Samui Wining & Dining
That’s Rich!

A walk on the wealthy side – through the most expensive eating in the world.


16Have a quick glance out to sea. Take a long look. Tell me what you can see, err . . . out to sea. Of course you’d have to be in the right place – such as on the millionaire Caribbean island of St. Bart’s, at Gustavia Harbour, to be precise. And you’d probably have to pick your moment too, such as, for example, round about last New Year’s Eve. In which case you’d be seeing double. Because, parked next to each other (do boats do that?) on the left you’d see the huge, white, 557-foot long motor yacht belonging to billionaire Roman Abramovich. And, close by, the sleek blue cruiser (a mere 436 feet long) owned by Qatar's Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani. Mr. Abramovich paid around one billion Euros for his, but that’s including the computerised missile defence system, bullet-proof glass all round and mini submarine. And, without launching into more detail about either of these, the only substantial difference is that Roman’s boat boasts two helicopter pads instead of one.

      It sort of makes you wonder what the fifth richest man in Russia (yes, he’s only ranked in fifth place!) likes to eat – other than footballers for breakfast, that is. Well, despite his two on-board restaurants, nobody’s really sure. But there are quite a few options open to a man of his standing. A good example being the recent ‘most expensive meal in the world’ that was created especially for the Christmas just past. And, surprisingly, it didn’t happen in one of the world’s flashier spots, like Vegas or Houston (or even St. Bart’s). It was held in London at . . . well, nobody’s telling! Yes, seriously! So we can only speculate on the outcome and number (if any) of takers, and conclude that there either weren’t any (or we’d have heard about it) or they used the same company to install anti-paparazzi shields with lasers (to block camera lenses) as Roman uses on his yacht. The widely-publicised-before-the-event concept of all this emanated from one Ben Spalding, a ‘masterchef’ who has completed residencies at restaurants including ‘The Fat Duck’ in Bray, Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Royal Hospital Road’ and ‘Per Se’ in New York. The idea was that if you fancied a Christmas blow-out fit for a Russian billionaire, you could simply phone Ben up and order one, a bit like an up-market pizza, to be installed, delivered or sent to your mansion, castle or yacht.

     Well, an extremely upmarket pizza, as the spread was priced at a total of £125,000 for four people – that’s £31,250 a head. On the other hand, the ingredients read like a list that’s straight out of the Guinness Book of World Records under the section marked ‘rare and precious comestibles’. Such as the Yubari King melon costing £2,500, or a 150-year-old balsamic vinegar priced at £1,030. Just one white Alba truffle came in at £3,500 – and the edible gold leaf alone took up £6,000 of the total. Drinks were similarly exclusive, like the £37,000 bottle of Piper Heidsieck 1907 champagne that was to be served in diamond-studded flutes. And diners who preferred spirits were offered a £2,000 DIVA vodka that was described as ‘a diamond-sand filtered vodka’ and served in a bottle filled with ‘Swarovski crystals’, whatever they might be. The real guts of the gourmet guzzle, however, was a simple, traditional, Christmas turkey. But in this case stuffed with Wagyu beef fillet and heart. This was to be wrapped in gold leaf and sprinkled with Akbari pistachios. The quartet was scheduled to conclude their meal with a perhaps rather disappointing ‘whipped Kopi Luwak and and Densuke watermelon’ – although there’s some consolation here as this melon alone costs £2,600. I wonder what market he buy his stuff at? It doesn’t bear thinking about what kind of turkey sandwiches were going to be passed round over the following few days.

      Let’s consider some alternative nibbles that can be enjoyed at any time of the year – assuming that you’re not short of a rouble or two. Such as, for instance, mushroom omelettes: they’re always a safe bet. But you’ll display a lot more flair if you knock them together with matsutake mushrooms. They’re extremely rare and can’t be planted or farmed; hence their price of $3,500 per kilo. (The eggs to go with them are 50 cents each.)

       Failing that, truffles are always an excellent badge of wealth so, if you’re in New York, pop in to The Westin Hotel and pin one of Chef Frank Tujague’s $1,000 bagels to your plate. They’re topped with white truffle cream-cheese and goji berry-infused Riesling jelly, and embellished with edible gold. The price is almost justified when you consider that white truffles are the second most-expensive food by weight, eclipsed only by caviar (and the odd Japanese mushroom or two).

       But you’re in Thailand, not cloud-cuckoo-land, and so let’s look at something that’s vaguely more relevant. Well, it has to be vaguely so as, although it’s a curry, it’s to be found somewhat west of Samui at the Bombay Brassiere. Overlooking the fact that this is actually in London and moving swiftly on – they’ve positively packed this plate with the most expensive ingredients they could find. Devon crab with white truffle, plus a half tomato filled with Beluga caviar and dressed with gold leaf, is just the start of things. Because a Scottish lobster (also coated with gold), four abalone and four shelled-and-hollowed quails’ eggs, filled with even more caviar, round off the dish – for which you’ll fork out a mere $3,200.

      Personally, I find this all a bit abstract. I mean, let’s get focussed towards some kind of reality here. I can’t even imagine a million UK pounds, never mind spending an entire billion of them all in one go, particularly on something like a boat. I laid out a whole 500 baht for my last Christmas meal which, for a refreshing change, was oddly Swiss this year (!). But most of the rest of the time I tend to eat Thai, as I am over here, after all. And, by my reckoning, anything more than about $20 max for a full Thai multi-course meal for four (including drinks), puts it up in the caviar class. But then, I’m not a billionaire, am I? If I were, you wouldn’t be reading this!


Rob De Wet


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