Dinner at 11, Channel 4 - TV review: 'These precocious child diners know how to put on a real feast'


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The Independent Culture

From the mouths of babes! Last night, Channel 4's Dinner at 11 documentary brought together a group of strangers from all over the country to dine together and discuss the issues of the day. The twist? All of them were still at primary school.

Like Come Dine with Me crossed with 7 Up, Dinner at 11 is a brilliant idea, but the real genius lay in the selection of these precocious pre-teens. I wouldn't have been surprised if the cameras had pulled back to reveal a behind-the-scenes crew of nine-year-olds holding the boom and the clapperboard, like a media-savvy Bugsy Malone. Even the chefs, the Whittard sisters, were just 13 and 10. Someone give these girls their own show.

As for the guests, Kain from Great Yarmouth likes Laurel and Hardy and plays a ukulele. "I just try and keep very old fashioned and very sensible," he said, to the probable relief of his parents. Amaria is a strong-minded tough cookie who serenaded the company with her excellent singing voice. The Northern accent of pint-sized philosopher Jamie gave him the air of a miniature Alan Bennett and social activist Grace stays awake at night thinking about sweatshops and Syria. She's 10 and three quarters.

How do they know all this stuff? Has childhood really changed that much since we were young? Or have we just forgotten what it was like? I'm fairly sure my conversation topics at 11 did not include Nelson Mandela, progressive taxation and online grooming ("You go there and there's a 60-year-old man waiting with a tranquilizer dart," summarised Peter).

Any time not spent marvelling at the wisdom and maturity of these young'uns, could be well spent chuckling at their somehow simultaneous naivety. Kids do say the funniest things, particularly Grace, who expressed her sage musings on romance with such charming ardour: "When you're young you can easily just, like, go on to another person, but the true relationships are at about 14." If only they could all stay as tolerant and spirited as this for ever, instead of turning into mealy-mouthed, boring adults like us.