Ever wondered what would happen if two British comedians opened an imaginary restaurant that also served any and every single dish ever created or conceived of for their weekly special guest?
What a strange thing to wonder about. But, lucky for you, you can wonder no more as such a thing now exists – and it’s hosted by panel show regulars Ed Gamble (The Peacock and Gamble Podcast, Mock the Week) and Kettering’s finest, James Acaster (Repertoire, also Mock the Week).
The relatively new show only launched this month with serial podcast guest Scroobius Pip requesting his own personalised mostly-pizza-based menu in the inaugural episode. The rapper/actor revealed just how limited his palette is as he talked through his ideal meal, which mostly consisted of types of cheese, garlic bread and butter chicken. Both Acaster and Gamble ran the show like pros, only interjecting when they needed to move things along, but allowed the podcast veteran to just do his thing. It was an inspired choice to get Scroobius in for the first episode as everybody (including the format) found its feet.
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By the time episode two was published, featuring the highly regarded food critic Grace Dent – who must have made chefs and restauranteurs everywhere extremely nervous as she reeled off her favourite (and a few disappointing) dishes – the pair had already become much more settled and found a flow for the show… right before another frequent podcast guest Richard Osman picks apart the format in episode three.
It’s still early days for Off Menu and things are bound to change. At times in these early episodes, the menu concept does restrain the show when mostly people are listening to hear Acaster and Gamble be themselves, rather than hear their opinion on, say, pasta sauces. Both are well known for their respective television, radio and stand up shows – with Acaster in particular enjoying a stellar year after the phenomenal four-part Netflix comedy special Repertoire rightly earning rave reviews – so they are immediately on the front foot as they do not need to win over the audience. Those who choose to download this podcast will presumably already know and like both of them.
Instead, Off Menu‘s long-term success will hinge on how natural the conversations continue to be with each new guest that joins the show. As time goes on and the guests become more varied, instead of just people they already know quite well, that will be the biggest test for this podcast. However, it has made a very strong start and long may it continue.