Ramsay to the rescue

He was charm itself as he welcomed diners through the doors and ushered them to their tables.But fiery-tempered Gordon Ramsay showed his passion for the f-word - that's food, of course - in the burning hot kitchens of a new-look Norfolk restaurant.

He was charm itself as he welcomed diners through the doors and ushered them to their tables.

But fiery-tempered Gordon Ramsay showed his passion for the f-word - that's food, of course - in the burning hot kitchens of a new-look Norfolk restaurant.

For one night only, the feisty chef and his film crew scrutinised every move from the chopping board to the fork as he sprinkled his magic on the classy yet ailing Rococo in King's Lynn.

The Michelin-starred restaurant had called in Ramsay in a last-ditch attempt to turn round its fortunes - and this was the first chance for customers old and new to get a taste of the results.

And while owner and head chef Nick Anderson sweated it out behind the scenes under the watchful gaze of his foul-mouthed mentor, a much gentler Ramsay mingled with diners between courses. Flitting from kitchen to table with an air of supreme confidence, he was intrigued to hear what they thought of the specially devised, cheaper menu and brighter decor.

The culinary makeover will feature in the new Channel 4 series of Kitchen Nightmares, in which Ramsay uses his own inimitable style to try to make a success of struggling eateries.

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Dressed in his chef's whites, he told one table that he had tried to make Rococo "less precious and arty farty" and that the "pretentious" moniker had to go.

He and his crew set to work in Saturday Market Place, hoisting up a temporary canvas sign for "Maggie's" and scraping any last traces of Rococo from the windows.

Rather than viewing its after-dinner lounge as a chance to relax and look out on to St Margaret's Church, Ramsay thought it looked like "someone's front room" and deterred passing trade.

So, the dark walls and sofas got the chop and in its place came a bright, white room filled with tables where diners can see and be seen.

As far as the balance sheet was concerned, Rococo was an exclusive, pricey restaurant that only served 100 customers a month and none at all some weekday evenings.

Many of Monday night's customers admitted they preferred it as it was but could only afford to go there twice a year for special occasions.

Ramsay hopes his simpler, affordable menu, at £21 for three courses and £18 for two, will make it a regular choice and a place where you "don't have to question the bill".

It is understood the chef and his crew had been in Lynn for several days and the town was awash with stories of his visits to pubs, a club and speedway at Norfolk Arena. Before Maggie's opened its doors, Ramsay attracted a small crowd in the High Street as he and waiting staff tried to drum up trade by handing out fliers to shoppers.

He said he had enjoyed his stay in Norfolk and was struck by the quality and price of its produce.

"It's extraordinary - the seafood, the fruit and vegetables," he said. "We found a punnet of strawberries the other day for 50p. Incredible."

The restaurant will carry on under its new guise without Ramsay's help until the chef returns at an unspecified date to see how the restaurant fared.

And if Monday night's diners were only attracted by the novelty of Ramsay in their midst or eating dishes created by a celebrity chef's own hand, they were quickly put right. When one dared to say the chicken was a "bit bland", Ramsay challenged her to "tell the chef".

"It's his restaurant and he made it, not me," he declared, seasoning his riposte with just a soupçon of swearing.

Channel 4 and Maggie's were unable to comment because Kitchen Nightmares is an "on-going project" due to be screened in the autumn.

The inaugural menu featured starters of slow-roast vine-tomato gazpacho with cucumber and basil; crispy duck salad with coriander; montgomery cheddar and gruyere- cheese souffle.

Main courses were pan-fried mack-erel with warm potato salad and chive vinaigrette; roast breast of chicken with boulangere potatoes and sautéd carrots; roast lamb rump with crushed potatoes, peas and broad beans.

Side orders were mash, sautéd potatoes, green beans with lemon dressing; rocket and parmesan salad with balsamic dressing, £2.50 each.

Desserts were rice pudding with English strawberries, lemon tart with crème fraiche and gooseberry and raspberry fool.