Monday, 24 January 2011

Dining Out: Fancy Style

H and I aren’t really into Fancy Restaurants as much as you might think. Yes, we are definite Foodies and have travelled the world in search of the perfect meal. However, we tend to look down on restaurants that have extremely complicated menus or charge ridiculous prices because we’re usually disappointed. No one should have to try that hard to make food taste good. So when it comes to our meals, The Fancies are purists. Very, very snobby purists.
That said, we had an opportunity not to long ago to visit a very famous restaurant with a couple of Michelin stars. Reservations aren’t easy to come by but I managed to snag us a table and despite some hesitation, curiosity overcame our cynicism. I forced H to comb his hair and put on some clean trousers. That was as much as I could do without a fight but the Maitre d’ was more successful; he forced H into a slightly too-tight dinner jacket from the “loaner closet.” (Funny how both husbands and children can be embarrassed by a stranger into doing something that would cause screaming and shouting if their wife/mother suggested it, isn’t it?)

First came the water menu. 20 pages of descriptions of water. I kid you not. H found this so hilarious that he sent the waiter away twice because he was still “pondering his options.” We chose one with a balanced mineral composition and mid-intensity effervescence. At this point I needed booze so we had the sommelier guide us toward something local and moderately priced. (Moderate is all relative, isn’t it?) We did think we could spend a little more on the wine, though, since we’d opted for the £10 bottle of water, not the £250 Japanese spring choice.

Then came the menus. Here is my cut and paste from the website:

Scampi carpaccio with vinaigrette of grape, pear and cucumber € 52,00
Fillet of ray on salad of orange, capers and olives € 45,00
Amberjack carpaccio with cannellini beans and white truffle from Alba € 95,00 Medallions of lobster on avocado purée and tomato € 52,00
Scallops, beans and cotiche “La Pergola” € 47,00

Except mine was without any prices. Yes, you are reading that right. Not a single appetiser for under 40 Euro. The prices increased accordingly as we read through the First and then Main courses. (Serious. Those are literally just the appetisers. One bite wonders.) H and I kept trading menus back and forth, laughing, and then we devised a little game where I picked my favourites and he told me whether they were the equivalent to a mortgage for a studio flat or a Fancy house. But soon I realised there was another bit of fun to be had.

Looking around the room, I kicked H under the table.

“Dude! Look at that guy! I think he just swallowed his own tongue.”

The poor chap right across from us looked truly gray when his partner announced her selections to the waiter. Around the room we watched as wives and girlfriends began opening their prices-free menus, and exclaiming over their choices. The male dining companions were becoming noticeably paler. At nearly every table, we watched the same scene unfold: excitement, followed by curiosity, followed by nervousness, followed by nausea.

 The food that night was decidedly unremarkable. As we’d suspected, this was a place people come to for the experience (and to impress a girl). When the bill came, I just reminded H that we dump a lot more money at the blackjack tables in Vegas and justify it by saying, “It’s entertainment. So you lose a crap load of money. But you get hours of fun!” So it’s quite possible that our dinner out that night was actually a fiscal bargain, if you consider the entertainment value. And just like in Vegas, we went back to our Fancy hotel room hungry and grabbed a snack from the mini-bar. Oh, but it was good fun. 


  1. I never realised there were still places that did the old "no prices on the woman's menu" trick. Obviously I do not frequent fancy enough places! (Or sexist enough - is that just me?)

  2. Ha JB! I think it is a combination. Of course, we were in a rather historically chauvinist country...

  3. Shoot, you were in Vegas, just a hop, skip and jump away and you didn't visit?

  4. I think it would be better if I had the prices and frugal Fen had the girlie, price free menu. I love restaurants like that - reminds a girl she shouldn't have to pay, or worry about it. What fun!

  5. I have not been to many Michelin starred restaurants but I have yet to encounter one with such a variety of water! I think it's hilarious that H let sending the waiter back. Nice.