I am afraid I'm old enough to remember when restaurant dining was undertaken only on a very special occasion. And even then, a Berni Inn, with its choice of steak or chicken, was regarded as the height of sophistication.
Growing up in Manchester, I can vividly recall when the city had only one Indian restaurant, and how exotic did we all think that was! Now there's a whole postcode which has nothing but balti houses and tandoori establishments, and Manchester has restaurants representing almost every culinary persuasion.
In London today, if you want to taste the national dishes of Mongolia, or you've got your mouth set on a bit of Peruvian-Pacific Rim fusion, there's a place for you somewhere, and for 10 days during the run of the Olympic Games here, you'll be able to sample dishes like sea buckthorn leather and pickled rose-hip petals and bullrush dipped in goat's curd and hazelnut praline.
The concept of pop-up venues is now pretty well established and, for a limited run, the restaurant twice voted the best in the world, Noma in Copenhagen, is coming to London and setting up shop at Claridge's Hotel. Today bookings are open to the general public and, for £195 a head, diners will get a five-course meal specially designed by René Redzepi, pictured, the head chef at Noma.
Even at these prices, you know it's going to be the hottest ticket in town and although it may be beyond most of our budgets, it doesn't seem outlandish for the man recognised as the numero uno in his field. You would have to pay that much to see the world's best opera performers, or for a ticket to football's Champions League final. Also, there are restaurants in the capital where you'd pay almost that much with no guarantee that you'll get memorable food.
Even if you could put aside the damage it did to your credit card, I'm pretty sure you'd remember a night at Noma. In an age when our palates may be jaded, when Heston's bacon-and-egg ice cream is passé and molecular gastronomy seems so last century, Redzepi's concentration on natural, locally sourced ingredients, often gathered by foraging, and presenting them in ingenious, unfussy combinations, appears fresh and interesting.
He also infuses his dishes with touches of humour, like, for instance, edible mussel shells. The only off-putting aspect of the Noma experience is that, if you opt for the full monty – a 12-course tasting menu – you'll be at the table for around four hours.
Can you imagine that? I'd have to tell all my anecdotes at least twice before we'd even got to the malt shortbread, apple discs and Jersualem-artichoke ice cream.
Eating out has become rather fetishised in recent times, but I think the arrival in London of a true global superstar is to be celebrated. Now, anyone got a spare space at their table?Reuse content