Food and Flicks is great box office

The private, luxury cinema at Rudding Park Hotel.
The private, luxury cinema at Rudding Park Hotel.

ONE thing is for sure, Basil Fawlty would never have pulled this off.

If the famously rude hotel owner from the classic TV sitcom Fawlty Towers had managed to come up with the clever concept of Food & Flicks there would have been ‘incidents’ galore.

Undoubtedly, the wrong meal would have arrived. The wine would have been corked. The waiter would have been useless – and from Barcelona.

Located in 2,000 acres of beautiful Harrogate parkland in a Grade 1 listed country house, Rudding Park Hotel is as far from Basil’s dreadful establishment in Torquay as it’s possible to get - in every sense.

Typical of its go-ahead approach, this Regency House, which skilfully blends tradition with modernity, launched its Food and Flicks movie and meal nights around six months ago.

Usually this popular Monday night fixture involves a two-course dinner in the hotel’s highly-regarded Clocktower restaurant followed by a big hit movie in their private, luxury, state of the art, 14-seater cinema.

For one night only, the movie has been replaced by the entire first series of legendary 1970s BBC sitcom starring John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs, of course.

The irony of one of the best hotels in the UK screening a programme about one of its worst, albeit fictional, was simply too delicious to resist.

And that’s how the meal turned out, too.

In the tradition of these things, it’s at this point I should unleash an army of adjectives about how good or bad the food was.

The trouble with restaurant reviewing is that, if the meal is good, the critic is tempted to dine out from a dish of awful hyperbole.

But writing about a great carrot is not the same as writing about a great painting – unless you are a very rare breed of reviewer.

If, on the other hand, the meal is poor, pulling apart a restaurant’s failings in print afterwards can feel as cruel as pulling the wings off a butterfly.

So let’s decline the clichés. I’m not a hotel inspector from an episode of Fawlty Towers, afterall.

Let’s just say the meal was great and leave it at that.

Even without the luxury cinema to come, the two-course meal is nearly a bargain in itself.

Firstly, there’s the choice – not just a matter of ‘either or’ in this special deal but a pick of six starters, six mains and six puddings.

Rudding Park’s award-winning consultant chef Stephanie Moon is a fervent champion of locally-sourced food and this is fully reflected in the Local Food Heroes menu put together by The Clocktower’s head chef, Eddie Gray.

What you savour nearly as much as the meal itself, as you sit in the spacious conservatory’s relaxing wicker chairs admiring the 400-year-old olive tree in the middle of the restaurant, is the fact its principle ingredients have been sourced entirely within a 75-mile radius of this attractive estate.

The back of the menu even has a map pinpointing the exact location of all the suppliers.

Thirsk, Ampleforth, Easingwold, Holmfirth, Whitby, Pickering, Swaledale, Nidderdale, Harrogate, the list of local locations goes on. . .

Different names start to appear as you move downstairs to the private cinema following the first part of the Food and Flicks experience.

Descending into the bowels of the swish new Follifoot wing past the mini gym and its additional 48 luxury bedrooms completed in December as part of a major programme of investment, you notice lengthy rows of photographs on the corridor walls of some of Rudding Park’s more famous guests.

Crikey. Never mind great Brits, most of the great American statesmen of the last 20 years seem to have stayed here, from Bill Clinton to Colin Powell.

Perhaps it’s the extra lure of the 18-hole golf course or is it something more obvious - Rudding Park’s highly-rated conference facilities?

Unusual connections pop up in all walks of life.

In the past videos of Fawlty Towers have been used as training aids for staff by hotel chains and such major establishments as the Hilton in London – lessons in how not to do it, obviously.

President George Bush Snr is a big fan, reportedly, the story being that he often watched the manic antics of Basil Fawlty, Manuel and co during the first Gulf War in an attempt to relax.

Best of all, John Cleese, the star and co-creator of the series (with Connie Booth) has actually stayed at Rudding Park Hotel.

But none of this matters as I sink down in the giant-size, incredibly comfy, leather cinema seat to watch a TV series first screened 37 years ago on a 7.1 surround sound cinema screen three metres wide.

Will this ancient sitcom still work as a programme? Will it have dated? Will it be a bit of a letdown after the lovely meal?

As I tuck into a complementary box of popcorn under the cosy cinema’s starlit ceiling contemplating how the entire Food and Flicks experience has cost me only £25.50, I start to laugh, then laugh again and again at classic moments from the past going on right in front of me in the present.

To be honest, what I’m thinking is, this, if only there was a drink in my hand right now, the only minor disappointment of an otherwise fabulous evening. Rudding Park Hotel’s Food & Flicks would easily be the best night in town.

l Food and Flicks takes place at Rudding Park Hotel each Monday at 6.30pm.

Forthcoming movies include Chariots of Fire, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Jurassic Park, Bridesmaids, Some Like It Hot and more.

It will also shortly be launching live screenings of top sporting and arts events.

l For details and bookings, call 01423 871350