Single-product restaurants: when less is more
ating isn’t just about eating any more. It is also about the whole experience. Restaurants are increasingly offering their customers complete immersion in the universe of their product. The saying that a little goes a long way has fallen on deaf ears, and the growing trend is to make a single food into a culinary symbol.
No product is a bad choice for ultra-specialisation. The British eat 11,500 million sandwiches a year, so it is not surprising that Melt Room, London, has made the grilled cheese sandwich into a gourmet dish. They use high-quality ingredients and artisan bread to prepare their famous sandwiches, with a generous helping of melted cheese. Always a star, in different combinations, with lettuce and mustard, mushrooms, hummus and even Nutella and mascarpone.
It’s raining meatballs
The Meatball Shop is an institution in New York. The menu lets you choose your favourite type of meat (with a vegetarian option), your favourite sauce and different accompaniments. In its brunch balls Benedict, meatballs are the star ingredient, in an irresistible adaptation of the classic.
Also putting cheese in the limelight, Home Room, California, specialises in the traditional Mac & Cheese. Macaroni and cheese for all, and in every possible format. In fact, 30 varieties in all, from the classic dish with cheddar, to succulent alternatives involving jalapeños, Italian sausage, spinach, smoked bacon and garlic. Each week, they serve more than 5,000 dishes.
The magic is in offering dishes that make a humble product into an extraordinary one. The Potato Project is a London-based restaurant that takes baked potatoes to another level. Beyond the traditional potato with butter, there are dishes with an Asiatic touch, like sweet potato with Thai chicken and lime and coconut curry, and autumn potato, with mushrooms, spinach, blue cheese and truffle oil.
Poncelet Cheese Bar, Madrid, has Cheese Tours, involving guided tours where you can discover the cheese manufacturing process. The milk-tourism tour starts with a visit to the farm and dairy at the property in Vega de San Martín, and ends with a tasting in the restaurant.
Pomze, Paris, has been crowned the apple queen of the restaurant world. Its menu includes 120 dishes that let the diner try its every guise, including mackerel fillets with Granny Smith apple sauce ravigote. Whatever your dish of choice, you can have it with one of 30 different ciders, from a range of French regions.
More exclusive alternatives are also available. Maison de la Truffe—a classic restaurant in the French capital, having been open for more than 80 years—is a pioneer in the mono-product trend. Every dish is offered with three alternatives: without truffle, with seasonal truffle or with black truffle. There is no better place to enjoy a truffled omelette.
Others opt for daring combinations, like Bocadillo de Jamón y Champán, Madrid, which specialises in ham sandwiches and champagne. The restaurant has achieved excellence in simple ham baguettes by combining tradition with the finest product. And it offers good fizz: a fun and ideal pairing. Its London version is Bubbledogs, where you can get hotdogs and champagne. Chin chin!