I am not a dressy person. Dressing up for me means brushing my hair. So when I remembered two kilometres away that I was heading to the Ritz for a two Michelin star dinner I panicked. I’d memorised my itinerary (very badly) apparently and I was now changing rapidly in the back of an empty minibus in a layby while the driver shielded her eyes.
I’d been invited to sample some of Tenerife’s gourmet food. Initially sceptical that I would be able to eat anything at all, time and time again, I was proved wrong.
There were five others in the group I was travelling with, all of whom were meat eaters. Not only do I not eat meat, fish, or dairy of any sort, my gluten intolerance had recently kicked back so I’d had to recut bread out of my diet AGAIN. And I looked like a tramp to boot.
But I was kinda surprised (and delighted, Obvs) when the chef (Basque chef Martin Berasategui) had prepared me a special menu.
Yes, there were a lot of textures of tomato, but him and his team had gone to a lot of effort to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out. It was two Michelin starred food, but meat free, which was super exciting.
We started with breads. He brought me rice crackers with different flavours and the things that look like crayons on the table are in fact flavoured butter.
Strawberry daiquiri ice cubes arrived next, moulded into the shape of berries. They were incredible – an alcoholic sorbet to cleanse the palette before nine course tasting menu. In reality such a long menu is just an excuse for a chef to show off, but if he continued showing off like this, fine by me.
A series of amuse bouches-esque things arrived next and this was the only bum note of the meal. Spherication had happened here, and it really shouldn’t have. A luminous blob of green didn’t look appetising. It did what it said on the tin – exploded with liquid as I bit into it – but the taste was like chewing on one of those berries from a tree that would kill you.
It was bitter and left a lingering and hideous aftertaste. That said, it was the only bum note of the meal, but man, it was weird. After eating quite a lot of swish meals, I’ve realised that texture really is important to food. This is where nature excels and sometimes chefs should leave well alone. An example is an apple. It’s crunchy and soft at the same time. Genius. Don’t mess with that.
I was then served textures of tomato (which were delicous) while everyone else got slightly cooked oysters cooked in a broth that smelt of the sea. It was served in a dish that looked like a volcano and it smoked…
I was grateful for a respite as the chef was unable to come up with nine things that were vegan, so I sipped an amazing gin and tonic while everyone went mad for their next dish. After that, I was served a simple salad with vinaigrette. For anyone who has battled through a tasting menu, you’ll understand when I say that as delicious as everything else was on the table, everybody was envious of my salad.
The standout dish of the menu followed – white asparagus tips with a rich mushroom sauce. It was decadent and everyone else was served the same dish, which suggests just how good it was.
Then came an egg in broth with salty girolles.
Then gorgeous artichoke hearts, wonderfully turned with a type of Palm syrup and more mushrooms.
Desert was Unphotographed because my phone died and British Airways doesn’t have charging points, even in business. (Gah). But it was lemony, zesty, with lots of sorbets, sugars, and an amazing lime and apple and mint granita sauce. Delish.