On Wednesday, I ate the best meal of my life so far. It was in a Michelin star restaurant in the suburbs of Bristol and the food was absolutely incredible. I can still re-call the taste of most of the 6 courses now. (A good job, because I will have to save for several years before I can afford to eat there again!)
This meal was all the more amazing to me because it was a single set menu. Now, I am one of those people who loves picking from a restaurant menu. There are almost always half a dozen dishes that tempt me and I have usually changed my mind several times before the order is made (a trait which makes my cousin – and no doubt other friends and family – love me all the more when we eat out together…). A set-menu takes away this pleasure. And when this set menu contained items I’d never have contemplated ordering even in one of my wildest mind-changing frenzies – “celeriac root rice pudding”, anyone? – I began to feel nervous. However, I needn’t have worried – everything was truly, truly scrumptious – and the menu was exceedingly well-judged: the celeriac root rice-pudding being a “transition course”, designed to take the palate from savoury to sweet.
The whole experience got me thinking – and not just about the fact that my own cooking clearly has a very long way to go! I started thinking about the chefs (two brothers in this case) and the confidence and self-belief such a set-menu represents: “we are so confident that this is the right food for you to eat in our restaurant today that we are not going to offer alternatives.” (I should make it clear that on booking I was asked about allergies, intolerances and violent dislikes.) I’m sure that sometimes this confidence backfires – that some diners do not enjoy the dishes placed in front of them – but, based on the happy faces in the restaurant on the day I ate there, many more will be delighted by the food and will have their culinary experience broadened by tastes and combinations they never would have chosen.
So, how does this relate to my work and to theatre – my more usual blogging subjects? Well, to put it simply, I think I could sometimes use a little more of this “set-menu confidence”; not in terms of closing down options when creating a show – not at all – but in terms of making bolder creative decisions, worrying less about pleasing all and trusting my work and judgement, and that of my talented casts and crews, to carry our audiences with us.