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Eating out

How I fell out of love with fine dining

René Redzepi at work in the 2015 documentary Noma, My Perfect Storm

Last week René Redzepi – the much-lauded chef at three-Michelin-star Noma in Copenhagen – announced he was shutting up shop because the luxury restaurant business had become “financially and emotionally” unsustainable. It’s about time, says Jay Rayner in The Observer. I once ate at a different Parisian three-star restaurant every day for a week, and “my love affair with the finest of fine dining began to crumble”. There were sublime moments – a pea dish at Restaurant Guy Savoy “elevated the humble legume to god-tier status”. But what really stayed with me was the “grim, preening, massively unenjoyable artifice”.

Part of the problem is that people who can afford “£500 a head or more for lunch” tend to be so “grossly entitled” that the service becomes stuffy and mannered to suit their expectations. Le Cinq in Paris hands women menus without prices even if they booked the table. At Manresa in California, the waiters marched to our table in a column, “one arm pinned behind their backs”. Then there’s the ludicrous volume of food. “A chef once served me 26 courses, then came out and barked: ‘Did I win?’” Presumably these people have never sat through their meals themselves, so have no idea what it’s like being “pelted with tweezered morsels of varying quality” hour after hour. There’s nothing wrong with spending a few quid on smart nosh if that’s your thing, “but it has to be worth it”. Redzepi is right: “a certain type of luxury dining experience really ought to be put out of our misery”.