The list…

There are some days that people just hang out for. For some it’s the Man Booker shortlist, other’s the Archibold nominees.

For us there are two such days. One is the Oscars list, which sets the hectic schedule for January and February festival of madness.

And the second sets the tone for the travelling itinerary.

Every April the UK’s Restaurant Magazine releases the list of the top 50 restaurants in the world.

Last year The Hungry One suggested a maniacal pilgrimage that has tested the bounds of practicality, girth, funding and ethics.

How many could we get to?

We didn’t do too badly.

Out of last year’s list we’d made it to eight

Pierre Gagnaire (number 3)
Mugaritz (number 4)
French Laundry (number 5)
Arzak (number 8)
Tetsuyas (number 9)
Chez Panisse (number 37)
Asador Etxebarri (number 44)
Rockpool (number 49).

It’s not nearly as impressive as Simon Thomsen, but then hey, he is the editor of the Good Food Guide- so it’s good to know what to aim for.

Depending on what kind of person you are our score card s either qualifies as a touch impressive/obsessive/excessive.

But The Hungry One is a man who likes to manage a project through to completion. He’s nothing if not dedicated There’s very little that remains half done around our house. So we started to make plans.

First he pulled off the impossible; securing a booking at El Bulli in July this year.

Then it only seemed natural to start saving and turning it into a tour de force:

Embrace life for all the bounty and beauty it has to offer.

The plans were set in motion; we’d fly into Rome, make our way up to Venice (a bellini in Harry’s Bar has to be one of those ‘before you die’ things, surely)then back to Bologna and Florence. There we’d pick up a car and do a slight detour to take in Gamberro Rosso (number 12 on last year’s list). From there we’d drive up and over to Monaco and try and see if the budget could stretch to a little lunch at Louis IV (15 on last year’s list).

Then it would be a detour up to Laguiole to Bras (number seven of last year’s list) before heading down to El Bulli (number one) and then flying out of London, after taking in Fat Duck (number two) and perhaps Sunday lunch of roasted bone marrow at St Johns (number 16).

So the plans are being made. But here’s where it gets tricky. Like most things in this life, nothing is certain and nothing is constant.

You just have to make the choices you can, based on the best information at the time.

So the itinerary was set. Then the spanners started being thrown.

It seems there’s a new entry in Italy in Modena; Osteria Francescana, at number 13. A darkish horse, which also doubles as the highest new entry on the list.

Meanwhile Gamberro Rosso, which defined a detour of its own right has dropped 16 places, from 12 to 28. Then there’s also a new entry; Mirazur, which is right on the way into Monaco- but can we justify two restaurants of that calibre in two days?

Then to confound the troubles, El Cellar de can Rocca- right near El Bulli jumped 21 places back up to number five – except it’s not open on a Sunday or a Monday which is when we’ll be heading past, and there’s no time to go before our plane leaves to London.

Of course we both know all of this is completely ridiculous. There are real troubles in the world, both away and at home.

But sometimes it’s nice to escape to a fantasy place of planning, reflection and contemplation of places where the linen is starched, the food miraculous and everyone is pleasant. Where beautiful things can be eaten and you for the three hours you sit there you feel so grateful to be alive.

And as The Hungry One says, how do you know how great the everyday can be until you’ve tried the best?

Whatever happens, after this trip, my cooking is going to be in trouble.

  1. Oh.My.God.

    I’ve been living vicariously through your life for a while, Tor, now that my social life involves putting on my ‘out pants’ for play group. But this new plan might become too much even for dream-me. I can’t even think what pants you will wear.

    You glamorous, glamourous creature.

  2. So are you going to go?! Sounds amazing! xx

  3. We’re currently budget wrangling… but the flights are booked! Out pants are a very important part of life- will be sure to pack some…. part of cramming as much as we can into life b.c….

    But don’t think we don’t know how insane/ excessive it all is… There will be a lot of nights eating noodles on the couch in the aftermath.

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