Last week a friend and I were in the audience for the taping of Market Kitchen, and I tell you that if you are anywhere within cooee of London, this is just about the best and cheapest day out I can imagine.
We don't actually have a TV at home, so although I have seen the odd episode of Market Kitchen, I wasn't totally familiar with the format.
The set is like a large country-style kitchen cum cafe, with a couple of hobs, small tables and chairs dotted about and an espresso machine. The presenters cook a few dishes, interview a few people, chat about interesting food facts, and there is a presenter down at Borough Market who does a spiel on seasonal food and cooks something down there.
The thing that makes it different is that the studio audience (referred to as "the diners") get to taste plates of all the dishes that are made, and then comment on them. We spent a lot of time being shifted to different tables and grouped in various formations - it was much more interactive than I was expecting!
Another thing which surprised me was that everything on set was real - the crates of herbs were fragrant under the hot lights, the espresso machine was manned by baristas Dan & Liz (I ended up switching to tea, after a bit too much espresso gave me the shakes) and the ovens actually work (I've always been sceptical about the way they stick a dish in the oven and whisk another out - how long has it been sitting there?).
So what did they cook? Matt Tebbutt made stuffed cabbage balls (underseasoned), the blogosphere's famous No-Knead Bread and an absolutely gorgeous apple and blackberry pie. Galton Blakiston made a very simple and extremely delicious plaice fillet with gruyere and leeks. Tom Kerridge braised poussin with minestrone and pesto.
It was a long day - we were there for 7 hours - but it was so much fun! I'd be very keen to do it again.