Similar to her previous books, Restaurant Babylon has Edwards-Jones working with a number of industry insiders, combined together as “Anonymous”, to give the reader a fictional account of real life incidents that happen in the restaurant business.
Instead of writing a book that directly tackles the industry by “exposing” its workings – the behind the doors scene, if you may – Edwards-Jones concocts a 24-hour story that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop till the end of the day, when the tired, often humiliated characters have risen victorious against all odds – in most cases – including some below the belt beatings, and are returning to their humble abodes ready to take on another day head on.
Restaurant Babylon follows the life of a restaurateur who must resolve numerous issues at his three restaurants (a proper sit down affair, a bistro, and a bar) all the while dealing with plans of opening a fourth. If anything, the book gives a glimpse into the tough, tension filled life of running restaurants in between all the superficial fun and “debauchery” that one assumes comes with the trade – the debauchery is there, but not without it’s own set of issues.
The book is full of anecdotes that range from the laugh-out-loud to the surreal moments that emphasize the highs and lows of the business. Although there is no direct link between the characters and real life industry workers – Although, those within the British restaurant industry might be able to guess who the characters are based on – Imogene doesn’t hide away from naming real life celebrity chefs along the way to give some authenticity to the story. There are episodes that will charm you but quite a few that will shock and make you doubt the smirk on the waiters face just as he serves you your meal.
Imogen Edwards-Jones in Restaurant Babylon once again whips up a lovely story that moves smoothly from one incident to another and even though some events have to be taken with a pinch of salt as there’s always a lingering doubt in the mind of the reader of whether these happenings could have really taken place or is the line between fiction and fact blurred purposely to spice up the already flavorful book, there is no denying that the book is entertaining enough to be consumed quickly along with a couple of shots of tequila.
The Babylon series by Edwards-Jones isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some might call them perfect “holiday reads” not to be taken seriously and while that may seem to be true, I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly – having read all except Hospital Babylon. Furthermore, the author’s writing is almost always without an air of superiority, layman-ish, that makes the book easy to read and enjoy; A light-hearted and fun read perfect if you, like me, enjoy a bit of gossip.
Whether you take the book seriously or not, Restaurant Babylon will change the way you look at the restaurant and food industry and maybe, just maybe, make you think twice before you speak ill to a server or worse under-tip only to return to the same restaurant at a later date.