“One of the most opulent events of my life.” I was exactly 29 years and 364 days old. I was at the place where I had always wanted to go. Of all the ‘celebrity’ chefs, M.W.’s was the one that I wanted to go to the most. My wife tried to surprise me, but I have a habit of guessing and I eventually got it out of her a month before hand. I think too, when he had his much written about fallout with Gordon Ramsay, my desire to go there increased further as you finally saw him stand on his own two feet and really, hopefully, take him to the next level and the 3rd star.
So an evening of a 7 course tasting menu to look forward and the perfect way to see out your twenties. We were staying at the hotel, and I was drinking Champagne from about half four, so I was getting a bit exuberant before we even went down for dinner. My wife too, insists on eating early so the table booked for 6.00. As you would expect, there was no limit on the time you could have your table for, and walking into the (bar one other table) empty restaurant in the semi-daylight, really reiterated the exquisite interior.
A delightful amuse-bouche led us into the first course of Foie Gras, Cherries, Tea and Caramelised Milk. The smokey fragrance of the lapsang tea led into a delectable foie gras, touched with a sweetness from the milk and light acidity of the cherries. Sometimes foie gras has such a umami effect and this was such a delightful dish. It was almost too much too soon as the crab, mackerel, pear, chargrilled bread and hazlenut that followed could not live up to it. At this point, I have to note the fabulous wine we had. The New Greenhouse from Ornellaia. This ‘baby’ Ornellaia was fantastic – a 40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot blend – soft and supple with great spice and fruit. I find it quite American in style, and very silky. The wine list had some really quirky numbers and I do not always get to see this fabulous wine, the Ornellaia, on many menus. All the more so because it was the last one they had!
Proceeded by quail, smoked white beans, with a toast foam, which really was like beans on toast, it disappointed slightly as the beans were too overpowering and lost the flavour of the quail. It was an intriguing twist but too sweet. And again, the scallops with red wine, morels, and parley were very good but there were times when the parsley just overpowered the dish.
I was at this point slightly confused. There was no question that the evening was superb, yet I became confused about the food. Was I being let down, or were my expectation levels unrealistic? The whole evening had come down to the beef, wild garlic, and snails. Umami. I began to purr like a kitten. I forgave everything. This was what I had come for.
Everything had finally started to catch up with me, and the arctic roll, with blackberry and chocolate (not to the mention the bonbon tolley – which in itself is a treat to behold), were enjoyed but not savoured, despite the stunning intensity of flavour.
I knew my wife wanted to call it quits so the Talisker was the final call. Even though it was a fabulous evening, and the technicality and excellence of the cooking were in parts breathtaking, it wasn’t completely faultless.
I would have no hesitation in going back; in the end it was everything I had hoped for.