Jay Rayner: My Dining Hell, Assembly Rooms, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Jay Rayner
Running time

The title of this wonderfully entertaining, inspiring, illuminating Spoken Word presentation is My Dining Hell.

So presumably, Jay Rayner, the Restaurant critic at the Observer for the past fifteen years, (1,100 words each week of glittering prose), does not always have a 5 star gastronomic experience. People like to read a bad restaurant review.

Always an eloquent, outspoken, sometimes rude, but always pertinent critic on Masterchef, Rayner is a well known TV presenter, pontificating passionately about food - the taste, texture, flavour of good food.

Stepping on to the stage at the Music Hall, little did the audience know or expect, that he is also an original stand up comic; the jokes and satirical humour revolve around his journeys to the worst places in London and other travels in search of a decent meal.

This is a slick, seamless power point presentation with images and text on a giant screen. To ensure we know who this curly dark haired guy is, he shows a photograph of Marco Pierre White and then one of himself. The similarity is extraordinary and he has been mistaken for the chef on numerous occasions.

So now we know this is the real Jay Rayner, he can begin the show. First he encourages us to Tweet our comments and views throughout his performance.

Over the next hour we learn about the language of menus, OTT descriptions of dishes, the do’s and don’ts of service, and answering bold, brash questions about his work fired like bullets from the audience.

The laughter starts within minutes when he explains that the phrase “mouth–watering” is banned by his profession, showing on screen a baby dribbling. That’s mouth watering, not a plate of food.

Service is his bugbear because few restaurants get it right: May I tell you the concept of the menu? Waiters interrupting a romantic tete a tete to top up wine glasses or ask 'How is everything'? The spelling mistakes “basil enthused pasta”, and the unnecessary descriptions, "hand-dived" scallops, "oven-roasted", "pan fried"….

He interrupts his talk as a Tweet has come in: “Thank you for brightening up a dreich wet day in Edinburgh with your colourful Hawaiian shirt.”

Rayner walks up and down the stage, as images and stories flash up on the screen to dramatise a point of view. The final section of the talk is to name and shame the five worst places he has had the misfortunte to visit.

These include the Buddha Bar featuring inedible pan-Asian food, loud music, so dreadful and thankfully now closed, he says. A weird selection of dishes in badly designed Russian and Ukranian restaurants. And then there’s Shumi where the bizarre concept of the cuisine is Italian food served in a Japanese style. "Why?" he shrieks in sheer frustration.

Questions from the audience are witty and to the point: Have you ever had food poisoning when reviewing a restaurant? (No). Best meal he has experienced ? The Fat Duck Tasting Menu - the most fun he has had with his clothes on.

But where he would choose to eat for his own pleasure is the Lisboa Grill, Brixton and order Spare Ribs. Now that's a recommendation to take very seriously.