Going back to the Restaurant was a little bit like bumping into an old boyfriend, except I was given a little more warning so wanted to make sure it wasn’t dressed with a hoodie and last night’s mascara on my face. As a former producer and director, I had once enviously watched the diners from the kitchen while they sipped wine and commented on how rubbish or wonderful that night’s chef’s offering was for four years. Everyone who works on The Restaurant crew works very, very hard and the actual shoot day runs as a real restaurant with prep from early morning until the afternoon’s tastings and then diners arrive in the early evening and the kitchen kicks into service. I started as a runner on the series in 2008 and loved every step of the journey to becoming Series Producer in 2011 when I last worked on it. Seeing everyone again was a gorgeous reunion.
Going on as a diner was as much exciting as it was nerve-wrecking. I was often asked ‘Where on earth do you get those diners? ‘ when I worked on it. Now it was my turn.
The dressing up bit is an important part of the show, and was one of my favourite parts of the whole experience. My first stop was Covet, a gorgeous ‘borrower’s boudoir’ at the top of Powerscourt Town Centre in Dublin. This shop has been my saviour for many weddings and occasions over the years as they allow you to rent beautiful gowns and designer dresses for a few days and then return them. All the glamour, without the massive price tag or commitment. I fell so madly in love with one particular dress I got it for keeps for my 30th birthday. The whole experience of renting a dress in Covet is a joy. Their customer service is exceptional, from the initial visit you feel like you are at your friend’s extremely glamourous changing room, to the complimentary adjustments they make to fit your shape and height. Suzanne, Aleana and all their staff exude warmth and get as excited about the dresses as you do. And my God, are those dresses pretty. I borrowed a navy blue dress with sparkling shoulders for my turn on ‘The Restaurant’ and was very sad to return it the next day.
The wonderful team at Sugar Cubed took me in with a hug and wave of their magic wand for my hair and my make-up. Sugar Cubed is sister to Brown Sugar, and my favourite salon in Dublin. For an event like this they are they are a perfect one-stop shop because they do hair and make-up. You walk in a goblin and walk out feeling like you can go to the Oscars, such is their enthusiasm. They listen, they care, they don’t push products unless you ask and they are genuinely wonderful fun and friendly. I do love them, and they really do listen.
Aimee and Kim worked their wonders with my colour and style for the night and Cara managed to get my request for make-up that would last all night ‘I don’t care if I look like Aunt Sally’ and something that would not scare children spot on. I am so very thankful to Covet and the Brown Sugar family for everything, I can’t wait visit again.
My ‘date’ for the evening was my friend Peter Conway O’Neill, one of the most passionate people on food and wine that I’ve ever met with an enormous and warm heart, and a deliciously dirty laugh. The whole experience was a lot of fun. Trying not to sound like the type of person I’d hate to be stuck with in a lift and being constructive or celebratory about the food, and guess who might have cooked it was as uncomfortable as it sounds, and it was a very unnatural feeling to be on the diner’s side of the kitchen door. Being aware that every sentence, every snort or lick of lips might be used for the show’s edit gives you a hyper-awareness of exactly how annoying you might be. Sorry Kevin Kilbane. The new venue at Marco Pierre White’s is a fine location for the series in Donnybrook and the man himself lived up to his presence in culinary history.
I did miss my dearly departed friend Paolo Tullio’s presence, it still hurts in the pang of mourning when I hear Roy Orbison or someone talks about how great Italian ingredients are. We will not see his like again.
Thank you to the very hard-working Restaurant team for having me on as a diner, tá sibh iontach! x