Gourmet Night

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"Gourmet Night"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 5
Directed by John Howard Davies
Written by John Cleese & Connie Booth
Original air date 17 October 1975
Guest actors
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Hotel Inspectors"
Next →
"The Germans"
List of Fawlty Towers episodes

"Gourmet Night" is the fifth episode in the first series of the BBC TV sitcom Fawlty Towers.


Episode-credited cast:



Fawlty Towers has a new chef named Kurt who has been found for them by André, Kurt's culinary trainer and a friend of the Fawltys, just ahead of a gourmet night that Basil, ever eager to attract the upper crust of clientéle in Torquay, is intending to host at the hotel. Kurt has taken a liking to Manuel. Basil, meanwhile, is having trouble with his Austin 1100 Countryman (estate) car. Despite Sybil's insistence that he take the car to a repair shop, the miserly Basil tries to fix the car himself. Unfortunately, when the gourmet night arrives, only four people turn up (Colonel and Mrs. Hall, both JPs, and Lionel Twitchen, one of Torquay's leading rotarians, along with his wife, Lotte) due to Basil including a "no riff-raff" notice in his advertisement after a rude and pampered boy brands the hotel a "dump" simply because his chips weren't the shape he preferred, he didn't like the look of the eggs and they didn't have any salad cream (to which Basil responds by "accidentally" elbowing him in the head and comparing him to Henry Kissinger). A party of four, the Coosters, was supposed to be in attendance, but are forced to cancel at the last minute due to one of them getting ill. When Basil learns of this, he remarks "let's hope it's nothing trivial."

As the episode unfolds it is revealed that Kurt is a homosexual alcoholic and his interest in Manuel is actually on a romantic scale, but Manuel, who is straight, is not interested, so Kurt seeks solace in alcohol and ends up drunk to the point of being unable to cook, unbeknownst to Basil, as the dinner guests are arriving.

Basil displays his extreme social awkwardness as he becomes oversensitive to Colonel Hall's introduction to the other guests. The Colonel has a nervous twitch which causes his neck and head to convulse violently. When Fawlty attempts to introduce the two couples he gets hung up on the name of "Lionel Twitchen", so as not to offend the Colonel, and is unable to introduce them, thereby causing maximum embarrassment for himself. Mr Twitchen introduces himself, revealing his surname is pronounced "Twychen'.

Basil is horrified that Kurt has passed out and vomited, so there is now no chef. Fortunately, André, who was aware of Kurt's alcoholism, is on hand to help Basil. However, as André's restaurant has a restricted availability, the 'gourmet' menu ends up with only three possible dishes for Basil's guests to choose from - all consisting of various forms of duck: Duck with orange, duck with cherries, or 'duck surprise' (duck without oranges or cherries). When Basil is asked what happens if they don't like duck, he responds "If you don't like duck... then you're rather stuck!" (to which Mrs. Hall responds that she loves it).

Basil's attempts to obtain the food are complicated. The first duck is ruined when Basil accidentally drops the tray and Manuel's foot gets lodged in it, so Basil ends up having to ask André for another. The second attempt is hampered by Basil's car, which finally breaks down on his way back with the food; the scene ends with what is arguably one of the series's most famous sequences: Basil screaming at the "vicious bastard" of a car and giving the vehicle fair warning, followed by a "damn good thrashing" with a tree branch after it finally completely refuses to start.

The staff try to stall for time while waiting for Basil to return with the duck: Manuel plays flamenco tunes on his guitar, Polly sings "I Cain't Say No" from the musical Oklahoma!, and Sybil drunkenly recounts an anecdote about "uncle Ted and his crate of brown ale." Basil manages to get back to the hotel on foot and the guests are finally presented with the "duck" which they have so eagerly awaited, only to discover that, due to a mix-up in Andre's kitchen, it has turned into a Bombe Surprise when Basil removes the cloche. Basil is so surprised that he searches through the trifle with his hands to see if there is a hidden duck. When asked to explain this, Basil deadpans "Duck's off, sorry."


A 1999 poll for NatWest car insurance voted the scene in this episode where Basil attacks his car with a tree branch as "most momentous motoring moment".[1]

Connections and errors[edit]

  • Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 7 September 1975, in Studio TC8 of the BBC Television Centre, before a live audience.[2]
  • The first time in the programme we see a chef at Fawlty Towers, and the last time until Terry, the regular character in series two. Manuel would later have a disagreement with Terry (as well as a fight) in The Anniversary.
  • Basil's car in this episode is a red 1967 Austin 1100 Countryman Estate.[3] The car, registration number WLG 142E, still exists and is currently owned by an entertainments company.
  • The scene which ends with Basil giving the Austin 1100 a "damn good thrashing" with a tree branch has been immortalised in the form of a miniature model car, and Basil swinging the branch, by the Corgi toy company. The scene itself remains one of Fawlty Towers's most iconic and celebrated.
  • On the second return journey from Andre's restaurant the road is dry when Basil pulls in behind the other vehicle blocking the road. However, when he reverses out the road is clearly soaking wet as if there had just been a downpour.
  • Roughly 17 minutes into the episode the shadow of the microphone boom is visible moving across the wall as Basil sits in front of the typewriter.
  • When Manuel bursts through the kitchen door from the dining room and knocks the duck onto the floor, a stagehand can be seen crouching inside the dining room area of the set.
  • André's Restaurant is in fact 294 Preston Road, Harrow, and is now 'Wings' restaurant.[3]
  • The scene where Basil attacks the car with a tree branch was also filmed in Harrow in the Kenton area at the T-junction of Lapstone Gardens and Mentmore Close (51°34′52″N 0°18′33″W / 51.581103°N 0.309072°W / 51.581103; -0.309072).
  • In an external scene with Basil, the shopfronts have Torquay addresses and phone numbers.
  • Andrew Sachs, Andre Maranne and Steve Plytas would later co-star again in Revenge of the Pink Panther, although they did not share any scenes together.
  • Manuel offers to cook paella for Andre and Kurt, probably to his mother's recipe like he tried to do in The Anniversary.
  • Manuel attempts to play the guitar in this episode, but clearly does not know how to play it properly. By the time of Basil the Rat, he can play the guitar and sing at the same time perfectly (although the singing is not quite adequate: Basil rolls his eyes in annoyance upon hearing Manuel singing).
  • This is the only episode where Sybil drinks to excess. Her behaviour in this episode, such as her anecdote at the end of the episode, is also one of the few indications of her background.
  • This episode is also one of the few occasions in which Sybil directly expresses signs of affection to Basil (albeit while drunk), when they are having dinner with Andre.
  • Unusually, this episode sees Sybil play an active part in one of Basil's schemes; in most episodes she is the one from whom Basil is attempting to hide something.
  • This episode is probably the one that takes place over the longest time-span. Its dialogue indicate that each 'act' takes place on three entirely separate days.
  • Elizabeth Benson, who plays Mrs. Heath, would go on to appear in the second series as Mrs. White in The Kipper and the Corpse. She is one of three guest performers to appear in both series.
  • Ann Way would later star alongside John Cleese again in the 1985 movie Clockwise, where incidentally - Cleese would again drive an Austin 1100 and vent his anger at it.
  • In the scene where Kurt is vomiting, the editor edited the vomit showing because it might seem disgusting and offensive and instead took a close-up shot of Sybil, though the vomit was shown to the studio audience during filming. No sound effect is used, leaving viewers to infer what has happened from Sybil's reaction.


  • Fawlty Towers: A Worshipper's Companion, Leo Publishing, ISBN 91-973661-8-8
  • The Complete Fawlty Towers by John Cleese & Connie Booth (1988, Methuen, London) ISBN 0-413-18390-4 (the complete text)
  1. ^ "Basil's road rage tops poll". BBC News. 21 October 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Kempton, Martin. "An unreliable and wholly unofficial history of BBC Television Centre...". An incomplete history of London's television studios. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Joe. "Gourmet Night". Episode Guides. Fawltysite.NET. 

External links[edit]