The toffs of Torquay turn out for a special gourmet night at Fawlty Towers but the chef is blotto. A desperate Basil hurtles round to a friend's restaurant in a car as reliable as his chef. His mission is to find a replacement main course — he's out for a duck.

Fawlty Towers episode guide
#5: Gourmet Night

Series One, Episode Five — First shown 17 October 1975

Fed up with a neverending stream of what he would class as “riff-raff”, Basil decides to hold a Gourmet Night and invite the cream of Torquay society.

With a higher class of clientele sampling the delights of the Fawlty Towers kitchen, fame and fortune and, more importantly to Basil, increased social status are sure to follow. At least that was Basil's plan, but his legendary tight-fistedness will once again be his downfall. In a rare on location in “Torquay” scene (it was actually filmed in North London), Basil memorably attacks his car with a branch in one of Fawlty Towers' most famous portrayals of Basil's very own brand of madness. Sybil warned Basil that he should take the car to a garage but, Basil being Basil, “fixed” it himself.

At first, things appear to be going according to Basil's plan but typically, the good times don't last for Basil as four of his most prominent guests phone up to cancel. “One of them is ill”, advises Sybil. “Nothing trivial I hope”, retorts Basil, sympathetic as ever.

Screenshot of the staff in the kitchen

Poor Manuel! He has attracted the unwanted amorous intentions of Kurt, Basil's new Greek chef. After being spurned by Manuel, Kurt the chef seeks solace in the demon drink so the special menu prepared for the Gourmet Night guests is sadly slightly undercooked. The truth of the matter is that Kurt is sprawled paralytic on the Fawlty Towers kitchen floor and the special menu hasn't been cooked at all!

In a desperate attempt to save his reputation, Basil makes a call to André, a Torquay restaurant owner who is thankfully going to save the day for Basil. First of all, Basil has to frantically change the Gourmet Night menu, everything is now off — except for the duck that André is preparing. “What if you don't like duck?”, enquires one of Basil's upper class guests on seeing the new menu. “Well if you don't like duck…err… you're rather stuck”, laughs Basil, in a unconvincing attempt to laugh off his pathetic new “duck or nothing” menu.

Screenshot of Basil Fawlty entertaining some gourmet guests

Things begin to go downhill rapidly as the impatient guests, blissfully unaware of the chaos unfolding in the kitchen, are stalled by the Fawlty Towers staff as Basil races round to André's to collect the duck. Just as Basil is about to proudly wheel in the star of tonight's culinary event (the duck), Manuel comes marching through the swing doors whacking Basil on the head and unfortunately for Basil, treading in the duck!

Sybil is despatched to reception to ask André to cook another duck whilst Polly is despatched to the dining room to serenade the by now very impatient guests. Meanwhile Basil, beginning to look a little flustered, races round to André's in his car to pick up the second duck, but in true Fawlty Towers style, a waiter carts off the duck leaving an identical serving tray in its place. Oh No!, Basil picks up the “duck” and races out to his car and after a brief protest from the car, dashes off for home.

Have a close look at the scene where Basil is driving back to Fawlty Towers. Before he turns into the street and finds his route blocked, the road is completely dry. When he reverses out, the ground is wet with rain as shown in the picture below!

Screenshot of the famous scene of Basil furious at his car

Classic Scene…

There then followed one of the most remembered fits of Basil madness in all twelve episodes:
Basil: Come on, start, will you!? Start, you vicious bastard!! Come on! Oh my God! I'm warning you — if you don't start… (screams with rage) I'll count to three. (he presses the starter, without success) One…two…three…!!Right! That's it! (he jumps out of the car and addresses it) You've tried it on just once too often! Right! Well, don't say I haven't warned you! I've laid it on the line to you time and time again! Right! Well…this is it! I'm going to give you a damn good thrashing! (he rushes off and comes back with a large branch; he beats the car without mercy)
This short extract was taken from The Complete Fawlty Towers scripts book.

A large pink blancmange or trifle

Basil's gourmet guests are in for a surprise when they see what's really for dinner (above!).

Meanwhile, back at Fawlty Towers, Polly and Sybil are trying in vain to keep the guests amused. The guests are beginning to smell a rat, well they sure as hell aren't smelling duck! Just as it looks like the entire evening is going to be a complete disaster, Basil comes flying up the drive, running not driving, carrying the “duck”, dashes into the kitchen and places the large dish on the serving trolley and proudly makes his grand entrance (at last) into the dining room.

Screenshot of Basil in the dining room

Any thoughts of a Michelin star are soon dispelled however when he proudly lifts the lid to reveal not a duck but a large pink trifle! With his reputation collapsing around him, Basil looks frantically around for the escaped duck, no sign of it — as a last resort he ploughs hopefully into the trifle in a futile last ditch attempt to save himself from total humiliation. Still no sign. Basil: “Duck's off. Sorry”. Cue the theme music!

Full cast list for Gourmet Night
Character Played by
Basil Fawlty John Cleese
Sybil Fawlty Prunella Scales
Polly Connie Booth
Manuel Andrew Sachs
Major Gowen Ballard Berkeley
Miss Tibbs Gilly Flower
Miss Gatsby Renee Roberts
Andre Andre Maranne
Kurt Steve Plytas
Colonel Hall Allan Cuthbertson
Mrs Hall Ann Way
Mr Twitchen Richard Caldicot
Mrs Twitchen Betty Huntley-Wright
Mr Heath Jeffrey Segal
Mrs Heath Elizabeth Benson
Master Heath Tony Page


Mentmore Close

The street corner where Basil attacks his car.

View Larger Map

Back to the top

Preston Road

“André's Restaurant” from Gourmet Night was 294 Preston Road, Harrow (below).

View Larger Map