My most memorable meal was up an airport control tower
Over the years, writes wine and food journalist and broadcaster Philippe Boucheron, I have been fortunate enough to eat at more Michelin starred restaurants than I can count on my fingers. As well as the unholy Birmingham trinity of Purnells, Simpsons and Turners, these include Michel Roux senior’s Waterside Inn, La Becasse in Ludlow and l’Otorlan at Shinfield, to say nothing of the George V and Hélène Daroze in Paris, or Le Millénaire in Reims and George Blanc in Vonnas. All very memorable, but not the most memorable.
That most singular accolade belongs firmly and squarely to a ‘pop-up’ restaurant high up in Birmingham airport’s newly built, and still not commissioned, control tower. The airport’s management thought that before all the sophisticated technical kit was put in it would provide a unique fine dining opportunity to entertain their top customers. It would also enable the airport to offer a handful of the region’s businesses to entertain 14 or so of their key clients.
The task of equipping and running this truly prestige operation was given to Geoff’ Bartlett of Lichfield-based Corporate Occasions. Geoff and his most professional team not only equipped the tower with very special spark-free electric ovens, but got his chefs to prepare a most magnificent menu whose centrepiece was without a doubt the finest Beef Wellington it has ever been my pleasure to eat. We enjoyed quite sensational canapés with our Pol Roger champagne, stylish Gavi-di-Gavi with a most refreshing asparagus and feta cheese salad, and some outstanding Hochar Père et Fils from the Lebanon’s war-torn Bekaa valley with the beef. Taylor’s Ten-Year Tawny accompanied our cheese while Andrew Quady’s idiosyncratic Californian Essensia was perfectly matched to our trio of Heavenly desserts.
All of this would certainly place the dinner into the memorable category. But it was the location high above the region’s leading international airport, with views for miles around, that made it so exceptional with aircraft from all over the world landing and taking off under our very noses. But the final bonne bouche, that shot the evening out of the memorable into the most memorable was watching the flight from Dubai coming in and passing the outward bound Pakistan Airways flight as they taxied along the apron.
The fact that this was a ‘pop up’ restaurant, whose very existence is limited to twenty or so dinners, added a touch of the surreal to a most excellent dinner, in a most singular location with the most sensational sense of theatre. Now that is truly most memorable.