We wrote about celebrated fine dining restaurant cum wild experiment Ultraviolet on this blog over a year ago, lauding it for its ambitious take on multi-sensorial dining. Finally, after a painfully long wait, we had a chance to experience the genius for ourselves...
A blow-by-blow account of the meal, as is customary for most reviews, would hardly do in this case. That is, not least, because the whole experience takes about 5 1/2 hours and covers 22 individual courses with drinks pairings. And with each course you're not only getting things to put in your mouth, but also stimulation for the nose, ears and eyes. To go through it all would not only destroy the quirky surprise and thrill of each creative flourish, but would be a reading feat of Tolkienian proportions. Rest assured, this is dining at its most epic.
Take the course "Micro Fish no Chips" for example. To the giddy chimes of the Beatles' Ob-la-di, Ob-lad-da, the room is enveloped in images of a rainy day, while the dining table is morphed into a British flag. The pairing, oh-so-fittingly, is one of Brew Dog's signature craft beers, 5 A.M. Saint.
Show runner Paul Pairet shows no qualms in shirking the expected. In fact, casting aside expectations is perhaps what Ultraviolet is all about... This is all the more apparent when the Micro Fish no Chips arrives on an over-sized plate, a jab at the haute cuisine tradition of pitiful portions.
Throughout the night, Pairet is breaking down walls. Whether its slandering stuffy fine dining conventions, evaporating the chef/patron barrier or obliterating the guest-to-guest conversation quandary, guests are constantly being cajoled into enjoying themselves more.
But for all of the extravagance, for all of the tongue-in-cheek references and gleeful theatrics, make no mistake: what is being done here is masterful. Every single dish is a potent reminder of Paul Pairet's exceptional background and skill. He experiments without slipping into excess. He does the classics but avoids cliché. Even his most daring of dishes pay heed to a sense of balance, with multiple flavors exciting the palate but achieving a genuine synergy. This level of precision extends from the food and drink, right through the impeccable service and, to his added praise, the complex audio-visual system.
The menu our group of sybaritic explorers were enjoying was Ultraviolet's opening menu, known as UVA, although we were informed that UVB has just come online to great reception. It may take another year, but by God we will be working to get a seat at that one too.
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