What would make someone spend £100 on a pizza? It is, after all, nothing but dough, cheese, and a few bits and pieces. If you were shocked when Harden's Restaurant Guide announced, in August, that spending £100 for two courses, wine and service was the norm at London's top restaurants, you will be debilitated by this latest zenith of conspicuous consumption.
But even in an age when triple-digit bills are unremarkable, Gordon Ramsay's £100 pizza has caused a stir in the nation's dining rooms. The speciality dish, now available at Ramsay's latest outlet, Maze, is a straightforward woodfire-baked pizza topped with onion purée, fontina cheese, mozzarella, cep mushrooms, pancetta, wild mizuna lettuce leaf, and - here's the sting - shavings from a £1,400 Umbrian white truffle.
The dish is, says Jason Atherton, a Maze chef, "a fantastic way of really experiencing the full flavour of the truffle". Which is, no doubt, exactly what the Black Amex brigade will be saying to their trophy partners while they order this trophy dish, pausing only to ask the waiter if they can have theirs with a "stuffed crust".
In fairness to the potty-mouthed Scot, he is not the only chef guilty of grabbing a headline with a price tag. The Maze Pizza comes after two other haute cuisine attention seekers. First, we had New York's DB Bistro Moderne, which offers a $99 Burger Royale, comprising a sirloin stuffed with short ribs, foie gras, root vegetables and a double portion of fresh black truffles.
In London, and at double the price, Kai restaurant's £108 "Buddha Jumps Over The Wall" soup, containing shark fin and abalone sea mollusc, is more expensive and less substantial.
What is striking about these extraordinary prices is that the dishes themselves are earthy - pizza, burger, soup. It's everyday, run-of-the-mill food, and, under normal circumstances, everyone should be able to afford it. So how chic, how metropolitan, to offer such proletarian fare at a price which only the rich can afford.
This attitude, confused as it is with class and guilt, could only have emerged from the repressed capitals of the English-speaking world. It is possible to eat much more expensive food in Continental Europe, and particularly in France, but you don't hear anyone shouting about it.
If one really wanted to enjoy the experience of eating fabulously dear truffle-based dishes, one might head to the Auberge de L'Ill in Alsace and order their signature dish of "truffle en croute". But short of flying out a NY-Lon set of movers and shakers, no one would see you eat it. And what would be the fun in that?
Other tasty, but expensive, treats
Want to impress your friends at the bar before dinner? Drop into the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz Paris, order the Sidecar, and watch mouths around you widen. This sharpener, which costs €400, is the most expensive commercially made cocktail in the world, containing the ultra-rare 1865 Ritz fine champagne.
This "ideal for sharing" pizza is baked in a wood-fired oven and topped with onion purée, fontina cheese, baby mozzarella, cep mushrooms, pancetta, wild mizuna lettuce leaf, and shavings from a £1,400 Umbrian white truffle. It costs £100, on account of the truffle, but cut six ways it's a steal - only £16.66 a slice.
Buddha Jumps Over The Wall soup
Kai restaurant in London caused hushed awe in May by serving a £108 bowl of soup, making it easily the most expensive soup in the world. The exotically monikered "Buddha Jumps Over The Wall" is made by Kai's head chef, Alex Chow, and contains rare, and ethically interesting, shark's fin.
DB's Burger Royale
New York's DB Bistro Moderne, on West 44th Street, offers a $99 Burger Royale. A carnivore's car crash, the sandwich's main event is a sirloin steak, but it's stuffed with short ribs, foie gras, root vegetables and a double portion of fresh black truffles.
Assiette of Chocolate
At the Auberge de L'Eridan, the home restaurant of French master-chef Marc Veyrat, sweet tooths do not go home unsatisfied. The assiette is a selection of fine hand-made chocolates, which will happily complete your meal for the astronomic sum of €73.