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Thursday, 5 March 2009

Heston’s Victorian Feast, Channel 4


Did we like it?
Despite the exotic food served up by the Fat Duck chef, we were bored by the opening programme in this series of exotic feasts.

What was good about it?
• Heston Blumenthal's culinary creations are marvellous (although we'd probably prefer a nice plate of egg and chips). We couldn't help admiring the audacity of the Lewis Carroll-inspired Mad Hatter's tea party comprising a Drink Me potion combining toffee, buttered toast, custard, cherry pie and turkey; a mock turtle soup involving a frozen watch fob and an egg fashioned from turnip with a swede mousse topping; an edible Victorian kitchen garden, with gravel (smoked eel, tapioca and waffle crumbs), soil (olives, grape nuts and pumpkin seeds), pebbles (potatoes) and fried crickets and mealworms (the real thing which actually caused little alarm in these days of Bushtucker Trials and Bruce Parry); and absinthe jelly with a vibrator inside.
• The attempt to get some old biddies in a garden centre to taste an edible pot plant was a reasonable recreation of the times when Esther Rantzen used to bother old people with strange food on That's Life. "If we die of poisoning, before we die, can we come and have a meal at your place?" asked one of them, illogically (but amusingly in light of the recent Fat Duck closure after a food poioning scare).

What was bad about it?
• The "celebrity" diners. Jemma Redgrave made a couple of interesting points but Dawn Porter, Richard Bacon, Rageh Omaar, Kathy "not at all funny" Lette and Toby Young were restricted to a few MMMs and oh-my-Gods.
• Heston Blumenthal avoids being a quirky jerk unlike other TV chefs. But his avoidance goes so far that he's quite boring – a magician who is nothing without his tricks.
• Comfort zone clichĂ© alert: "I think my creative juices flow best when I'm pulled out of my comfort zone," Heston said.
• Hyperbole overload: "I'm on a mission." "I'm on a food adventure." "I passionately believe I can create a once-in-a-lifetime feast" "Throw away your cookbooks and don't try this at home."
• C- lit crit of the week: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is the “quintessential Victorian novel”, Heston opined. Wrongly.
• It's nowhere near as entertaining as the similar Supersizers featuring Sue Perkins and Giles Coren on BBC4.

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