Login

Movie Restaurants Reviewed: Where To Eat On The Big Screen

Image for Movie Restaurants Reviewed: Where To Eat On The Big Screen

As Chef’s (bl)ogre Ramsey Michel and Ratatouille’s Anton Ego remind us, restaurant critics usually side with the devil in movies. They turn up, turn their nose up and scurry away to pen toxic pieces denouncing the salad as ‘undressed’ and the service as ‘sluggish’ – or worse, the other way around. Here at Empire, however, we are made of tougher stuff. Only last week a cake shaped like a severed human arm was polished off, and if that doesn’t qualify us to tackle the culinary delights of The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, nothing will. Here, then, is our own Michelin-style guide to movie dining rooms.

Big Night (1996)

Appeared in: Big Night (1996)
Location: Jersey Shore

This unpretentious Italian trattoria is an undiscovered treasure, washed up on the Jersey Shore like a culinary Venus in a big white hat. And a beard. And a ferocious temper. The volatile, god-like maestro behind this slice of ex-pat Abruzzo is terroir-loving chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub); his brother, Secondo (Stanley Tucci), a maitre d’ and manager with a velvet touch. Diners’ reports of “colossal rows” and “flying saucepans” shouldn’t distract from heavenly cuisine just like momma used to make, at least when she wasn’t prising the fratricidal brothers apart. The antipasto is perfect, while the timpano is a jewel in the crown so bountiful it’s easier to list what isn’t in it. Be warned, though: unless you’re either Lady or the Tramp, requests for meatballs will result in ejection. Through the window.

What to order: The timpano is a Dolomite of deliciousness.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Ratatouille

Appeared in: Ratatouille (2007)
Location: Paris

You’d turn your nose up at a burger van run by a gnu or a kebab shop curated by a posse of entrepreneurial ring-tailed lemurs, but Paris fine-dining institution Gusteau’s is the exception to the old adage about never letting an animal cook you dinner. Remy (Patton Oswalt), a squeaky floor-dweller whose entire life is covered by the five-second rule, turns out timeless French cuisine to bring colour to the cheeks of even the most calcified restaurant-goer. Even critic Anton Ego, a fox in the henhouse of lesser restaurants, purrs of a ratatouille to evoke memories of childhood, prepared by a chef who grew up in a drainpipe. Auguste Gusteau, the grand pere of Paris’s restaurant scene, once famously declared that "everyone can cook" and here is memorable proof.

What to order: Restaurant currently closed for health and safety reasons.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

the Prancing Pony

Appeared in: Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) / The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)
Location: Bree

A trusty old nag next to the sleek stallions of Bree’s gastropub circuit, this Middle-earth institution is infused with the fug of pipeweed and usually reverberates with nervy talk of dragons, orcs and coming wars. The doors of Barliman Butterbur’s kitchen swing open to supply hungry travels with almost endless supplies of lembas bread, meat and cheeses. It’s not the place for a first date or for dwarves on the paleo diet, but Bree scenesters will relish a buzzy eaterie that could see them rubbing shoulders with hobbits, humans and the occasional elf looking for a quick bite and a tankard of Barliman's Best. Takeaway is available for black riders in a hurry.

What to order: The lembas bread is the best only thing on the menu.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Jack Rabbit Slim's

Appeared in: Pulp Fiction (1994)
Location: Los Angeles

Finding a niche in LA’s turbulent restaurant scene takes imagination, and Jack Rabbit Slim’s has that in spades. Its ’50s-homaging décor, funky booths (made from 1956 Chrysler convertibles) and movie-star lookalike waiters (Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren, and James Dean) are a gimmick that any critic with a pulse and a rumbling stomach can get with. We went on seafood night and gave William Holden’s Sunset Moulesvard the big thumbs up.

What to order: The five-dollar milkshake. “Pretty fucking good” tweets @VincentVega.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

The Slaughtered Lamb

Appeared in: An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Location: Yorkshire

Pub dining has coming a long way since this accursed tavern first curdled our blood, and our food, back in the early ‘80s. Its doors opened in the era of the three-day week and that work shy outlook has clearly rubbed off on the staff, who are as likely to emerge from the kitchen and punch you in the face as provide you with a hearty meal. It’s a locals’ pub – ramblers, tourists and Americans are all equally unwelcome here – and its sinister décor provides a deterrent for anyone looking for a warm welcome. And if you think the Satanic pentagram is scary, wait until you see the loos.

What to order: A taxi.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Whammy Burger

Appeared in: Falling Down (1993)
Locations: Los Angeles

With its highly-strung clientele, smug-obnoxious management and burgers so sad they might have come straight from a screening of Brief Encounter, this franchise is like Dante’s tenth circle of hell – the one where a disinterested teenager flips you every once in a while as you fry for eternity in low-grade animal fat. The floppy beef patties, fugitives from the United States Department of Agricultural, are enough to drive a man to gun-toting psychosis, and no-one is drinking these milkshakes. Try to avoid the 11.30am breakfast/lunch change-over: things are known to get testy. Better yet, use the drive-thru. Better yet, stay home.

What to order: The Whomlette until 11.30am, the Double Whammy Burger after that.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Chotchkie's

Appeared in: Office Space (1999)
Locations: Various in Texas

The wave of mid-‘90s T.G.I. Friday’s imitators spawned Chotchkie’s, the kind of place that goes out of its way to make you feel at home. It works, too, as long as your home is equally filled with reject Happy Days props, phoned-in food and annoying waiters called Brian. The food is unpretentious, if a little long in the tooth – literally in the case of the shrimp poppers, which looked like they’d be prepared by a taxidermist – but there’s no doubting the commitment to forcing fun on anyone with a case of the Mondays. The staff are encouraged to wear ‘flair’, dozens of badges and pins that would make them a nightmare for airport security and have a similar effect on customers.

What to order: Coffee.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Monty Python The Meaning Of Life (French Restaurant)

Appeared in: Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
Location: Pythonland

A temple of gluttony, this Gallic establishment used to attract gastronauts from far and wide. Then, of course, the unfortunate incident with one Mr. Creosote (Terry Jones), the one-man Beatles of the gastric band, happened and its lustre faded quickly. Creosote’s pukecano and subsequent mint-induced immolation may have knocked a star or two off its critical rating, but the maître d’ has lost none of his smooth-as-crushed-velvet touch and the food, consumed in rational quantities, still has the capacity to surprise. The hare, jugged to perfection, is a Trojan rabbit of tastiness and Les Oeufs De Caille Richard Shepherd – made with bits of real Richard Shepherd – remains a standout. Skip the after-dinner mint.

What to order: Ze jugged hare and ze protective goggles.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Le Hollandais

Appeared in: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
Location: Somewhere in Thatcherite Britain

In restaurant circles, a bad proprietor doesn’t always mean a bad meal. New York’s Copacabana, famous among hungry Mafiosa, and Stall’s Diner in Indiana both have skeletons (and bodies) in their kitchen cupboards. But it’s fair to say that only at Le Hollandais do they actually end up on the menu. The bony finger of blame for this cordon bleurgh is gangland kingpin-turned-restauranteur Albert Spica (Michael Gambon) who unwittingly brought cannibalism to the tables of London’s fine dining rooms before passing away in bloody circumstances. For those who turn their nose up at this kind of abuse bouche, chef Richard Borst also turns out fancy French dishes so wordy the menu comes in landscape. The Scrabble-winning Salade Du Saison Aux Fois Gras Baguenauda Italien Aux Coulions De Tomate takes longer to order than make.

What to order: Carpaccio of Bookshop Proprietor.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

Withnail And I

Appeared in: Withnail & I (1987)
Location: Cumbria

The drunkard’s afternoon sojourn of choice, this genteel little teashop is only let down by its passive-aggressive proprietor and the lack of fine wines. Under the watchful eye of Miss Blennerhassett, as protective of her customers as a mother goose is of its goslings, London ne'er-do-wells get little shrift amid the polite clink of cutlery on china. The finest wines known to humanity are conspicious by their absence, but the scones are delicious.

What to order: Cake. And Tea. Cake AND tea.

Prices: £££££

Food rating: ●●●●●

More from Empire