Around the World in 80 Soufflés: Part 5
Greetings, my little cherubs. One has an extra special treat for you all today! This week as promised one shall be sampling the delights of, and reporting back from, the central hub of Neopia’s fine dining society; the Gourmet Club itself. If you feel that name stirring a vague recollection in the back of your head then that would be because it has come to be regarded as simply the greatest dining experience in all of Neopia.
Unlike the restaurants one has visited thus far, the Gourmet Club need not rely on fancy gimmicks to lure customers in. Instead it prides itself on simply being the best of the best; the instant reputation boost of even knowing it exists is enough to have Neopians everywhere clamouring for that elusive quantity that is a seat in their dining room.
From the moment one arrives at the establishment, one is treated like royalty in one’s own right. None of this pandering to the actual monarchy at the expense of the other diners as was demonstrated at Kelp. Nor is there a terrifying (but otherwise charming) superpower looming in the mist that veils the volcanoes in the distance. Or a shadowy figure sat in the corner picking splinters out of their wooden leg and eyeing one’s loose change. And definitely nothing anywhere on the menu that would try to kidnap and enslave you if given half a chance.
What you do get, though, is a relatively limitless choice of dishes. Rather than dictate to you what to eat, the Gourmet Club hands over control to their patrons and instead offers them a listing of ingredients from which they can compose their own perfect meal. This listing is anything but brief, and sure to cater to even the most outlandish of tastes.
In some respects, one feels this is a brave move; if the resultant dish fails, then it would be just as easy to pin the blame on the chef responsible as it would be to suffer a mild tummy ache after indulging in one too many of said dishes. However, one has found that the customer relishes the opportunity to orchestrate their own dining experience far too much to be glum if their particular attempt at a masterpiece falls flat. It’s a wonder really that other establishments haven’t followed suit, but then perhaps said businesses know they lack the talent in the kitchen department to be able to offer any sort of competition.
As a result of this unique practice, every visit promises to be memorable and completely different from the previous one, should one choose to spread one’s wings and make the most of the freedom being offered that is. Needless to say, yours truly does indeed seize this opportunity with both flippers, although one can be somewhat a creature of habit in certain respects.
For example, one always begins the evening with Draik Eggs Benedict; a simple appetiser made of grilled Parmesan Herb Bread, a slice of Steak Negg and a poached Darigan Draik Egg, topped off with a generous dollop of Golden Caviar for that extra exquisite touch. Rest assured, it tastes every inch as luxurious as it sounds; the resident chef cooks the Negg perfectly to give it a melt-in-the-mouth quality, beautifully off-setting the fluffiness of the Draik Egg. Although one can’t take full credit for that little creation; the original idea was engineered by a good friend of mine. One simply tweaked it slightly by embellishing it with the caviar.
But that just serves to prove one’s next point, a lot of the attraction surrounding the Gourmet Club centres on the ability to tinker with recipes. One is sure your parents taught you not to play with your food, but here that is positively encouraged! Why settle for a delicious meal when you can go one step further and make it the perfect meal?
Of course, that is purely subjective to one’s taste buds, though. You may look at my suggestion above and find yourself thinking it could be greatly improved by a smattering of mustard or a drizzle of olive oil. That is the unadulterated beauty of eating out at the Gourmet Club; your only limitation to the vast array of surprises awaiting your palate is your own imagination.
Now one is aware that some of you reading this may feel somewhat intimidated by the prospect of having to design one’s own meal; this is, after all, meant to be a night out and not an exercise in creative thinking. For those poor souls for whom food is not a second language, there is somewhat of a loose menu format. At your request the Maitre ‘D has a listing of some of the venue’s most popular assemblies for you to select from, all having originated from the grey matter of some of the most respected regulars and having consistently been given a resounding thumbs/paws/fins up by tasting panels. Although this can take the stress out of ordering, it does somewhat detract from the experience and so one urges you to rise to the challenge and make a meal of the menu for yourselves (if you’ll pardon the pun).
One would be doing the establishment a great disservice, though, if one were to focus this review only on the food, as this constitutes only a very small piece of what is on offer. Aside from the ingredients that come served on plates for consumption, an equally important ingredient to the Gourmet Club’s appeal is the atmosphere in the dining room.
Whilst there is always enough class in the room at any given time so that it’s practically tangible, you will find that it is still possible to relax and enjoy the company of those similarly well-turned out folk around you. One finds it to be the perfect antidote to a hard day spent mingling with ruffians and commoners; one can really feel the level of conversation raise as one walks through the door (along with a few individuals’ noses, but one isn’t the sort to stoop to flinging petty insults). If you are the sort to enjoy a touch of celebrity spotting whilst supping and sipping, then you will no doubt be captivated by the occasional appearances of Jake the Explorer, Nigel the Chia and other characters needing to be defined by their job title or species.
Indeed it was no accident that one chose to round off one’s culinary journey of jaunting around Neopia by landing back in the very place that one started. Simply put, if it is high-class cuisine you are striving for, and one certainly hopes that it is, then you simply cannot beat the offerings of the Gourmet Club. That being said, however, one took a peek over their reservation listings and discovered that, unless you own a small corner of Altador, it is highly likely that you will be waiting quite a while for a seating. Even so, one would still recommend making a booking for that birthday or Mother’s Day regardless, though in doing so you will have to understand that it might not be this year’s celebration of that particular anniversary that you get to see the inside of the dining hall.
In the meantime, one hopes that you can satiate yourselves with trips to the other suggestions one has made during the course of this little column. And of course, all the ingredients on offer at the Gourmet Club are available in shops, although understandably some of them will come with a price tag liable to cause an involuntary dropping of the jaw. Regardless, one thinks it would be a wise investment of time to experiment with said ingredients at home; that way, by the time your special night rolls around, you will have a wealth of culinary knowledge with which to make your mark on the guestbook. Who knows, one might be sampling one of your creations on a future luncheon there!
One has no choice really but to award the Gourmet Club an impeccable score of five Candy Fyora Wands out of five. And that, my little speckled cupcakes, is your lot. One does dearly hope that one has achieved one’s goal of enlightening you all to the possibilities out there for you to sample. Indeed one has to admit that the variety on offer surprised even a seasoned critic such as oneself.
So until our paths cross once again, as one is sure they will now that one has imparted unto you a shared hunger for all things gastronomic, do stay safe. Stay safe everywhere except the kitchen that is, where one encourages you to take risks and walk on the wild side, or pirouette and plié if you’re feeling altogether more energetic. Perhaps one’s next venture shall be to write an exercise companion to burn off all the excess pounds incurred whilst following one’s advice! In any case, it has been a pleasure serving up a slice of one’s opinion each week, thank you for reading.
All one’s love, Miss Tobik x