What is “fine dining”? A term that, once mentioned, brings forth immediate visualisation of opulent restaurants, up-scale clientèle, lavish ingredients prepared and plated to their highest quality and in the most meticulous manner. A scene quite posh and proper – so that is the impression that the term conjures up in our head. But what really is “fine dining”? What makes a dining experience “fine”, in contrast to the casual, homely cooking and eating?
There seems to be no rules or definite answer to this question. The closest explanation I can get requires a reversion to the 17th century when the term haute cuisine was verbalised customarily and rather matter-of-factly from the lips and tongues of the French upper class society. There must be careful and elaborate preparation and presentation of food, and the food must be eaten with the right cutlery, paired with the right wine etc. etc… All of which, in my humble opinion, can be easily summed up as an appreciation of food.
A serious appreciation of food.
Among the few restaurants we visited in Bordeaux, Le Davoli delivered a stellar gastronomic experience that necessitates a blog post. Located in the Saint Pierre district, this exclusive French restaurant only caters to a maximum of 20 per night and is headed by chef David Grangier with le Directeur de salle, Oliver Rouland. The duo promises excellency, favours clarity and space, and seats are stubbornly capped at 20 to preserve the food quality.
We arrived punctually at quarter past seven as noted on our reservation. The room was empty but the kitchen was ready. The bordelais are not used to having their dinner early, so the rest of the tables remained unoccupied and were only starting to fill up much later after we arrived.
We decided to dodge formality, turned a blind eye to the so-called fine dining rules and showed up in jeans and soft cotton tops. The amuse bouches were served and glasses clinked. Dinner began. We weren’t chucked out from the restaurant.
Starting with a seafood platter – seared scallop, oyster and cannelloni. Cannelloni is a cylindrical-shaped pasta traditionally stuffed with meat. In Le Davoli, this Italian favourite was given a twist – one rolled with chestnut, another with leek. Creamy foam then topped the dish to soften the savoury edge of the seafood.
Moving on to another product of the sea – pollack fillet. The sweet potato millefeuilles was sprinkled with a generous layer of parmesan and some cooking juice deglazed with wine.
We did disregard the common rules of fine dining but we wouldn’t say yes to finishing our meal without dessert. This is unacceptable. We had crunchy apple millefeuilles, apple crème brûlée and a quenelle of sorbet. The globe of chocolate stole the show that night. The dome, so decadent, was placed on top of a lava chocolate cake. The best and only way to savour this was to crash it, mix the flavours and let the different kinds of chocolate texture do their wonder on your tongue.
I believe that there is a point when food equates to art and a few swaps or droplets of mouse on the plate demand one’s patience, respect and yes, appreciation. But I can’t quite grasp the whole idea of fine dining yet. I still do not know what is the best wine to go with a chunk of glazed pork confit or whether I am using the right fork to spoon up my food.
But I do love the human’s thirst for betterment and diversification, the creativity and care and concentration we give to build an establishment based entirely on one of our most basic needs – food. What a clever way to elicit acknowledgement and money too.
So why not fine dine?
With love x