We’d been trying to get a table at Osteria Francescana for months, about 8 months to be exact. Their bookings open up at 10am Italian time two months before you want to go. We’d set alarms and woken up at the middle of the night in many places and at times been at over 3,000 on the list. We even emailed them our dates in Europe and said we would make a special trip, all to no avail.
We’d basically given up at our chance of dining at the best restaurant in the world. While we were in Turkey I saw a post on Instagram from our friends at Le Cercle Enjoué saying they had a lunch booking available. We were flying to Rome that Friday and I prayed the table they had was a. still available and b. on Saturday when we’d be able to make it up there. We were in luck!
It was a four and a half hour train ride to get up to Modena from where we were staying so we got up in the early hours, full of excitement. We almost missed a connecting train due to delays and were very thankful once we got to Modena on time. We took our obligatory photos out the front and met a lovely couple who were very envious we had a table.
We were welcomed into the dining room with each staff member saying Buongiorno as we walked past. We were first in our dining room which only seated three tables of two. We could see a similar sized dining room next door which had a large table of about ten people.
We’re given our menus which have a choice of a la carte, ten or twelve courses. The twelve-course one is the everything menu which has a mix of classic and new dishes. As it’s probably the last time we’ll ever go to the best restaurant in the world we had already decided we needed to go with the twelve courses!
I don’t know what we expected of the dining room however it’s not what we expected. It’s nice and quiet and the lights reminded me of the ones at Reale. They had Spiegelau glasses on the table, this continues for all courses. The plates are funky and custom made for Massimo. Upbeat classical music plays softly in the background.
We begin with bread and Extra Virgin olive oil from Tuscany. The olive oil is delicious and bread lukewarm.
The snacks begin with an interpretation of fish and chips and small bites. The first being codfish with ice cream. It’s an interesting pair which tastes good and an interesting interpretation. The mackerel dissolves in your mouth and is delightful. Italian fish, really really good, the Parmigiano is perfect. Sardine, not sardine is almost like a sardine basil pesto cracker except it’s not and leaves us wondering what and how!?
The glitter on the sardine not sardine last for ages on our hands! We’re given more bread, this time breadsticks with traditional Italian bread made with white flours. It’s light and fluffy and really warm like it has come straight from the oven.
There’s a bag that looks like a rubbish bag in the hallway underneath some pigeons, we ask about it, however, are still unsure about the meaning behind it. I’m sure there is something to it however it wasn’t explained very well. In fact, we found the staff rushed through their explanations of dishes all afternoon and it felt like we were a bother when we asked for more information.
Our first drink is a CnC, with hazelnut cream. It looks like an ice cream sundae and is yum.
Autumn in New York as a journey of the eel an interpretation of the Billie Holiday song. Caviar, oyster, sea water chips. It’s complex and interesting. The drink pair adds even more depth.
Burnt an evolution. To eat with your hands then have the broth. It’s gorgeous and actually a really great course. I really like the storytelling of the dishes.
Mediterranean Sole, this is done in three methods, salt and water, lemon juice and tomato and capers. The plates are designed to look like burnt paper and it almost has a burnt smell to it. Like fish cooked En papillote. Now we’re talking. Fiancee is almost in tears, it’s one of the most beautiful things he’s ever tasted.
Wagyu no wagyu. Marinated pork belly, burnt onions, yuzu and sesame oil ponzu. It smells delightful. The flavours add a certain sweetness and it is simply divine.
When my mom met Bocus. This is a tribute to Paul Bocuse and Joël Robuchon two culinary legends that passed away this year. The Parmigiano wafer on top is Massimo’s contribution. It’s rich and decadent with truffles, chanterelles, morels and snails. A beautiful tribute to the chefs, elegantly french with the Italian twist on top.
The bathrooms smell amazing, like vanilla. No hand lotion. The napkin is of course replaced while I’m gone. More piping hot bread is brought out, despite us not finishing the last bowl.
Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in different textures and temperatures. The ages are 24, 30, 36, 40 and 50 months old Parmigiano and a mixture of foam, cream, crunch and bubbles. It’s so pretty, and amazing, and delicious, and spectacular and just everything you ever imagined plus more. And you know what, I’d really like some more!
Guinea hen in three courses:
Ravioli of roasted potatoes in roasted Guinea hen sauce. Reminds us of a Ravioli potsticker. The sauce is rich and wonderful and one of the best I’ve ever had.
Guinea hen a la Crete… tribute to the Cantarellis. Chips with chesnut truffle, truffle foie, celeriac sauce. Looks very pretty and the layers are stunning. It’s nice but nothing on the previous courses we’ve had.
Guinea hen crunchy skin, savor livers and truffle. Finishes off the meal delightfully and leaves a wonderful taste in your mouth.
We’re having a nice long lunch, the spacing is great. We ask if the man Massimo Bottura himself is in however he isn’t today. I get the feeling he is part of the allure of this restaurant, his upbeat vibe and nature are noteworthy.
Pumpkin risotto as a pre-dessert. Candied orange, candied apple, burnt orange. You can smell it as soon as they grate the burnt orange over it. This one wasn’t for me, the orange flavour was very intense, especially with the fortified wine pairing.
Oops! I dropped the lemon tart. A simple yet complicated dessert. I’m left wondering if the waiters are a little bit sick of saying it though.
Rum baba, with vanilla and almond cream. A nice Italian play on a classic rum baba, the custard cream in the middle was good.
We finish with a selection of snacks. Madeleines – sweet and soft. Croccantino of foie gras – a bit too much for dessert! Camouflage – no jut no. I don’t know what was going on with this one but it wasn’t nice. Cherry – it pops in your mouth and is nice but nothing we haven’t had before.
Overall Osteria Francescana felt like a bit of a letdown and not because it wasn’t an amazing lunch with some amazing courses. It was the expectation vs reality that just wasn’t met. When you’re dining at literally the best restaurant in the world you expect to be taken to another planet. At Eleven Madison Park I felt like if I asked them to take me to outer space they’d call Richard Branson and enrol me in the space programme. At Osteria Francescana I didn’t get that vibe. I was hoping this one would take the number one spot, for us though it doesn’t come close.
- Blue Hill at Stone Barns
- Eleven Madison Park
- Tim Raue
- White Rabbit
- Piazza Duomo and Reale
- Osteria Francescana
- Asador Etxebarri
- Le Calandre
- The Ledbury
- Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen
- The Clove Club
- Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée
- Le Bernardin
- Dinner by Heston
- Astrid y Gaston
- Restaurant Steirereck