Jay Rayner prepares to serve up jazz music in Bury St Edmunds

Jay Rayner
Jay Rayner
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Whether it’s because of bad service, dirty cutlery or just plain old terrible food, most of us can recall our very own ‘dining hell’.

But for restaurant critic Jay Rayner - who some will know better as the voice of Radio Four’s Kitchen Cabinet programme or from television shows like Eating with the Enemy, MasterChef and The One Show - such anecdotes have become his bread and butter.

The 48-year-old, who was named best food and drink journalist in Britain in 2011, will treat the Bury St Edmunds public to his all time 20 worst reviews during an event being hosted as part of this year’s Bury Festival.

“I’m very much looking forward to it - it’s very much a double hatter and it does work as a night,” said Jay, whose only dining experience in Bury remains a positive one at Maison Bleue some years back.

Opening with My Dining Hell, Jay will recount some of his more agonising restaurant experiences, the sort that have become literary gold for the experienced writer and author.

“That’s an hour in the company of me so will be for people with excruciating taste,” jokes Jay, whose frank, witty and self-deprecating nature is certain to make for an interesting question and answer session.

“I do also read from bad reviews of my own work - it’s only fair to talk about people who think I’m crap too,” he adds.

The second half of the show, Jazz Heaven, will see Jay transformed - into a jazz pianist!

The father-of-two, who began playing the instrument as a teen, says he played ‘mostly very badly’ for around 30 years, before starting to play with other musicians around five or six years ago.

He practises for up to an hour each day and gigs with his ‘fantastic’ jazz quartet - singer Pat Gordon-Smith, whose grandparents were from Bury, bassist Rob Rickenberg and saxophonist Dave Lewis - at a dozen or so festivals and theatres around the country every year.

The group generally perform songs about food and drink - Black Coffee, One for my Baby, Save the Bones for Mr Jones - but audience members can also expect songs ‘with an agony element’ like Stormy Weather and Don’t go to Strangers, inspired by Jay’s late mother, Claire Rayner, who was best known for her role as an agony aunt.

Jay said: “I’ve not spoken about her much in public but the stories are too good. It’s as much about the chat as it is about the music – I hope it’s a fun hour.”

The show will take place at The Apex from 8pm on May 23. To book tickets for this and all other festival events, visit www.buryfestival.co.uk or call 01284 758000.