In the much anticipated companion volume to his first book, The Art of the Restaurateur, restaurant critic Nicholas Lander rejoices in the history, design and evolution of the world’s favourite piece of paper: the menu.
On the Menu presents 80 stunning, full-colour reproductions of some menus at the cutting edge of contemporary culinary innovation, and others as relics from another time: a 1970s menu from L’Escargot at a time when all main courses cost less than one pound; the last menu from The French House Dining Room before Fergus Henderson departed for St John; and the final menu from Ferran Adrià’s triple-starred elBulli in Spain, judged a record-breaking five times to be the best restaurant in the world.
From the classic to the innovative: a Christmas menu served during the siege of Paris in 1870, which featured rats and zoo animals; the ring-bound, in-depth dish description booklet of Maison Pic in Valence; the wittily illustrated menu at Quo Vadis in London, which gave the restaurant a new lease of life; and many, many more.
Between the reproductions, Lander examines the the principles of menu design and layout; the different rules governing special menus for breakfast, tea and dessert; the evolution of wine and cocktail lists; the menu as a record of the past; and he even takes us behind the scenes at Mario Batali’s legendary NYC restaurant, Babbo, to sit in as the staff are briefed on the evening’s menu. The book also features his interviews with ten of the most renowned chefs of our time, revealing how they decide what food to serve and what inspires them to write their menus, including Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck, Bray), René Redzepi (Noma, Copenhagen), Michael Anthony (Untitled, New York) and Peter Gilmore (Quay, Sydney).
On the Menu is a beautiful and instructive memento for anyone who has experienced the simple and unrivalled pleasure of sitting at a white linen table holding a menu in their hand. These are truly pages to drool over.