Not for nothing is St Valentine now roundly mocked as the patron saint of restaurant rip-offs. This year a British hotel is seeking to cash in on St Valentine's Day with a menu that will burn a massive hole in even the deepest pockets.
The restaurant, in Park Lane central London, is offering one customer an astonishing £10,000 dinner bill – plus service – for the pleasure of popping the question over a meal for two.
For that sum, which would buy nearly 170,000 children a hot lunch according to Oxfam, two people will get an eight-course blow out featuring the restaurant world's full repertoire of culinary extravagances – and clichés. Foie gras? Check. Truffles? Check. Wagyu beef, bluefin tuna, Beluga caviar? Check, check, check. The lucky lady, who had better not be either vegetarian or ethically minded, will also get a diamond ring worth £5,000.
Galvin at Windows, which is offering the meal to just one couple on 14 February, is confident that someone will jump at the chance of shelling out more than the cost of a hatchback car, despite the economic gloom hanging over the City of London.
Fred Sirieix, the general manager, said that just a month ago one table of four shelled out £13,000 on a meal. "It will be such a special treat; you could talk about it for years to come." But he expects any "I dos" to be given in Russian or Arabic, as Russians and Arabs make up the restaurant's core clientele.
For him, the menu's main draw is the Wagyu beef, which comes from pampered Japanese cattle fed on a diet of beans, rich pasture grass, rice bran, white rice – and beer. "The meat just melts in your mouth, because the flesh is so marbled with these fine veins of fat. You cut it with a spoon. Wagyu is the Rolls-Royce of beef." The dish is served with Périgord truffles, foie gras and a glass of top-drawer claret, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 1998.
After working their way through courses ranging from marinated hand-dived Scottish king scallops to poached langouste (that's a fancy name for rock lobsters), the extravagant couple can round off their meal witha selection of desserts whipped up with single estate chocolate from a niche Italian producer. Each dish is paired with a fine wine.
The menu, which has yet to be booked, has failed to impress restaurant critics, however. Ben McCormack, editor of Square Meal, said: "It's just so obvious. So many restaurants at the moment are serving Wagyu beef and foie gras; and truffle risotto." He added: "Does anyone who really cares about food and wine want to have this avalanche of luxury all in one go?"
Anyone whose appetite has been whetted must consider how they will feel if the answer is still "No".
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