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Around the Table | DineOut Articles

Mr Lu

50 ways to lunch with your lover!

by Mr Lu, Sun 5th Apr 2009 07:20pm

S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants

What an amazing month this is going to be for those of us passionately interested in food in general and dining out in particular! Tis that time of the year when the forces are milling and thronging in old London town for the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants in the World Awards to be held on April 20th.

If you haven't heard of this prestigious, headline grabbing annual event then don't despair! Your eyes are soon to be opened so that you may gaze in wonder and tremble in anxious expectation as the ultimate panacea for your ailing spirit is delivered to your desperate soul! These awards are a truly outstanding examination of sheer, unmitigated, unfettered culinary talent and the winners' restaurants can be assured of more bookings than is humanly imaginable for the months and years to come.

Let's briefly look at El Bulli, winner of the Best Restaurant in the World for the past three consecutive years. This exquisite house of gastronomy receives over two million requests for reservations a year and can but accommodate 8,000. Surely the dream of everyone in the industry! Located on the Costa Brava in Spain, owner Ferran Aria tells us: "In El Bulli we don't only look to feed people well, but also to provoke new sensations of all kinds: intellectual, emotional, for the palate. We push the limits of creativity in the kitchen and we like to share this with our clients."

Unquestionably, there are, multifarious, multidimensional influences and factors that, through more than an accumulated modica of talent, touches of pure genius and the almost innate ability to deliver a consistency of plate-bound perfection, lead to position number one. Such utter mastery is to be thoroughly lauded and forever admired.

Nevertheless, as I pointed out in my first billet doux to you all, at the beginning of our online relationship, a restaurant lives and dies on a day to day basis. It is on trial every day the doors are opened & how the mighty can fall! It doesn't take very much of a mishap to cause a catastrophe in this business, I assure you all, as nothing can be taken for granted...

Pray, do tell, the distant Diners Out do murmur. Well, ok then!!

The Fat Duck, that hallowed Berkshire bastion of the most exalted haute cuisine has had to contend with the unthinkable, the devastating, the potentially ruinous circumstance of 400 diners falling ill at the end of February of this year. Now let's backtrack several years and remind ourselves that the Fat Duck was No.1 restaurant in the world in 2005 and slipped to second place in the face of El Supremo, Ferran Aria, of El Bulli in 2006. Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck has been described by many as a "charming culinary wizard" whose highly evolved style of cooking attracts the now well hawked term, 'molecular gastronomy'. His restaurant is an extroverted physical & intellectual statement of quality control, cleanliness, dedication and absolute high end professionalism, service and grand cuisine. He will clearly survive this latest setback and rise again where many a less well entrenched and successful enterprise would not. He is one of the luckier ones.

It will therefore be with nail-biting interest that I will be watching the results of the Awards on April 20th.

You, the collective Dine Out congregation, the serious gastronomes of New Zealand, may be interested to know that in a telephone discussion with the London based organizer of the Awards this week I was advised that 837 Academy panelists, spread over 26 regions, all vote for their 5 favourite restaurants, all of which they must have visited in the preceding 18 months and which cannot include their own restaurant(s). The panelists, 32 from each region, are divided between chefs, food critics and restaurateurs and of their respective 5 votes each, no more than 3 can be for restaurants in their region.

So there you go! Watch with interest as I will be.

I have chosen to touch on the subject of these awards, in this, the second of my articles, because a close examination of the finalists, dating back to the beginnings of the awards in 2002, has shown that not one New Zealand restaurant has appeared. Now we can all sit back, glasses of fine wine in hand, and wax lyrical about why this might be so. It bothered me so much that I was moved to act on behalf of our bright & beautiful little phosphorescent country as it, my friends, boasts many exceptional mealtime masters, undiscovered gems of the gastronomic gentry and purveyors of edible excellence in fine restaurants throughout the nation. Of this I am convinced with unswerving certainty.

Rest assured, my Beauties, that attention has been drawn to this most serious of oversights and it is my fervent hope that 2010 will herald the addition of suitably qualified panelists who will fairly and freely eat their way from one end of New Zealand to the other and push for the best of ours to stand alongside the best of the rest of the world.

In the meantime, you, as Dine Out reviewers are the next best thing, and your reviews are important as a consequence. They are being read by the aforementioned Londoner I rather suspect, and by thousands of internet surfers the world over including the Australasian Chair of the Awards Academy himself. Let's hope so anyway.

And so it was written... until next time.


Along with many others in the Dine Out community, I have been saddened by the untimely Passing of Mr Ted Chappell, known to us all online as Badbaxter. It has been a moving experience to witness the kindness, comraderie and fine words that Ted's death has elicited on these pages and it is a reminder to us all that we are in the company of friends, albeit often friends we have never met. One of his legacies will be his 66 reviews on DineOut, testimony to his writing skills, his fairness and his sense of humour. He did well and he made a notable contribution to the ongoing success of this terrific website. As a comment under feedback of one of his later reviews read:
i love following your reviews badbaxter, you are fair and you know what you are talking about. Keep it up!
Excellent words that say it all, I feel.

Your Comments


Mon 6th Apr 2009 09:29am

Mr Lu's next gift:

"I have a typewriter (you know, those things that preceded computers)that I will offer as the prize this time. It works absolutely perfectly and what a beautifully melodic sound those clattering keys make."

If you would like to be in with a chance to win Mr Lu's typewriter, simply send us an email (to with your username, real name and address, and we'll draw a winner in a couple of weeks.

The winner of the Oxford Writing Set will be drawn and announced in the next couple of days - good luck to all the entrants.



Fri 5th Jun 2009 12:08pm

Thanks to all the entrants - the lucky winner is Kate B, a veteran of 43 reviews. Enjoy the clattering keys :D


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