I have eaten at the world's ninth best restaurant. According to Restaurant magazine's list of the 50 best, Dinner serves the greatest dinner in the UK, edging into the international top 10. I don't often frequent the fine dining sphere, but so much hype surrounded Heston Blumenthal's venture when it opened last year, that I felt obliged to book a spot on the three-month waiting list.
When the evening finally came, I put on a collared shirt and headed for ghastly Knightsbridge. The food was spectacular, naturally. I had the meat that looks like a fruit, the best risotto I can recall, and a dessert featuring spit-roast pineapple.
But the night was tinged with regret. Distracted by the overwhelming pressure to enjoy every bite, I misordered my main course. My sweetbreads were fine, but my friend's pork chop was significantly tastier. (He let me have a forkful.) We spent £90 a head, and only because we stuck to one bottle of the cheapish house wine between four. That's half what a meal at the world's "best" restaurant costs, not including flights to Copenhagen, but it's enough that I won't be back in a hurry.
For most people, the globe's great eateries are one-off experiences. Their formality makes me feel like a teenager borrowing his dad's suit, not to mention his wallet. This removes the possibility, and the pleasure, of casually recommending such places to friends, of dropping in for my favourite dish without a reservation (or a shirt), of working my way through the menu over a handful of visits, of ordering another bottle without shading my credit card limit.
If you asked me to name my favourite place to eat in London, I could give you a list of restaurants that are cheaper, more fun – and, crucially, not in Knightsbridge.
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