Thursday, March 15, 2007

The French Laundry

There is a higher law. There are some things that should never be done, some things that are simply bad ideas, things that civilisation has taught us are a mistake. Land wars in Asia are one, making a pass at your mother in law is another. Throwing up in Thomas Keller's garden is yet another. But to be honest, that's a whole other story.

When I'm lying on my death bed and thinking back to those moments when I was happiest, when I felt most content, most at one with my surroundings, a few choice moments will spring to mind. When Wimbledon FC won the FA cup in '88, that first kiss, the sun rising over the Serengeti and the myriad stars shining in the Outback. A hundred meaningful, stupid, hilarious moments. One such moment will be eating Oysters and Pearls at the French Laundry. It wasn't so much the dish itself, the whimsical and endlessly dissected pearl tapioca topped with caviar and oysters, it was a sense of having found something nearly perfect, an expression of something very profound on one hand and on the other, utterly ridiculous. It was a sense that I could stop looking. I had found as near perfect a meal as I could ever wish for. It was a liberation, the knowledge that it couldn't get any better and nor would I want it to. A homecoming.

What does the French Laundry mean? The same question applies to the Fat Duck or El Bullis. What is it's purpose? It is just a restaurant after all. It is the single best restaurant I have eaten in, from the food, which obviously was wonderful, to the service, which was the best I have ever encountered; wit, charm and ease, a sense of equality and belonging, but at the end of the day, why go? Is it a bench mark for what is civilised? No, you can get that in a greasy spoon on the Old Kent Road. Is is nothing more than a Thomas Keller theme park, a fantasy land, just smoke and mirrors? No, that would be churlish and frankly a insult to the hard work that goes into the place. I think what it offers, to me at least, is certainty. You might baulk at the expense, you might think the whole thing fanciful and overblown but there is a sense of purpose there, a love of doing things well, a fuck you if you think we'll do this any other way, a sense of ease with who they are. A sense of having nothing to prove. They had me from the first mouthful.

9 comments:

cranky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cookiecrumb said...

Well done, MG. You made it, and you loved it. You put yourself in their hands.
Tell me, wouldn't you go there again in a heartbeat, even if it meant throwing up in that garden for real?
(Or *did* you? I nearly did.)

Dagny said...

My dad has always told me that French Laundry is his favorite restaurant. In his travels, nothing has compared to the experience. Sounds like you are now in the club with him.

I would like to be but the place scares me, being on a teacher's salary. Perhaps I will meet someone with enough of an income to indulge my curiosity soon.

Anonymous said...

Why did you throw up in the garden, if indeed you did, and why did the above poster nearly throw up?

I'm confused.

Rachael said...

You capture it so well. I havent eaten there in more than six years, and I can still remember every bite...

Now, did you really hurl in the garden? That's AWESOME...

:-) Tell ALL! Youth wants to know!

Sam said...

I have always talked myself out of the need to go to the french laundry because just the thought of having to go through the reservation process fatigues me.

maybe you have just talked me into being bothered.

damn it

Amy Sherman said...

I'm so glad you went! Those who piss and moan are the ones who haven't been. It IS worth doing. End of story.

Becks & Posh said...

I would only piss and moan, Amy, about having to go through the tedious reservation process. People who have an in with the PR to get a table, aren't quite seeing the process of dining at the F Laundry from the regular punter point of view.

shuna fish lydon said...

Well you've been inducted. The last person I saw throw up there was Jack Nicholson.