Yesterday was the perfect Sunday. We talked to family on Skype in the morning, read The Observer, went to Galvin at Windows for our anniversary lunch, had a walk in Green Park, caught a black cab home, had a nap, ate toast & tea for dinner, watched some telly, went to bed.
We only allow ourselves a black cab journey a few times a year. It always makes me feel like a z-list celebrity on a day out, and there’s nothing quite like feeling like Rebecca Loos in the back of a taxi.
Lunch was very good indeed. As well as the meal itself, there was the view over London, from the 28th floor of the Park Lane Hilton. We had the 6 course tasting menu, and each course seemed to be better than the last. The highlight for me was ‘peanut butter parfait, caramel centre & popcorn icecream’ which was essentially a posh, deconstructed Snickers.
Here are the things I like about Michelin starred restaurants.
The food, of course, particularly the intensity of flavours. It feels as if an entire school of fish has been sacrificed for your salmon mousse, a field of vegetables for your baby artichoke barrigoule.
The service. It should be attentive without being intrusive. When you get up to go to the bathroom, a waiter will spy you and lead the way. When you emerge, a waiter will lead you back to your table, pull out your chair for you and re-fold your napkin.
As a waiter was pouring my earl grey yesterday, a stray leaf found its way into my cup. He said ‘I’m so sorry madam’ and whisked away both cup and teapot (which is just as well as I was about to storm out). He returned to pour my tea once the offense had been dealt with.
I should point out that the service in these restaurants is not always great. It can be snooty, giving you the impression that you shouldn’t bother dining there if not on an expense account, or making you feel like an idiot because you don’t know what 3 cornered garlic is. This sort of atmosphere could be felt at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, which spoiled an otherwise faultless meal.
The best service can be found at Le Gavroche. Michel Roux Jr ensures that everyone, from a CEO to a normal couple on a special night out, is made to feel as if their dinner is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The amenities. The bathrooms tend to be on the luxurious side. Yesterday, when I stood up the toilet flushed itself. Clearly I have better things to do than press a button or wave my hand in front of a sensor, and Galvin at Windows recognises that.
The little touches. Galvin at Windows provides diners with postcards of the restaurant, which they will post anywhere internationally, free of charge. Mum & dad, you will be receiving one.
And now a small rant, if you’ll allow it. Let me preface this by saying that I love my niece and nephews dearly and find them endearing, amusing and mesmerising. I have zero tolerance for all other children on the planet.
As B and I settled into our plush seats overlooking Hyde Park, I was alarmed to see a family enter the restaurant. Parents with 2 children – one was of walking age (just) but the other was young enough to be strapped to the front of the father, which didn’t bode well. Luckily they didn’t sit near us (or I would have asked to move) but even from several tables away we could hear crying, burbling, shrieking and other noises that humans of this age tend to make.
These children were definitely not eating from the menu, so why were they there? They disrupted the experience of the adult diners, who had paid hundreds of pounds for the pleasure. You might say that parents still have the right to go to posh restaurants. I agree. That’s what babysitters are for. If they prefer to eat out with their offspring, Pizza Express and Wagamama exist for that very purpose.
I think any establishment with a star should not allow children. Banning anyone under the age of 25 seems fair and reasonable.
So why ARE they allowed? I can think of no reason other than the modern day ‘cult of the child’, in which it is socially taboo to object to the presence of little people ANYWHERE, from cinemas to airplanes to tube trains at rush hour. I tend to break this taboo a lot. Just last week I had an altercation with a woman who positioned her push-chair on the left side of the Clapham South escalator.
I might add that the people I know, who will object to what I’ve written here, would have felt exactly the same as I do before they became parents.