Gourmet Night

"Gourmet Night" is the fifth episode in the first series of the BBC TV sitcom Fawlty Towers.[1]

"Gourmet Night"
Fawlty Towers episode
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 5
Directed byJohn Howard Davies
Written byJohn Cleese and Connie Booth
Original air date17 October 1975
Guest appearance
Allan Cuthbertson
Episode chronology
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"The Hotel Inspectors"
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"The Germans"
List of episodes


Basil Fawlty is having trouble with his Austin 1100 car. Despite Sybil's insistence that he take the car to a garage for repairs, miserly Basil tries to fix the car himself.

Meanwhile, Fawlty Towers has a new Greek chef named Kurt who has been found for them by André, Kurt's culinary trainer and a friend of the Fawltys. Basil and Sybil are intending to host a gourmet night at the hotel. After a rude, pampered boy calls the hotel a "dump" simply because the chips weren't the shape he preferred and there is no salad cream, Basil – ever eager to attract the upper crust of clientele in Torquay – includes a "no riff-raff" notice in his advertisement for the gourmet night. Only four people turn up for the occasion: Colonel and Mrs Hall, both JPs; and Lionel Twitchen, one of Torquay's leading rotarians, along with his wife, Lotte. A party of four, the Coosters, were forced to cancel at the last minute due to one of them getting ill, to which Basil remarks "Let's hope it's nothing trivial."

Kurt has taken a liking to Manuel. Manuel is not interested, so Kurt seeks solace in alcohol and ends up drunk to the point of being unable to cook, leading the remaining staff to panic as the dinner guests arrive.

Basil 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". Furthermore, Basil's efforts to socialise with the Colonel only succeed in offending him.

Basil is horrified to find Kurt has passed out and vomited, so there is now no chef. However, André, who was aware of Kurt's alcoholism, is on hand to help. 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 Colonel Hall asks what happens if they don't like duck, Basil responds "If you don't like duck... then you're rather stuck!"

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 Sybil calls André asking 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 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.

The staff try to stall for time while waiting for Basil to return with the duck: Manuel struggles through some flamenco tunes on his guitar, Polly sings "I Cain't Say No", off key, from the musical Oklahoma!, and Sybil drunkenly recounts an anecdote about "Uncle Ted and his crate of brown ale." The guests are obviously unappreciative.

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."


Episode-credited cast:



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".[2]


Interior scenes of this episode were recorded on 7 September 1975, in Studio TC8 of the BBC Television Centre, before a live audience.[3]

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 with the other two being;

Cleese appeared as Basil in a 2016 advertisement for Specsavers, in which, in a reference to the car thrashing scene from this episode, Basil accidentally attacks an adjacent police car.[4]

Andrew Sachs, André Maranne and Steve Plytas would later co-star again in 1978 in Revenge of the Pink Panther, though none shared any scenes together.


There are a number of production goofs during the episode: while Basil is wrestling with the drunken Kurt, he pushes Kurt against the set wall, causing it to partially give way. The studio rigging equipment can be seen through the gap in the set wall, and remains so for the rest of the episode.

Additionally, when Basil attempts to carry the duck through to the dining room from the kitchen, a stagehand can be clearly seen kneeling on the floor behind the swing door.

During the tree branch scene, the car moves position significantly, despite it being broken down.


  1. ^ Berman, Garry (2011). Best of the Britcoms: From Fawlty Towers to The Office. Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 18. ISBN 9781589795662.
  2. ^ "Basil's road rage tops poll". BBC News. 21 October 1999. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  3. ^ Kempton, Martin. "An unreliable and wholly unofficial history of BBC Television Centre..." An incomplete history of London's television studios. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
  4. ^ Specsavers Fawlty Car, featuring John Cleese #shouldve

Further readingEdit

  • 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)

External linksEdit