Food is a necessity in all aspects of life, it is our nourishment and medicine. But good food, great food, that is something else. It is a wonderful thing, to taste something to its full extent - a thing that tastes exactly as it was meant to, such as a rich and earthy tomato, can be a revelation. So much of what we eat is eaten without ceremony, without thought to the various complex flavours. But pay attention to a single leaf of rocket - that spice and tang - and you will reach ecstasy.
Ecstasy is exactly what we felt, Oliver and I, when we ate the best meal of our lives. All parts of that meal had conspired to make it phenomenal...
A plate of pastries, a wheel of warm goat's cheese, and a pot of honey, all drizzled with balsamic.
The small mama swallow who swooped to and fro above her nest of birdlings, in the corner on the wall.
The fat of the foie gras, cut by the spiced tartness of the white wine and the toasted gingerbread.
On that note, I must include the gingerbread-like quality of the restaurant, what with its timber vaulting and exposed beams.
The raw simplicity of the ingredients, all pared back to their humble but beautiful selves.
Lemongrass infused, butter slathered, still-slightly-crisp vegetables.
A scattering of candied walnuts.
Moments of sharing; the passing of plates, and the wonderful conversations that come from appreciating one-another's dishes. Pure delight in the empathy.
The duck... that goddamn duck. I knew about halfway through that I would never, ever, not in a million years, eat duck that tasted that good again. Holy Jesus it was good. Marinated and cooked in its own fat till the meat was so tender it could have almost dissolved in my mouth without chewing, and the rich, crunchy intensity, and the salt, and the fat, and the pure game-y quality, and those perfect pairings of crisped potatoes and the red wine... All of it made that duck the best dish I have ever eaten. Boom.
That few precious minutes when we both talked only of the duck, appreciating every tiny morsel.
The searing hot plate of another, now thinly sliced, duck; bitter raspberry sauce on top.
A view of the cliffside, looming over the tiny town of stone houses, all draped in window boxes of blooms. Watching the sunset, the blues of dusk then melding into the blackness, and the candles that were taken out and lit on each table.
That happy-tummy feeling, once all the wine and the food has mixed itself together, half of it entering your blood stream and the other half sending dopamine to the brain.
(Two are always better than one)
1. A coconut panna cotta, served with warm, grilled, overripe pineapple.
2. The obligatory chocolate cake, molten middle, homemade ice cream and berry coulis. This one was so divinely simple that I seem to remember scraping the chocolate shavings off the plate in an attempt to save any part of the dish from being wasted.
The end note: a small coffee and a biscuit.
Naturally, we returned to this same restaurant the following three nights.