its crust like meaty blackheads, and packs an artery-squidging 2880 calories if you eat the whole thing. Which of course you will, because you need to hide the evidence.
After hearing about the cheeseburger crust pizza, I sat and had a little reminisce about Pizza Hut. The deep-pan crusts like oily wadding, the congealed cheese you could pick off in one complete sheet, the knowledge that if you finished your bowl from the ice cream factory, you were almost certainly going to be sick in the car on the way home.
And I realised, on balance, that Lucida Handwriting probably wasn’t a dealbreaker after all.