First Impressions: Stan’s Sweetbitter is a nice but ultimately unsatisfying dish

Many people are seduced by the bright lights, big city of New York. One such character is Tess, the protagonist in the new Stan series, Sweetbitter. The show is a slow-burning, coming-of-age drama about a city and those working in an industry that never sleeps.

This series is based on the best-selling, eponymous novel by Stephanie Danler. Her book was informed at least in part by her own experiences of traveling to New York and working at the prestigious Union Square Café. In the series, Tess (played with wide-eyed naiveté by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’s Ella Purnell) ventures there from Ohio on little more than a blink and a whim.

Tess has no plans for her new life. Some viewers may find this lack of direction and motivation a little hard to swallow. But something that is certainly more palatable is the food porn that this series shows. Anyone who has ever wanted a fly-on-the-wall-look behind the scenes at a high-end restaurant then Stan has the right dish for you.

We also meet Tess’ boss, the hard taskmaster Howard (Paul Sparks) who keeps this 22-year-old on her toes. Then there’s the knowledgeable sommelier Simone who is like a mother-hen taking care of her charges in the kitchen and back-of-house. Tess makes new friends with her co-workers and experiences a number of things for the first time. This includes eating an oyster and her first foray into drugs. It’s all quite hedonistic, really.

The novel Sweetbitter was quite a visceral and sensual affair. And while this TV series attempts to capture some of this spirit, there will be viewers who will be missing Danler’s sparkling prose. Sweetbitter is ultimately a pleasant-enough little dish with some moments of true promise but don’t expect this one to completely sate your appetite at the end of the day.


Sweetbitter will air exclusively on Stan from 7th May, streaming the same day as the US – where it airs on Starz.


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