There’s a particular kind of satisfaction to be had in skewering the pleasures of the global super-rich. It’s not just that their stuff is expensive, or stuffy, or morally reprehensible — though it often is that. It’s that it’s often terrible, and we’re all supposed to act like it isn’t because the rich people say so. (Think golf, an agonizingly slow walk that we all pretend is a sport so bankers can play at being athletes.)
This is the genius of Jay Rayner’s review of Le Cinq, a three-Michelin star restaurant in Paris. Rayner, the UK Observer’s restaurant critic, went to the super-expensive place — his meal cost $635 — expecting the pinnacle of modern cooking. Le Cinq’s chef, Christian Le Squer, was named “French chef of the year” in a poll of chefs last year.
Except Le Cinq, according to Rayner, was awful. Just bloody awful. And his skewering of it is absolutely glorious, starting with the decor:
The dining room, deep in the hotel, is a broad space of high ceilings and coving, with thick carpets to muffle the screams. It is decorated in various shades of taupe, biscuit and fuck you. There’s a little gilt here and there, to remind us that this is a room designed for people for whom guilt is unfamiliar. It shouts money much as football fans shout at the ref. There’s a stool for the lady’s handbag. Well, of course there is.
As an amuse-bouche (a fancy culinary term for a free, bite-sized appetizer) Rayner was fed some kind of clear gelatinous blob, whose appearance he describes as much like “a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant.” His dining partner described the experience of tasting it as “eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s.”
There is an onion appetizer, which he describes as “mostly black, like nightmares, and sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party.” There’s pigeon “served so pink it just might fly again given a few volts.” There’s a chocolate dessert that’s “fine, if you overlook the elastic flap of milk skin draped over it, like something that’s fallen off a burns victim.”
And then there’s the cheesecake:
A cheesecake with lumps of frozen parsley powder is not fine. I ask the waitress what the green stuff is. She tells me and says brightly: “Isn’t it great!” No, I say. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten. It tastes of grass clippings. Parsley is brilliant with fish. But in cheesecake? They take it off the bill.
The whole thing is a glorious “the Emperor has no clothes” exercise. Please read it all, and see if you can manage to avoid laughing in public.
Oh, and if you enjoy seeing rich people things skewered, you should watch this video on why expensive wine is a giant waste of your money: