Ever eager to attract a better class of clientele, Basil organises a gourmet night with the food cooked by Kurt their new chef, a protege of the Fawltys friend, Andre. Gourmet night arrives and only four people show up after Basil included a no riff-raff clause in the advertisement. The guests are Colonel and Mrs Hall and Mr and Mrs Twitchen. After an embarrassing incident when Basil attempts to introduce the two couples, Basil discovers that his new chef, Kurt, is as drunk as a skunk.
It is revealed that Kurt is an alcoholic homosexual who has fallen in love with Manuel. Manuel has spurned his advances, and Kurt is now seeking solace in alcohol, unable to cook. Basil frantically seeks help from Andre who is only able to offer Basil three dishes – all containing duck. Basil quickly rewrites the menu and then gives it to his guests.
His guests are taken aback when they see the menu. Basil explains that the chef is temperamental and threw all his imperfect dishes into the bin. Asked what happens if you don’t like duck, Basil replies, if you don’t like duck…then you’re rather stuck!
Now comes the complicated bit – actually obtaining the food. The first duck from Andre’s restaurant is ruined when Manuel gets his foot stuck inside it. The second attempt to obtain the duck is hampered by Basil’s car. It breaks down on the way back from the restaurant and Basil gives it a jolly good thrashing with the branch of a tree. Meanwhile, the staff stall the guests by singing songs and telling stories while Basil makes his way back on foot with the duck.
Finally, Basil gets back with the duck. With his guests eager for their meal, Basil takes the top off the container to reveal an enormous trifle, due to an unfortunate mix-up at the restaurant. Basil dives into the trifle with both hands to find the duck and intones, duck’s off, sorry.
A Touch of Class shows how Basil leaves no stone unturned in his pandering to the upper classes. This theme continues in Gourmet Night when Basil organises a night of fine dining for four “respected” members of the community, the food being cooked by his new chef, Kurt. Basil seems to have some strange pie-in-the-sky notion that Fawlty Towers will one day cater to the “cream” of Torquay society. When his “fine” new chef, Kurt, gets drunk, Basil’s hopes of achieving these ambitions seem further away than ever.
Gourmet Night is one of the few episodes where all the characters, Basil, Polly, Sybil and Manuel end up banding together to meet the crisis rather than clashing with one another. They all have their own cringeworthy moments, notably when they are trying to entertain their guests as Basil goes off to collect the dinner.
This episode contains one of the highlights of the whole two series; the moment Basil goes manic with a tree branch and gives his Austin 1300 a good thrashing because it has conked out on him.
[Basil explaining to Sybil that Kurt is drunk]:
Sybil: I don’t believe it.
Basil: Neither do I, perhaps it’s a dream [bangs head on table] No we’re stuck with it.
[After Basil serves Mrs Hall a raw Mullet]:
Basil: Is everything all right?
Mrs Hall: I think I’m going to be sick.
Basil: It is an unusual taste isn’t it?
Mrs Hall: It’s not cooked you ignoramus.
Basil: Would you like a cooked one?
[Polly serving Colonel Hall]:
Colonel Hall: Waitress!
Colonel Hall: There’s a hair in my mousse.
Polly: Well don’t talk too loud, everybody will want one!
Colonel Hall: What?!
The hotel sign reads WA RTY TOWELS.
This is the first time we see a chef at Fawlty Towers.
John Cleese did not learn to drive until a year after this episode was broadcast. A double was needed to drive the car.
When Basil screams at the car to “start in three seconds or else”, he does not crank the engine but just sits there counting
down the seconds.
When Basil drops the duck, a stage hand is visible crouching behind the double doors into the dining room.
On Basil’s second car journey from Andre’s the road is dry when he pulls behind another vehicle which is blocking the road. When he reverses,
the road is drenched.
Polly mentions that Vincent Van Gogh only sold two paintings in a lifetime. Van Gogh was a 19th Century Dutch expressionist
painter who died aged 37 by his own hand.
Robert Carrier is an American chef who became famous in Europe.
Basil: Well, the, ah, the chef usually buys it only on special occasions, you know, gourmet nights and so on, but, um, when he’s got a
bottle, ah! He’s a genius with it! He can unscrew the cap like Robert Carrier.
Henry Kissinger was an American statesman who served as U.S. Secretary of State in 1975 in the Nixon government.
Basil: Still, I’ll tell him to get some salad cream. I mean, you never know when Henry Kissinger is going to drop in, do you?
Andre Maranne — Andre
Steve Plytas — Kurt
Allan Cuthbertson — Colonel Hall
Ann Way — Mrs Hall
Richard Caldicot — Mr Twitchen
Betty Huntley-Wright — Mrs Twitchen
Jeffrey Segal — Mr Heath
Elizabeth Benson — Mrs Heath
Tony Page — Master Heath