With this post I mark a milestone in my restaurant review career. This is my 100th post! Nearly all of those 100 are restaurant reviews. That is a lot of eating out. When I started I didn't think I'd have the patience to create 10 blog posts, let alone 100. But I've persisted and I've loved every minute.
As I approached this achievement I began to think about how to commemorate it. Surely I should go to one of the best restaurants in the world? No, maybe I should do a piece on the top budget eat, or trendiest food market? Wouldn't going to one of my first reviewed restaurants and doing an updated blog be the way to go?
In the end, I decided not to go to any restaurants. But instead, to stay home and write what I've learned over the last five years and 100 posts.
First of all, restaurants are echoing the divide between rich and poor. The top Michelin starred restaurants, run by A-List celebrity chefs rake in millions every year. Their booking lines ring off the hook, often to deaf ears. Getting a table at some of these restaurants is tantamount to winning the lottery. Recall my incredibly strategic, almost military plan to secure a reservation at The French Laundry?
It isn't just the 3 Michelin Star restaurants that are hard to get into anymore, it is nearly every single trendy restaurant owned by anyone who can afford to hire top notch PR firms.
It is because of this fact that my tastes have changed. I am tired of patiently waiting on the phone while some snooty teenager tells me that there aren't any reservations for that date and perhaps I should call back on the day, the phone lines open at 9am and maybe, just maybe they will have had a cancellation.
I've almost completely lost interest in molecular gastronomy in the last five years. Although it is still going strong and Heston is still doing nearly the exact same tasting menu as he was when I proposed to my wife at The Fat Duck in 2007, it is not something I have much interest in anymore. Instead, I prefer food done in a simpler approach.
Take Tom Kerridge's The Hand and Flowers pub in Marlow. He's earned 2 Michelin Stars by making simple food taste the way food should taste. He coaxes out the best of every single ingredient until there is nothing more that ingredient can give.
When deciding where to go for my wife's birthday this year, my thoughts turned more towards lobster rolls out of a van in Borough Market than La Gavroch, a restaurant I hold in high esteem. Right now I feel that the restaurant business has simply become too expensive and too stuck up for me to care much anymore. And let's be honest, a plate of perfectly cooked Thai food from a van tastes nearly as good as a 25 course tasting menu at Le Big Snoot Trois Attitude. Sure, we don't go to 3 Michelin Star restaurants for the taste alone. We go to be wowed and awed. To have flames coming out of chocolate dragons and eat foam that looks like the sand on a beach and tastes like soy lecithin. I think it is soy lecithin actually.
Of course, knowing me, this could all change tomorrow. But for now, I am very happy to search out and eat in restaurants that do one thing; prepare and serve excellent food in a relaxed atmosphere.
The below are a selection of some of my top meals, not restaurants, just meals. As I have learned in the last five years, favorite meals and favorite restaurants can often be completely different.
Thank you to all that have read and hopefully enjoyed my little blog. I look forward to the next 100 posts!