A Degustation Menu For French Bastille Day Sounded So Decadent, I Couldn’t Wait.
A degustation menu is the epitome of the chef’s skill and creativity, combining the flavours and texture of ingredients. Skilfully blended, cooked and presented, it brings a sense of elegant decadence to mind.
Matched with wines, it’s a great dining experience, and lovely to share with friends. But never think you cannot enjoy a degustation menu on your own.
French Bastille Day is certainly a day to celebrate their national cuisine. I remember pre-booking for such an event at the Sheraton Hotel in Perth, quite a few years ago.
Dressed for the occasion, and on time.
The Sheraton Hotel, at the time, was a premier venue in Perth. Expecting a swish affair, I dressed for the occasion, and arrive at the designated time.
Each of the ten degustation courses is served as it is table ready. Along with the matching wine. However, it will not be a regimented affair. There is time to enjoy each course.
The dining room is beautifully decorated. All the staff are welcoming and attentive. Tables, dressed in white linen, sparkle with crystal and silver. Ice buckets were arrayed on a side table, because this was a night to keep some wines well chilled but bottles off the table.
To my surprise, apart from myself, there were only four other people in the whole restaurant. Two couples. One couple, like me, had come for the experience. Dressed to be elegant and stylish. The other couple were evidently guests in the hotel on the night, who decide to take advantage of a clearly unexpected dining event.
Five of us. In a dining room set up to host at least one hundred. How could this prove to be anything but a failure?
The venue, the staff, the kitchen pulled out all the stops to create a memorable event. What an evening it proved to be.
A triumph – so few enjoyed.
Each of the ten courses came with great triumph from the kitchen, served with a flourish by white gloved staff. The wine steward poured the accompanying wine for the course. Nothing was compromised. Nothing was omitted.
Before the meal concluded, the hotel guests left the dining room. The celebratory couple barely made it to the end of serving the last course, before they beat a retreat.
I found myself sitting alone in the dining room. Well, almost alone.
The chef came from the kitchen of the Sheraton, to ask whether the menu met Madame’s expectations.
It had indeed, I told him and showed him a scribbled note I had written on a piece of notepaper from my handbag. I noted two particularly delicious plates and they were worth recording.
I remember one still – figs, cheese, and a side jus to gently smear on them as they were placed on a home made crisp cracker.
He was delighted, and accepted my invitation to sit, and talk to me about his menu. The wine steward joined us, to talk about how the wines are chosen to compliment the food. All formality was forgotten as I sat and listened to these two reveal their passions for food, wine, and social graces.
What an amazing dining experience I had. I have always been grateful for it.
New Zealand’s experience was amazing, too.
In Hawaii, I enjoyed an amazing evening in the restaurant atop the Hilton Hotel, accessible only by a glass elevator which is on the outside of the building.
It stood me in good stead for a similar event in New Zealand, where again I was the only diner. I make it a habit to experience fine dining at least once whenever I travel. On this occasion, on my way home to Perth from Hawaii via Queenstown, I was staying at a local backpackers.
When I appeared at the front desk in Queenstown, dressed in the same evening gown I wore in Hawaii, and asked about fine dining, the reception staff were quite amused.
“Well, Lesley” he said “not many of our clientele ask about fine dining.” Nevertheless I was directed to a brand new restaurant which had just opened in a new five star hotel near the waterfront. In celebration of the opening, the chef had prepared a degustation menu for that night.
The chef was happy to have at least one elegant diner in his new Queenstown dining room.
Suffice to say, I was the only diner and the attention and service I received was impeccable. Decadent, too, and very reminiscent of my night at the Sheraton on French Bastille Day in Perth.
Dining alone can be a great adventure. Because I mostly travel alone, it’s an experience I have learned to enjoy and embrace.
Degustation events are exquisite and I highly recommend them, provided you are comfortable at being served to within almost an inch of your sobriety.
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