A crisp Autumnal October morning opening my birthday presents to find out I had a reservation at Osteria Francescana, the number one restaurant in the world, was where this experience started. I then re-watched and showed Massimo Bottura’s Chef’s Table documentary on Netflix to anyone that would watch it and told both everyone I knew and everyone I met over the next two months. I was conscious and worried that it may not live up to my dreams, which is something I’ve been stung with when visiting ‘world renowned’ restaurants before. But now I know that nothing will ever beat this three Michelin starred dining experience set in a quaint Italian town steeped in culinary history.
The restaurant is set back from the main centre and the cobbled street outside gives away the discreet entrance which remains closed until 8pm on the dot when reservations begin. Welcomed in you are immediately drawn to gazing around at the abstract and quirky art works adorning the walls. Three pigeons on a branch in a corner of the hallway and the old school security guard waxwork were my personal favourites. Our table was one of five in what I would describe a room of someone’s house, opposed to a restaurant, with seats positioned facing in so you could people watch and enjoy the performance put on by the waiter’s, which was an art in its own right.
We ordered the signature tasting menu which includes some of Osteria Francescana’s most well known classic dishes and newer seasonal plates. With canapes and petit fours we ended up with 13 courses so I can’t possibly talk you through each one but here are my highlights from the menu.
Our first plate from the menu Tribute to Normandy was presented in an oyster shell on a bed of sea salt. Fish one would automatically think, but no this was the most tender mouth watering carpaccio I’ve ever had and it wasn’t even beef it was lamb! An iced herb garnish and oyster water and sea weed flavoured mayonnaise gave you the initial feeling of eating fresh fish but with the meaty layer of carpaccio a completely different after taste. The set up of this dish set the tone for the whole evening in terms of what to expect and not only did I look forward to the story behind each plate of food, which was delivered eloquently by the waiting staff, I found myself dissecting and reading each dish in this way also.
Mediterranean Sole was up there as one of my favourite dishes of the entire evening. Served on a slightly charred plate with a smokey scent that hit the nostrils as soon as the plate of food was placed down. The skin like edible paper subtly moved on the plate like a fishes fin swimming through the water while the sole underneath was cooked to perfection, dense and meaty. The hint of tomato coating the plate was a juicy and acidic contrast paired with the fish.
Next up was the star of the show and the plate of food I’ve been waiting to taste for over two years, Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures. Each element of the dish tasted different ranging from slightly sweet to a stronger nuttier flavour coming through. What astounded me most was the amount of flavour they had packed into the foam as it really gave you a punch of parmigiano, not only was it packed full of flavour it tasted significantly different to all of the other four elements. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the frozen ice cream version and coupled with this being one of the younger cheeses the sweetness was really delicious.
I was also really looking forward to The crunchy part of the Lasagne as this has always been the corner that I have loved whenever my mum cooked it for me. With a rich meat ragu on the bottom, topped with the creamy lasagne white sauce and a tricolour pasta flavoured crisp that melted in your mouth into the same consistency as pasta this really nailed it’s title on the head. If I could’ve asked for more this would have been the dish I would have done so as it took me back fondly to my childhood.
At this point in the meal we were absolutely mesmerised and astounded by what we were seeing, tasting and hearing went into all of the plates of food. So to be taking our first bite out of the Sometimes mallard, sometimes partridge and even bollito and Mr Bottura himself to walk over to our table completely bowled us over. He talked us through the dish himself and not only how we had the mallard that evening but how important the dish was for him in defining his career. The plate of food is served with Japanese pickles and a wedge of toasted bread topped with truffles, which the proud chef told us to mop up the sauce with like we would at our Grandmother’s house when we’d finished. Pipped to be the best mouthful of the entire plate he wasn’t wrong!
Last but by no means least I couldn’t not write about the famous Ooops I dropped the Lemon Tart. Served alongside the final dish of the menu Popcorn, which was also delicious, we had to share this plate which did result in us practically fighting over it. The cracked effect plate really added to the whole concept and the vibrant lemon sauce splattered across the plate was visually stunning. The sour juicy lemon coupled with the smooth cream and thin shortbread base was accompanied by a series of flavours from chilli to basil to mint. A truly exceptional dish that not only looked scrumptious but tasted it too!
The service throughout was second to none with the sommelier helping us choose a light and crisp bottle of white wine from the Southeast Piemonte region, accompanying our meal perfectly without overpowering the flavour of the food. Meeting Massimo completely made the evening and entire experience as he is so humble despite his talent and success. The passion he exudes about food is infectious exactly the kind of thing you want to see and have the opportunity to become a part of during the meal. To say I want to visit Osteria Francescana again one day would be an understatement and with a changing seasonal menu plus another taster menu to try I know I wouldn’t be disappointed. Thank you for the best 30th Birthday evening a food loving girl could wish for!
Osteria Francescana, Via Stella 22, Modena, Italia
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