A couple of days ago I had my first Michelin starred restaurant experience. I could bore you with precious adjectives and countless repetitions of the word ‘utterly’ to describe my exceptional dinner… but I’m sure the bunch of Michelin inspectors who have been approving The Kitchin’s star every year since 2007 would do it much better than me. Instead, I have decided to tell you about my dinner exactly the way my hyperactive mind experienced it.
The pre-dinner stress
I started feeling a hole in my stomach about two hours before our lucky reservation (we managed to book the last available table this month). I used to always experience that hole in my stomach before an exam, and no good reason could have explained why I felt it so intensely before my dinner. If I think about it rationally, multiple factors probably caused my emotional distress: spending so much money for something that gets digested two hours later; the fear of disappointment; the idea that you may have built colossal expectations that no restaurant in this world would be able to accommodate.
My perception of time and space shrunk. I only woke up two minutes before the bus was going to arrive. That’s when you make, within seconds, all those decisions that we all tend to spend too much time on: which shoes to wear, which bag fits best, which jacket looks the nicest, etc. Luckily we made it to the bus and our punctual arrival at the restaurant only proved our extreme enthusiasm for what was going to be the most exciting dining experience I’ve ever had.
We were seated at the table and then… blackout. I realised, a good couple of minutes later that the overly-attentive staff took us by storm. They placed the napkins on our knees. They brought: drinks list, wine list, a la carte menu, tasting menu; then the amuse bouche, with a long list of complicated ingredients (recited like a poem) that to me, in that state of utter dizziness, sounded like an entirely different language. They even reminded us of my boyfriend’s mussel allergy, just in case we had forgotten. I had specified that in an email when I made the booking.
That reminded me of Chef’s Table and other fine dining documentaries where the staff not only memorise their guests and their preferences, but also google their name to learn as much as they can to surprise them. And surprised we were, even despite not knowing how much the staff had explored our internet biographies.
Our inattentive order of still water, in a country where even Michelin starred restaurants serve tap water for free cost us £5.50, on top of the expensive dinner and the £37 bottle of wine, the cheapest of the menu. I quickly recalculated the cost of this holiday priced dinner while looking at the middle-aged man sitting next to us throw his shiny green Amex into the card machine without even checking the total of his bill.
I slowly felt more and more self-conscious and my mind started imagining that all the upper-class middle-aged couples were staring at us. Thankfully we had a pile of eight menus to hide behind. My neck got itchy, then wine, the emotional lubricant I was craving, arrived.
With every sip, I started paying less attention to the crowd, and instead enjoyed our symphonic dinner. Dishes appeared on beautiful plates and disappeared; people left and I felt less and less overwhelmed by the multitude of cutlery that was carefully placed in front of us before every course.
As the evening progressed I felt closer to the staff members and that was not even thanks to the wine, but to the multitude of smiles we exchanged, often and from both sides. It’s incredible how this little facial expression can bring people together. Towards the end, I really felt like the staff had become my new group of close friends. Who also, thankfully, know that my boyfriend has an allergy to mussels.
The dinner seemed to end with a slightly oversized apple crumble soufflé, the best apple dessert I have ever had in my entire life. But this was not the typical experience, this was a mind-boggling game that was not just going to end with the last course. In exchange for a really good espresso, I sacrificed my night’s sleep. As for the incredibly good millionaire’s shortbread, we doggy-bagged it in a beautiful jewellery box that sat inside a bow-tied paper bag prettier than any Tiffany bags.
Of course that night I didn’t sleep and I don’t even think it was the coffee, but the excitement of a memorable dining experience.
Until next time,
Love, happyholism and nom-nom,