I live to eat, it’s that simple.
Some people eat to live, some say they live to eat but I truly believe I do fall into the live to eat category (that, and drink I suppose). Because I am hard wired this way I try and spend as much time as I can in places that create great food (great food is a number of things just expensive food!)
You can imagine my excitement when I managed to get two seats of the ten at the legendary Paul Pairet’s (just do yourself a favor and look at the food section of his page!!)new creation ULTRAVIOLET (a place that has been 15 years in the making). He is the legend behind many things, but for me most importantly, the creator of probably my favorite restaurant in Shanghai, Mr and Mrs Bund!
So what is it exactly . . .
I battled to describe it really but it is the combination of all senses experienced and expressed through 22 courses of perfectly selected food combinations and forms, drink pairings, sounds, lights, projections and smells ( I dare you to try imagine the number of combinations needed to pull this off – let alone to the unparalleled levels of excellence to which he has done) I dare say this is the greatest culinary experience anywhere in the world right now.
It is as if food has been operating in 2D for so long and someone has come along and skipped 3D but given us food in 4D.
It starts with a briefing at Mr & Mrs bund and a presentation of a small folded piece of tissue paper that gives just enough information on the impending proceedings to make me giddy with excitement.
(Some pics are my own but for some I relied on the professionals and have stolen them with pride)
Now I’ve been trying to work out how exactly I can explain this to you without going course by course (because that would take days and also I think this is one thing you want to experience yourself)
So I thought of dividing this into food and experience . . .
As you enter the room you realize that everything is done with a purpose, from the names projected onto your seats, to the surrounding canvas of a room that will become the greatest culinary enhancment of all time.
The exceptional host or director Fabien Verdier introduces the proceedings and then the projectors take over. A small house is projected all around and slowly you start to descend beneath the earth, then the underground and so on until you find yourself in a world created by the dreams and imaginations of what I can only express as true genius!
From then on every course has sounds, sights and table projections, that take this from a tremendously complex tasting occasion to an all encompassing all engrossing orgy of the senses!
The perfect ending is when a screen appears and a live demonstration of one of the deserts ensues, slowly as you watch the walls fold back to reveal the artists at work and a tour of the kitchen (at this point you are thinking can these people think of any part of my mind that hasn’t been blown!)
Each course is perfectly served, described and consumed. I know this will sound contrived and cliched but I dont really care. Its as if Chef Paul and his team are the musicians and Fabien the conductor to which both combine skill, precision and true talent to make one of the greatest gastronomic symphonies of all time!
Now, The food.
As you are told right from the beginning the food is the most important part, it is after all a restaurant (from another galaxy, yes, but a restaurant none the less) and everything starts from the food and is developed outward. The food in a word must be, perfect and it is without question!
Here is just a small sample of some of my favorite out of the 22 courses in UV A menu.
Amuse Bouche was an apple wasabi sorbet lodged between the perfect fork / chop stick utensil – one bite, pallet cleansed, heart racing and mind engaged.
Ready to go!
Micro fish, no chips served in the perfect wet and rainy British setting! This paired with a shot of micro brewery beer. (I think the total collection of things in this dish was one of the most powerful for me!)
Foie Gras Cigar and red cabbage ash (dip and eat) aptly named ‘Foie Gras – Cant Quit’ and paired with a light Sherry!
Truffle soup bread served under a bell jar filled with cigar smoke (I see you crinkling your nose but honestly I could not believe how this entangled deliciously with the bread! Then again I am a smoker).
This paired with a 2010 Chardonnay from Burgundy.
Sea-bass baked into the bread with cheeses, olives, sun-dried tomato etc and then carved (as you can see above in an Aquarium motif) into slices and served. You can imagine the complexity of baking bread with a fish inside and managing not to spoil either of them!
Cucumber lollipop and frozen Gado Gado served with an ambiance of Balinese masks floating around the room (you can see the pic above)
Egg tartlette served in a silver egg on a projected frame (one bite)
Well into the deserts, with the magnificently created Mandarin (this is slightly borrowed from one of my favorite all time dishes at MR & Mrs Bund – Lemon & Lemon Tart). If you imagine a whole mandarin soaked in syrup for a number of days and then through witchcraft and black magic somehow putting mandarin sorbet and mandarin curd into the fruit without breaking the skin. Simply Outrageous!
At this point I am perfectly full, superbly satisfied and ready for a little something sweet to round it all off. A small tribute to your childhood is next with Hibernatus Gummies, frozen flavoured gummie bears served with flash frozen cola rock sweets on a projection of a child’s drawing This comes complete with an audio visual Gummie Bears race and a real life one by the kitchen team!
Finally after all of this the walls open, as I have discussed above, and then after a tour of the kitchen a Suzette carrot cake, Coriander-orange-cream cheese (the carrots are actually a mix of many ingredients and then shot out of a carrot gun.)
At the end of the meal its back to the table to ‘do the dishes’ a combination of rose foam, berry washing liquid and just a fun mish-mash of delicious deserts! I love the theme and idea of a non pretentious, fun and relaxed last course!
When dinner is done a proper tour of the kitchen and the ‘behind the scenes’ view of this amazingly incredible (I think Ive run out of superlatives by this stage!) machine! Then off to the UV Nightclub for a wind down glass of Champagne and review of the evenings events to try and re-live each course!
What did I leave out?
Pop rock Oyster, Green the citric, Cuttlefish Guimauve, Aglio e olio, Lobster essential, Cocotte iodine, Charred Eggplant, Tendon Tahine, Encapsulated bouillabaisse, Basilic Aioli Orange, Engloved Truffle Lamb, Wagyu simple, Tomato Pomodore, Crunchy fierce salad, Cheese, Tomato Peach ‘no shark fin’ soup, Avocado Brulee Natella
I’m not sure how much of this anyone will understand but all I can say is no matter what they are called they are the combination of imaginative genius and exceptionally talented people!
Problems with this post!
1. The order of events may not be 100% accurate (this is due to the fact that every part of my brain was being stimulated and engaged at once – taking photos was a hard enough task let alone remembering what was when)
2. If you have read this far you deserve a medal because I think this is the longest post I have ever constructed
3. I have certainly not done justice to these dishes, the surroundings, the chefs, the staff, the host and to probably everything else (even including the most advanced toilet I’ve ever seen) but to be fair unless you experience this yourself you cannot dare begin to grasp it!
All I can say is Thank you UV team for absolutely blowing my mind and for advancing the world of culinary arts!