Another day, another year older. Despite my protestations, I'm actually less bothered about turning 28 than I am turning 29. At least 28 is the peak age for a top-class football. Once you reach 29, where can you go from there? 30? Whatever. And despite other protestations that I really don't like doing anything special, this is the third birthday in a row that's turned pretty memorable. This year was in no small part due to the fact my lovely girlfriend whisked me off to Jun Tanaka's Pearl for the tasting menu.
Oh. My. God. That's all you can say, really. This may well rank as one of the best birthday experiences ever.
It came as a complete surprise. I'd just been told to turn up in Central London looking reasonably smart and that was it. I'd no idea about the sensual treats on offer.
The tasting menu wasn't just about food. Every course came with a specially selected beer to complement the flavours.This is A Good Thing and can only be encouraged. I know a little about wines. I know a lot more about ales, and these were good ales.
Innis and Gunn I'd heard of, and had been keen to try for a while. The deep, malty toffee flavour was a perfect accompaniment to the lamb. The rest were equally delicious. The Spanish Alhambra Reserve that accompanied the monkfish stood out as a wonderfully rich-yet-balanced beer.
From start to finish the whole thing was magnificent. The pea, feta and mint foam palate cleanser to start through to the chocolate parfait, which lasted all of about 2 minutes, if that.
Inbetween came scallops, duck and watermelon, amazing monkfish, lamb so tender it melted in your mouth and a plum soup. Plus canapes.
I would attempt detailed description, but the different beers take their toll. Suffice to say, everything - from the perfectly cooked monkfish to the beer cocktails to finish - was unbelievable. I've eaten at decent restaurants. Nothing quite comes close to what I experienced at Pearl.
I would also provide pictures, but none of the courses hung around on our plates for detailed snaps. Especially not the chocolate parfait.
The only downside... I could easily get a taste for this kind of thing. One day, Fat Duck, I will have donated enough of my body to medical science to be able to afford your tasting menu. By that time, you may just have a table free.
[Although I seem to be making a habit of good food on my birthday. Two years ago, we wound up at The Cricket Inn at Beesands, which served up some of the most delicious, freshest seafood dishes I've ever tasted. Last year I was eating paella in Barcelona. To make up for the awfulness of turning 29 next year, perhaps I should insist on El Bulli and nothing less]