Updated: Apr 1, 2020
‘To call 41’ Experience a restaurant is to call Frank Gehry a draughtsman.
The Adria creation is superlative sensory theatre, with every element perfectly pitched. We’d (sensibly) ordered the evening with matching drinks (at €45 supplement to the €200 menu of 41 ‘courses’, a bargain). From the moment we arrived – ten minutes late, thanks to a ‘take you on the circuit’ taxi driver, the service was brilliant – apparently effortless and seamless. The young, multi-lingual front-of-house brigade numbering 16 + were unfailingly friendly, efficient, energetic, knowledgeable and considerate. Changing serving/eating utensils perhaps fifteen times during service and explaining 41 tastes is hardly a career choice for the faint of spirit. Then there’s that ephemeral quality ‘ambiance’. The space is a curved, shallow arc set for 16 ‘diners’; the acoustics and set changes worthy of the finest theatre. A curtain of shards hang from building’s black infrastructure void onto which is projected a sequence of ever-changing slowmo videos, subtlely matched to audio – always state-of-now and interesting, never intrusive.
The lighting is superb. At first the space looks dark. But the focus is the theatre of food as art, so the centre of each red table is lit bright, but diners face each other with a soft and wrinkle-free visage. And the brigade, dressed in grey and black, move among the tables in the gloaming, with only the extravagantly stocked backlit bar and giant ice 41′ ice sculpture for visual punctuation. I’d challenge anyone of any age or proclivity to dislike the experience, with a capital ‘E’.
So I’ve talked about space, sound, sight, service (all of which I consider sensory), then there’s smell, taste and touch. The food and drink (‘wine’ is not a sufficient appellation) is more that up to the challenge. Through 41 tastes/courses, only about five lowered the taste mast to ‘interesting but not exceptional’. There were at least 10 that I would love to have every week for the rest of my life. The balance was worthy of repeating, often, and the iterative, transitory explosions of utter deliciousness and previously unknown-to-me combinations (e.g. caviar and hazelnut) were pure genius.
On this morning, we’d left our rental house in Mougins at 7am, and exited 41’Experience at 12:30am. My friend Bill reckons it was the most marvellous ‘dinner’ of his life, no question. Me too.