Daily Archives: December 13, 2011
2011 has been a pretty amazing year for me in terms of food. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be recapping the very best (and worst) of it, starting with Restaurant Meal of the Year.
I’ve experienced five of the six best meals of my life during the last 12 months. In an incredible four-week period following my late-July wedding, I had fabulous dinners at Hibiscus (2 Michelin stars), Goodman Mayfair, The Waterside Inn (3 Michelin stars) and Northcote Manor (1 Michelin star).
However, one meal from the same period stood out above all the rest to be the best of the year, and indeed, the best I’ve ever had. That was the meal at 3-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.
I’ve spoken at some length about my beef Rossini main course and rum baba dessert, but I haven’t gone into much detail about the rest of my dinner, which was brilliant from start to finish. Seared foie gras was served in the most perfect duck blood sauce; sumptuously rich and smooth as velvet. A stunning piece of sea bass had its own wondrous adornment; a delicate citrus sauce which balanced like Nadia Comăneci in 1976.
Each of the extras gave me so much pleasure: the charming little cheese puffs that began the evening; the immaculate broccoli purée that followed. I’d struggle to fault the bread selection – every piece lovely in texture and full of flavour. Ducasse supposedly refuses to serve his bread warm as he doesn’t want his diners to fill up on it and spoil the rest of their meal, so I was surprised and delighted to find these specimens still hot from the oven. Strikingly good butter from Neal’s Yard and an interesting cream cheese provided fitting accompaniments.
But the best of the nibbles were saved until last. Flawless macaroons and chocolates were merely preamble to the treasure trove of treats that awaited on the bonbon trolley. Marshmellows, nougats, caramels, pastries, cakes – it was a feast fit for a fat kid with the most discerning of tastes.
I was too full at this stage so I got my waiter to fill a bag for me. I was able to gorge on it for the next three days and still had plenty left to give to friends.
Away from the food, things were just as special. The waiters gave a masterclass in service, effortlessly juggling attentiveness, efficiency and professionalism with enthusiasm, friendliness and charm. Along with the marvel that is the Alain Ducasse dining room – far prettier than it looks in pictures – and the palatial luxury of The Dorchester itself, the staff provided the backdrop and ambience to an evening I’ll never, ever forget.
Below is everything I ate in full. Regrettably, aside from Alain Ducasse’s signature champagne, I cannot remember what we drank with the meal, other than it being quite outstanding; equal to the food and setting in both quality and price.
Even more regrettable is the fact that I’m not able to add these orange cakes on at the end. They were presented to us as a gift as we left the restaurant and the following day my wife scoffed both in secret, not allowing me a single crumb.
If that’s not grounds enough for divorce, I don’t know what is!
A LA CARTE
Amuse Bouche 1
Gruyère Gougéres, Paprika Gougéres
Sourdough, Black Olive Bread, Fougasse with Bacon
Amuse Bouche 2
Royale of Broccoli with Crispy Vegetables
Foie Gras de Canard Poelé, Cerises, Amandes Fraiches
Seared Duck Foie Gras, Cherries, Green Almonds
Bar de Ligne aux Agrumes, Verts et Blancs de Blette
Wild Sea Bass, Citrus and Swiss Chards
Tournedos de Boeuf Rossini, Beau Quartier de Romaine, Sacristain de Pommes de Terre
Fillet of Beef Rossini, Crunchy Cos Lettuce, “Sacristain” Potatoes
Baba au Rhum de Votre Choix, comme a Monte-Carlo
Baba like in Monte-Carlo
Mignardises & Gourmandises
The Bonbon Trolley
Not by any stretch worth the same number of words, but perhaps worth a bit of a laugh, is my Worst Restaurant Meal of the Year – a truly traumatic experience.
I’ve always had a bit of a problem with Café Rouge after an awful meal at one of its branches in 2005, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the bile served at my work’s Christmas Party. Food is always pretty terrible at Christmas dos, and indeed it’s part of the fun, but this was a serious ordeal; one that conjured up images of Vietnam War movies and Colonel Kurtz whispering “the horror, the horror”.
Unless you were there and had the parsnip and chestnut soup, roast turkey, and Christmas pudding, you’ll never be able to understand just what I and others had to go through that night. But I hope my descriptions of what I imagine made up each dish will at least give some insight into the tragedy that befell my senses and digestive system on that cold December evening.
CHRISTMAS PARTY MENU
Soup de Panais
Diarrhoea of Polly Filler-Fed Dog, Essence of Chip Shop Curry, Tree Bark
Reconstituted Turkey and Woodchip, Mould of Soup de Panais, Memory of School Dinner Sprouts, Assortment of Miniature Rubber Dildos, Raw and Nuked
Pudding de Noël
Dried Guinness Poo, Cat Vomit