The Institute of Happiness doesn't sound like something British. It sounds like something one might find in an enlightened Scandinavian country or a far-flung land from a futuristic novel.
But as it is the current fashion that everyone not only wants to be happy, but that they feel they deserve it too, it is perhaps timely that the Krug champagne house decided to open a temporary haven or "institute"devoted to happiness.
The French marque combined with another non-Brit, Portugese Nuno Mendes, owner of Viajante restaurant in East London, to teach us to smile. I'm a generally happy person, but I realised how easily pleased that I was, when on the night I was completely delighted that the organisers sent a car to pick me up. Not just one car, however, but owing to a mix-up, two. In a decadent (and non-green) way, I idly fantasised what I could use this extra car for. Perhaps it could carry my gloves, like the car David Cameron used to use to take his shoes to work while he saved the environment by cycling.
In then end, I just used the one, which took me to a house overlooking Highgate cemetery in north London, which was a supremely stylish modern box of a building with big windows and even bigger views. While we ate and drank, a pianist played music that made the guests happy. I should add that he knew how to do this, because guests had filled in a form naming our favourites (and other things that filled us with joy) a few days before.
The menu itself was a journey from Lobster to Halibut and a dessert of milk in various forms, while the main course was called "aged pigeon buried under fallen autumn leaves". That may, to the mischievous reader, sound like something you could find at your local park, but I can assure you, this was no ordinary pigeon. It was, like the rest of the food, extraordinary.
So too was the champagne, which veered from the grande cuvée to the '98 and 2000 vintages, making the room seem happier with each glass. In fact the Krug rosé might well change your life, and if you're paying for it, it will also change your bank balance – which fool said money doesn't make you happy?
In the end, the Institute's formula to make its visitors happy, was a fairly simple one: add fine wines to fine foods in a fine setting. The formula might not be new, but it's one that few have ever been able to beat.
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