Yesterday was pretty crazy, even by my standards.
I'd been lucky enough to score an invitation to eat at Osteria Francescana, with my partner and his family for his parents' 40 Year Wedding Anniversary (cleverly coinciding with my 34th birthday. Score!).
Considering Osteria Francescana is booked out years in advance, scoring a spot at this table is something that my U.K. friends would call "extremely jammy". Run by the world's best chef, Italian Massimo Bottura, this was an insane experience in excellence - and one that will be impossible to beat. (Can we say RUINED. FOR. LIFE.?)
Here's my quick rundown.
(If you prefer listening to reading, click here for my FB Live version).
From the moment we walked into our sober-but-elegant private dining room, and saw 7 black suited men standing behind our chairs, purely for pulling them out and pushing them in for us, I knew this would be an experience "beyond".
Combining the most elegant of old-school etiquette with relaxed modern manners & appropriate humour (one waiter that offered to take our photo because he was "Japanese, and that made him skilled at these things") - the skill level was exceptional.
When I went to place my handbag on the floor, a small golden table was skilfully slid up to place it on. (Where has this idea been all my life?).
The staff worked like a dance performance - synchronised and smooth. The process for someone going to the bathroom (a waiter escorting you, then your napkin and bread plate being replaced, and your seat cleaned before you returned) was beautiful to watch.
Every single need was anticipated.
As we were first seated and welcomed, the maître d' said:
"We are aware that one of your party is pregnant. Is there anything you can't eat?" and after receiving the large list, the chef altered every required dish from the set menu to suit.
Everything was initially explained in flawless Italian. But after overhearing me talking in English with my partner, they immediately offered to explain the dishes in both languages.
I never had to ask for anything I needed, as they always beat me to the punch - meaning there was never an awkward or difficult moment for the entire 3 hour lunch.
(You know those little heart flutters when you're about to ask for something and potentially embarrass yourself? Yeah, never happened here).
When choosing wines - from the ENORMOUS book - the staff looked in regularly but never entered until they assessed that we'd decided. Every focus was on supporting the easy social interaction of our group.
Surprisingly, this was also one of the most relaxed dining experiences of my life. I never felt like I didn't belong there. I could have turned up in either a ball gown, or (as many diners were did) in jeans, and would have felt completely at home.
Not only could I not fault the service, I learned a ton about what being world class really means. And the newsflash is: it's not about elitism.
The name "Osteria" normally refers to a restaurant where very traditional, local Italian dishes are served. Massimo Bottura has taken this traditional concept and supercharged it with modern innovation, supported by the storytelling behind the creation of each dish.
One dish told of the history of Modena, where the restaurant is based (also the home of the Ferrari and Lamborghini empires). Another told of Autumn in New York (Bottura's wife is American). These dishes are famous for hardcore foodies, but they just made me feel like I was living in a book of fairytales.
Some dishes were easy and plain delicious, others were challenging and unusual and took time to understand. Every single one of them was exceptional.
A sweet macaron filled with a type of rabbit stew (really).
Eel from the river of Modena cooked in a Japanese style sauce, combined with creamed polenta and apple gel. (Exceptional separately, but altogether - no words).
And a desert called Yellow is Bello - served in a frozen bowl with gold powder and tasting of flowers.
Though it's impossible to recall the full story behind every dish, I can still tell you how each one made me feel. I had some of my best ideas about life and business during this lunch, and it is no surprise.
For the world's best dining experience, it was incredibly reasonably priced. We took a set menu (without wine degustation), and added 3 bottles of wine - the total was 260euro per person.
Really, I'll be telling my grandchildren about this one day, and have spent more on a pair of shoes in the past.
if you are looking for an experience that teaches you how to be the best at anything (business, creativity, service) - come here. The bookings are open only once per month, usually for 6 months ahead minimum. They sell out within minutes.
Try your luck here: http://www.osteriafrancescana.it/