I was travelling down to London last week and somehow managed to combine having the worst meal and the best meal all in one day.
The story began half-way down the M6 (whilst on the phone – hands-free, I promise) I appeared to be having problems with changing gear. Anyone that knows me (and my cars) will know that I’m very good at talking and not so good at driving so I just thought I’d forgotten to use the clutch and carried on driving and talking … until the next gear change when the pedal just sort of disappeared, leaving me idling in neutral and not at all in control in the middle of the motorway.
Swerved onto the hard-shoulder and then spent a happy hour watching the traffic go past whilst waiting for the AA. Have you ever seen the old black and white footage of people having picnic lunches in the first lane of the M1 just after it opened? Well my experience, wasn’t quite so serene but I hadn’t crashed, it was a nice sunny day and I was only slightly concerned about missing my dinner reservation that night.
Nice AA man finally arrives and tows me off the motorway as it is too dangerous to attempt a repair with his head stuck in the foot-well looking for missing clutch pedal and his legs stuck into the lorry lane. Fair point, I thought.
He tows me to a Little Chef and I spontaneously suggested a burger as it was lunchtime and I was getting peckish.
Honest to God, it was disgusting. Even a McDonalds tastes more beefy than the disgustingly flabby and greasy piece of grey looking thing in a tasteless bun that I’d just paid £6.50 for. I made the mistake of actually looking at the thing and it didn’t even look like meat – - just a collection of gristle and veins and probably testicles squished together with a lot of very runny fat. I thought Heston Blumenthal had just given Little Chef a make-over?
WORST MEAL EVER – DEFINITELY!
Finally made it to London and after a little bit of negotiation managed to move our reservation at Michel Roux’s Le Gavroche in time for me to put a shirt on, if not time to actually shave.
It’s the first time I’ve been to Le Gavroche and it was a bit of a treat for my mate Pete who was putting me up (putting up with me) for my week in London. The cost of the meal was equivalent to me booking a hotel for the week (yes – it was about £400!) so actually I consider that a win-win solution.
We had the tasting menu with matched wines and the food was superb. Worth particular mention was the Beetroot cured Pollock sashimi, mango dressing and tempura king prawn served with a Japanese rice wine, the Soufflé Suissesse (the best soufflé ever), the wild salmon with almonds, asparagus ham and garlic crisps and finally, the octopus seared scallops with a tomato and chilli pepper dressing.
Lots of really good ideas for me to pinch and bring back to Winder Hall although frankly I think our lamb is better.
The one thing that was disappointing (and we won’t be importing back to Cumbria) was the very ‘professional’ but snotty and off-hand service. I think good service is really important but I value hospitality, friendliness and a sense of humour over and above slick technical ‘professionalism’ any day. Shame really because it took the edge off a lovely evening.
BEST MEAL EVER – POSSIBLY?
- Nick Lawler