Fine dining. We’ve all had bad dining experiences before.   In a fairly recent post, I mentioned my unhappiness at a particular restaurant where the food was very good, but the service lacking, thus marring a potentially enjoyable celebratory evening.   I am generally fair about eateries, and in most cases when I have had a bad experience, I normally revisit to see if the problem is recurrent.  In the case of that particular restaurant, I did not revisit, but chose to voice out my angst primarily because it was an event night where I had higher expectations and the issue was one towards which I have less tolerance – substandard service.  Firstly, when a dinner is touted as a food and wine event, based on my experience in other restaurants, there is a knowledgeable person (dare I suggest a sommelier?) who describes the wines and explains the reason for the pairing.  Was there one?  No.  Secondly, when food is placed in front of me and I have questions about it, surely it isn’t too much to ask for more information.   Was information forthcoming?  No.  Thirdly, price plays a part.  In a fine dining establishment, you are paying for the total experience, not just for orgasmic food.

A week ago, I met a chef and an owner of a Michelin rated restaurant, Ms Elena Arzak, who said, “We know that there are people who save up a whole year so that they can dine at our restaurant, and we know that there are people who can afford daily meals at our restaurant, but our policy is to treat everyone the same.”

What I was most impressed with was the imparting of knowledge of the wait staff and the sommeliers and the warmth in the process of sharing this knowledge.  I am certainly not delusional and expecting miracles here; our food is absolutely and undisputedly world class, and I am aware that service comes at a price, but a minimal knowledge of what is served surely cannot be too much to ask, can it?  And warmth doesn’t cost a cent.

My recent trip to Spain was a foodie’s dream, a world of fresh seafood and flavourful iberico pork and meltingly good foie gras and strange sounding marvelous items like kokotxa.   All these, bundled together with great chefs and a man who makes me laugh at every meal made this an amazing and unforgettable trip.  And yes, like it or not, I’m going to tell you everything.  Well, almost.

San Sebastian, Spain
Don’t nod off.