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Restaurant review April 30, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I don’t know how many of you read Jay Rayner’s restaurant reviews in the Observer, I like them, but this last one was surely his most critical – that of a restaurant in Paris. What struck me, bar the entertaining critique, was the oddness of a restaurant business where… well… read on:

Irritated by reader complaints about the cost of eating out I decided to visit a classic Parisian gastro-palace, as a reality check. I imagined it less as review, and more as an observational piece, full of moments of joy and bliss, of the sort only stupid amounts of cash can buy. We’d all have a good laugh at rich people and then return to business as usual, a little wiser.

How much stupid cash?

Menus the height of Richard Osman are brought. My female companion, who booked the table, is given one without prices. Waiters look baffled when we protest, but replace it. Then again, having looked at those prices I suspect many people would wish never to see their like again. Starters and mains are roughly the same price, running from €70 to €140. Currently the exchange rate is 0.86 to 1. So that’s £121 for a single plate of food.

I like food. I like restaurants. Eat in them much much more rarely than I’d like. But this seems to me to not just skirt, but tip over, the edge of insanity.

 

A heap of couscous is mined with a tiny portion of lamb for €95.

And:

With this, we each drink one glass of champagne, one glass of white and one of red, chosen for us by the sommelier from a wine list that includes bottles at €15,000. The booze bill is €170. The overall bill is €600.

Rayner is well aware of the absurdity – as he says…

Every single thing I ate at the restaurant Skosh for a sixth of the price was better than this. It’s bizarre. Not that the older gentlemen with their nieces on the few other occupied tables seem to care. The restaurant is never more than half full. Pictures of plates are snapped. Mind you I also take pictures, but mine are shot in the manner of a scene of crime officer working methodically.

And even if he says…

I have spent sums like this on restaurant experiences before, and have not begrudged it. We each of us build our best memories in different ways, and some of mine involve expensive restaurants. But they have to be good.

I wonder, in truth, how good any dish can be that costs… well that costs, not just so much, but too much. What is one purchasing here? It’s not the food. It’s extravagant conspicuous consumption at its worst.

 

 

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Comments»

1. Michael Carley - April 30, 2017

It is about being the kind of restaurant that serves the kind of clientele that wants to pay the kind of prices that kind of restaurant serves, quality be damned.

I’ve paid triple figures (euros not sterling) twice in my life and both times thought the meal was excellent value for what I got. Cooking is skilled work and I assume everyone here would agree that skilled workers should be properly paid. The problem is when the money is clearly not going on labour or materials.

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WorldbyStorm - April 30, 2017

Yes, I can see a justification for excellence in cooking, ingredients, etc that would allow for higher cost meals. There’s a restaurant in Cork I’d go to every number of years and I’m willing to spend a bit more, though it doesn’t come to three figures.

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Michael Carley - April 30, 2017

The first time I paid triple figures was for a tasting menu in Italy and it was because I was single; the second time was for a tasting menu in Italy and it was because I wasn’t. Either way, given the time I spent eating and the perfection of what I (we) ate, I count it money well spent.

But I couldn’t do that once a year, or even every two years.

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WorldbyStorm - May 1, 2017

I like your explanation! I’m trying to recall the most expensive meal I had. Possibly in Cork but at a different restaurant. And while well regarded in the media it wasn’t great. I’m not entirely a vegetarian but my co-diner was and they were flummoxed by what appeared to be a tower of bread at one point in the proceedings.

I cannot criticise your points. I think we have to be open as people (and socialists) to the possibility of novelty, and entertainment and the one-off. It’s a good thing. As long as the food is good. Which of course is Rayner’s point.

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2. Joe - April 30, 2017

Short little span of attention that I have, I’m an awful man for flicking the channels. And there’s loads of series on the minor and major British tv channels about the conspicuously wealthy and how they live and spend fortunes. Middle Eastern millionaire playboys, British millionaire entrepreneurs etc etc.
I hope someone is keeping a good archive of it all for when we get the guillotine back out.

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3. Tawdy - April 30, 2017

Was in Paris for 4 days at the end of March. It really depends on your expectations as to what Restaurant you visit. A meal for two can cost € 40 with a carafe of wine or € 100 next door.

The difference in the product served is slight, the manner of its serving is enormous depending on the ownership of the restaurant. The cheaper restaurant was more affable and the service excellent. Which was rewarded with a tip. The other restaurant we assumed the tip was included in it’s over priced food and second rate service.

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Michael Carley - April 30, 2017

Very true, and one of the reasons I’m not keen on France. I worked in Italy for a while and found that the quality of food bears no relation to price: what more money gets you is different surroundings and a different kind of food. It’s always good food and good value, but that means different things if you have a beer and slice of pizza sitting on the steps of a church, or a ten course menu looking out over vineyards.

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4. EC - April 30, 2017

When I heard years ago that G Ramsey was opening a restaurant here where mains =€100 I always thought that crossed a line. Rayner’s point is true- if one is happy to pay such sums in restaurants then that’s fine. My issue is that such things are relative. Dining out is not comparable to sporting occasions or opera or big gigs or whatever no matter how u can justify it. If u r watching Man Utd in a premier league match or Black Sabbath in the Point u r paying big shekels for that privelege. For better or worse. That is Ozzy up there on stage. Even if Man U are playing badly u wd still prefer presumably to be there than be watching a lower division team scoring and letting in goals. Food I don’t think can compare

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WorldbyStorm - April 30, 2017

In a way that’s similar to my approach. I like food but I’ve only once paid crazy money for a ticket – Sabbath at the Point as it happens. I doubt I’ll do it again, short of Bon Scott returning from the dead and joining AC/DC. And I love music. So if I only like food it’s difficult for me to justify that sort of expense for it.

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5. fergal - April 30, 2017

On food and on Paris- here’s a really good restaurant that is also a workers’ cooperative in the 13th district https://www.letempsdescerisescoop.com/

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6. FergusD - May 1, 2017

It is what makes you happy. That matters I suppose, number 1 for me is the food, although not indifferent to setting the food comes first. We find that in the part of the South of France we visit we can get a 3 course lunch with wine for €15! And it is simple and good with friendly staff. What more do you want! Nevertheless at son no. 1’s insistence we have tried Michelin starred restaurants near us in the U.K. for lunch and if you choose the right time this can be excellent value for money and really good food. When you consider that £30 or more can still get you a crap meal then these few Michelin starred restaurants have been terrific value.

Of course it is the “extras” in the UK that get you, extras like wine, coffee.

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