The end of the line

I can see the finish line.

It’s been a tough few years. We’ve subjected our bodies to all manner of punishment. We’ve trekked vast distances and wreaked a fair bit of damage to the bottom line of our mortgage. But someone had to do it. 

(Actually, no one had to do it. And it didn’t take me long to realise that trying to find a way to justify our three year quest is nigh impossible).

Most of our excesses are captured beneath the heading of ‘quest for the best‘. It started in the wake of some grim days. When we escaped on our honeymoon we took refuge  in the princely luxuries of Pierre Gagnaire. My it was civilised in there. It’s amazing how much better the world looks over a plate of petit fours.

From there it got a little crazier; we dashed down through France towards San Sebastian and the twin palaces of Mugaritz and Arzak. We stopped seeing food as fuel and more as our preferred kind of performance art. 

Somewhere in that trip we made a choice that before we settled down and became real live grown ups- before the kitchen was streaked by pureed pears and rice cereal – that we would try and taste the best. So the quest began; we would try and make it to the ten best restaurants in the world. It became the sweet that was the counterpoint to a few salty years.

Since then there have been some extraordinary moments; The Hungry One securing an impossible booking to El Bulli being one. Tasting oysters and pearls at Per Se, or an edible Jackson Pollock of chocolate off a tablecloth at Alinea are others.

We’ve tried to record what we ate and what we felt. If anything, it’s a dossier of a life that’s been well lived.  It also means that when The Hungry One tells me I’ve cooked something nice, I trust him. He’s enjoyed enough of the good stuff to know.

Yet now it’s coming to a close. Exactly three years to the day that we made that first booking at Pierre Gagnaire, we made our last.

There are only two restaurants left on that list.

In a month’s time we’ll head to Girona for a special dinner at El Celler de Can Roca. We’re looking forward to a quick spot of tapas in Barcelona and then we’ll drive north- it’s a journey that has only led to good things in the past.When we’re sitting there we’ll toast, like we always do, to how fortunate we are.

The last one left on the list is Noma- voted the best restaurant in the world in 2010. Last year we went and heard Rene Redzepi speak in London as part of the promotional tour for his book ‘Noma; time and place in Nordic cuisine’.  The fact that we’d never been to Scandinavia, coupled with his approach to foraging, sustainability and seasonality – and the charming way that he dipped into a glass of red wine throughout the presentation won us over.  It would have to be done.

And so it shall be. All it took was two and a half hours of pressing ‘redial’ on the nominated morning when they were accepting bookings for May and June. I can now recite the message quite easily.

” Welcome to Noma, Welcome to Noma”.

To get the message in English, press 2.

To get through to the reservation line, press 1.

If you accidentally press 2 at the second junction, you’re going to end up chatting to the kitchen.  I’m pretty sure they have other things they’d rather be doing than answering the phone.

Despite my itchy fingers, I knew that at some point the lines would open. Others, who are less insane than us would give up.  Persistence would win in the end.  There I sat and dialled and dialled, until it finally connected through. I scraped in with the last table on Saturday May 7; a two.

This will be the last time we push the boat out that far. From then on, it will be time to start acting like grown ups.

Unless of course there are some substantial changes to this year’s list when it comes out at the end of April.  But that’s a bridge we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

  1. Well, I am so, so, impressed and also, delighted to have voyeuristically joined your gastronomic travels. Well done. AMAZING. x

  2. Oh gosh, what a wonderful commitment to enjoying life together! I think I might have to go back through your archives and swoon over these fancy restaurant visits 🙂

  3. Huzzah! More vicarious thrills ahead!

  4. Acting like grownups is vastly overrated.

    Eventually you realise that most others, those you think ARE grownups, are just acting too!

    I figure, why bother?


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