Musings of a totally reasonable, vociferous feminist, who, having had a couple of children, now fancies herself as a writer…
Monday, 3 February 2014
Michelin starred breakfast vs Turkish Cafe fry up
I would like to use this blog entry to document an experience I had of my favourite meal of the day: breakfast. ‘Scraping the bottom of the idea-barrel so early into my blogging career’, I hear you cry. Seriously if you like breakfast and eating it then I think this will be of interest. I was very lucky last weekend to experience in restaurant terms what is considered the most immaculately rapturous breakfast experience – a michelin starred breakfast. Why do I need to tell you about it? Am I just having an irritating smug off, well I hope not as it is likely never to happen again (yes I know, I don’t do these sorts of things every week unsurprisingly) and my findings are not nearly what I anticipated.
I am not shy in confessing that one thought that dominates my food related considerations (of which there are many) is to contemplate what constitutes the perfect breakfast. So to be presented with the opportunity to be served a breakfast of perfection, how would it go? As someone that became very excited when Nigel Slater covered a whole section on his television program about how to create the perfect bowl of porridge (a glorious conglomerate of cinnamon, jam and honey no less) I’m sure you can only imagine how excited I was. After all, breakfast is, I think, the only meal of the day where there are still certain etiquettes that MUST be followed, certain foods that you would happily chow for lunch or dinner that don’t get a look in at this time of day and quite rightly so (unless you’re a student, then anything goes and I mean ANYTHING, last night’s kebab discovered jettisoned on the floor outside my bedroom is one breakfast that springs to mind from my hazy, student days) Pot noodle, for example, is considered far too rude and indelicate to barge into your intestinal passage so early in the day.
Before I can talk about my luxurious breakfast experience, I think it best to start with how things generally pan out at my usual haunt, the local Turkish cafe, to enjoy my breakfast of choice: a fry up.
Generally we, my partner and I, pitch up loaded with newspapers, some of questionable reputation. After a quick peruse of the menu I order the same set breakfast but substitute the mushrooms for an extra sausage and then burrow into the news of the most recent expose on some poor unsuspecting hollyoaks actor. When the food arrives I cover as much as I can in tomato sauce as well as placing a giant blob of it on the side of the plate which will all be consumed in it’s entirety. That’s it. How would I top a breakfast like that? I would also throw in a pain au chocolate and cappuccino and there you have it: breakfast perfection.
So my expectations do not create big shoes for the michelin starred establishment to fill. After all, it is their role to cover every possible immaculately presented breakfast avenue. Yet the words michelin starred fry up just don’t seem to quite go, 5 star greasy spoon, luxury lard fest, all of them are oxymorons in my book.
So onwards with the review. It was my partner’s birthday and we were staying in a lovely hotel where breakfast was served in their michelin starred restaurant. On previous occasions the option of a lie in would far outweigh the chance to eat a posho fry up, but not today. I don’t think we have ever got ourselves into a hotel dining room with such eager speed.
It didn’t start well. I am aware of higher end restaurant etiquette where they like to pull out your chair for you and, as you approach the table, when they reach for a chair you should not lurch towards a different chair (not quite sure why I seem to think they might want a chair, but still, I do it every time). So, I managed to override my instincts and endure the awkward chair seating to then immediately flick open my times magazine, which I’d been saving, only to realise a paragraph down of Caitlin Moran that the waitress was still standing there, waiting for me to realise and move back far enough so she could drape a napkin over my lap. Barely a minute in and I am already muttering apologies.
So after prolonged, close analysis of the menu, I predictably choose the fry up, or should I say: the English breakfast. It sounds like a thing of beauty including, amongst other delights, black and white pudding. When it comes to ordering though, I am too self conscious to bring myself to ask if I could sub my mushrooms for an extra sausage. After we have ordered we are then offered fruit so it becomes a 2 course breakfast. Breakfast with an entree, this truly was on it’s own stratospheric level. However, it gets better. Whilst waiting for said fruit we are brought a selection of pastries. I have to stifle an audible gasp at this miniature cake stand patisserie. This is surely breakfast in its entirety?
We devour as many as we can and I even contemplate stuffing a couple of pastries into my bag but the main course arrives which activates the removal of the cake stand by the waiter. I consider chasing after him, please don’t take the pastry! However, I have something far greater to contend with: the need to acquire ketchup. The waiter arrives with a small pot and teaspoon and delicately spoons a small dollop onto the side of my plate. I look in dismay and ask in a frightfully polite/pleading tone if I could have some more. He adds another pitiful dollop and then, before I can beg for yet more, swiftly floats over and serves my partner before evaporating. I had wanted to reach over and grab the pot from his hands and ask that he fetches me another to have on the side but of course I smile deftly, whilst screaming in my head ‘how do I eat a fry up not smothered in ketchup???’ I reconcile that it will be fine, I will just have to go easy with it, be sparing, that’s all. And it was great and beautiful thing, minus the vat of ketchup, it was still a wondrously magnificent entity that I will enter into my breakfast top 10 in the number one spot.
I didn’t realise until I had the chance to eat breakfast in such a highbrow establishment, with the delicate chinking of chandeliers and silverware providing a soft and pale ambience, that actually, I am a pig. That’s right. I believe that when eating a fry up, much like a roast, you should try and get a little bit of everything onto your fork to ensure the ultimate taste party in your mouth. This does mean that sometimes I end up taking rather large mouthfuls. Bulging cheeks and the occasional dribble are not a good appearance to behold surrounded by renaissance style frescos and white gloved waiters. Fortunately I had that napkin on my lap to rescue the large bit of fried egg that flopped from my lips whilst trying negotiate an oversized piece of toast, that anyone in their right minds would have simply cut in half rather than trying to fit the whole thing in. Breakfast where you have to look around to see if anyone has noticed your misdemeanour is no great thing.
Who would have thought that actually you could be served the most lavish breakfast ever in the most opulent surroundings, yet it becomes a little stifled by needing to conform to good manners. Do I sound ungrateful? I hope not, it was utterly the most decadently resplendent breakfast experience of my days and in summary quite simply: I can’t be taken anywhere.