A restaurant critic without restaurants to critique. Well, what’s a quarantined critic to do? Set up a fine dining establishment at home, of course. If you’re itching to eat out, why don’t you try it, too? Fine dining consists of three elements: ambience, food and service. Here’s how to get it right at Chez You.
Choose your setting carefully. You want the most stylish space in your living area – or if none cuts the mustard, then an alfresco setting is always a winner when dining out. Clear the clutter, make sure the table doesn’t wobble, the chairs are comfy and the playlist makes you smile without knowing why.
Lighting is paramount in setting the mood. If your lights don’t dim, switch them off and crack out the candles (at least they haven’t been put to much use during lockdown). Get out your best tablecloth (a white linen one gets top marks), dust off the dishes Great-Aunt Karen gifted you for your wedding and polish the dishwasher droplets from your cutlery. A couple of freshly polished wine glasses, a garden bloom or two in a vase, some linen napkins and you’re practically ready to welcome the Michelin secret diner.
2. FOOD AND WINE
Food is a slightly more complicated affair. You might want to begin by taking an online cooking course or two to make sure your culinary competence is up to the challenge. MasterClass is offering courses that allow you to learn from the very best Michelin-starred chefs, think Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck and Massimo Bottura. If you’d rather keep it local, check out Yuppiechef’s online courses with the likes of Pete Goffe-Wood, Sarah Graham, Franck Dangereux and Kamini Pather.
Your menu needs to be accessible, but inventive, which means avoiding your lockdown go-tos (I’m looking at you bolognaise) and trying something more elaborate. Trendy ingredients are foraged, so raid your veggie garden (if you planted one at the start of lockdown, something must be ready for picking by now) and pluck some herbs from your window box – and remember to describe these items as “endemic” on the menu.
Don’t skimp on your ingredients. Norwegian salmon, wagyu beef, West Coast oysters and baby crayfish are staples in award-winning restaurants, so if you’re out to impress, make sure you include at least one of these delicacies. Anything fermented is trending, so add so add pickles, miso or kimchi if you really want to seem in the know. Vegan foods are a necessity on every fashionable restaurant menu, so you might want to include something plant-based.
Also, don’t forget an elegant plating for each dish to give it that professional touch.
For dessert steer clear of anything your kids would choose and go for the sophistication of fruit-based desserts but nothing retro. Think a citrus tart with basil ice cream or a mango mojito sorbet with ginger snaps. If dessert is incomplete without chocolate, try a dark chocolate paté with cookie crumble and hazelnut brittle or a toasted, marshmallow-topped dark chocolate pannacotta.
This prohibition period is not the time to save your best bottles of wine for better days. Break open the good stuff and really feel as though you’re spoiling yourself with the finest in the restaurant’s cellar. Play sommelier and compare tasting notes between courses, pairing the oysters with a glass of bubbles, your salmon with a crisp sauvignon blanc, a lightly oaked, smooth chardonnay with the crayfish and a subtle, yet sophisticated, Bordeaux-style red blend for your beef.
Service is likely to be your downfall, unless you can bribe a bored teenager in co-quarantine to playing waiter for the night. If not, you can’t complain about the service if there is none! If the ambience is inviting and the food memorable, it’s entirely possible your foray into fine dining will nonetheless receive rave reviews.
On a final note, since we’re going all-out here and nothing is ever amiss in a Michelin-starred restaurant, a formal table setting for each diner is imperative. Remember to match your cutlery to the number of dishes you’re going to have – and don’t forget to pair the glasses to the wine. It’s the attention to detail, and meticulous care, that will set your at-home fine dining restaurant apart from the rest.