by Vadim Rizov

The Trip

The Trip is a lightly plotted comedy travelogue whose six half-hour BBC episodes have lost 50 minutes to make a digestible 111-minute feature. Most of the running time features Steve Coogan and decade-plus collaborator Rob Brydon riffing at will during a six-day road trip. (The two also played mock versions of themselves in 2005's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, directed by Michael Winterbottom, again behind the camera here.) The destinations are dictated by food: Coogan's been invited to write up his culinary journey for The Observer, despite not knowing the first thing about the recently emerged high cuisine offered in otherwise obscure Northern English villages. With girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley) in New York City and their relationship on indeterminate hiatus, a callowly broken-up Coogan sets out with replacement companion Brydon to eat at a number of astonishingly upscale rural pubs and restaurants.

It's a journey that would have been inconceivable 20 years ago, when standards of British cuisine were cheap and shoddy: in her book The Anglo Files, American journalist Sarah Lyall recalls being horrified by a breakfast in the mid-90s where a breakfast tray was left outside her door "the night before [...] a carton of milk and two slices of buttered white bread cut into triangles (and wrapped in coming-off cling film)." No longer: the places Coogan and Brydon eat are real, their website addresses included in the press kit. One is L'Enclume, where the duo gamely make their way through an extensive tasting menu; the website lists three such meals, starting at £69, in a village (Cartmel, Cumbria) populated by an estimated 1500 people. It's a changed world of culinary options dotted in otherwise towns whose buildings and roads appear not to have changed since the '30s.


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