Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura: Where Haute Fashion and Cuisine Collide
The first thought that sprang to mind as I navigated through the red-carpeted floors leading to the main dining room of Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura‘s pop-up was, ‘Boy, I’m severely underdressed.’
A pair of ladies who looked like they just stepped out of the cover of Harper’s Bazaar sauntered, no, glided with elvish manners across the room. An unintentional eavesdropping session revealed that they were decked out head to toe in what else but Gucci, said in a tonality that drags out the Cs with so much exaggeration that you could hear the proclamation from the other end of the room. Verbal affirmation aside, it’s unmistakable (even for a fashion noob like myself); elaborate bold prints in shapes defied gender norms and you could smell the extravagance everywhere. My humble polka dotted dress that I had conjured from the back of my closet for the sole purpose of masking the paunch, clearly left a lot to be desired. Thank goodness for the glass of champagne upon arrival. The eye-catching, aesthetic bunch were quickly ushered into the private room, stripping their judgemental stares from the rest of us—hungry, common folk. Lunch commenced quickly.
You wait for ages to be addressed or a run-through of this one-of-a-kind haute cuisine and haute couture collaboration. So, you nibble on warm bread rolls served with soft butter that’s seemingly infused with beef drippings. It’s good stuff and based on the repeated trips the bread basketeers take to the table, the kitchen is well aware of this.
Style is prevalent throughout the dining experience and your gaze quickly falls on the floral motifs of the opulent porcelain dinnerware that’s inspired by vintage fabric. Crafted from Richard Ginori porcelain, each piece is worth more than a server’s daily paycheck. I wondered if the service staff were cognizant of that as they toted layers of plates precariously across the room. For what it’s worth, it gilds the entire bread and butter experience—I have never coveted for that much bread in my life.
Why did Massimo Bottura, the best chef in the world, sign the new Gucci Osteria in Florence? The decision goes beyond culinary or staying in trend with the recent surge of fashion and cuisine collaborations like the Emporio Armani Caffe in Milan. Instead, it’s a homage to the brilliance of Italian haute culture and who else better to represent the artistic heritage of the country than two of its most brilliant craftsmen? It’s an effortless blending of elements, bold aesthetics with a worldly cuisine inspired by the travels of Gucci Osteria’s head chef, Karime López.
The big question is, would it be a plate that is too bizarre (cue the eerie mannequin heads from the Gucci 2018 collection) or pretty to eat? Obviously, my gluttony got the better of me and I dug in with a certain exuberance into the Uni Crab Tostadas grounded by bright citrus and spices marbled through sweet crab meat. Beautiful dollops of chipotle mayonnaise and guacamole took precedence on the picturesque composition, but the overall impact was unmemorable. You could have put it o the menu at El Mero Mero and no one would have batted an eyelid. Still, the flavour inspirations that are taken from Mexico, Japan and Italy firmly ground the kitchen’s cosmopolitan roots.
Tomaso Albinoni’s dramatic Adagio in G minor blasts over the sound system. Venetian-born composer, neo-baroque composition nonetheless–the Italian game is strong. If you pay close attention, the playlist is the work of a madcap like Massimo and jumps from Bob Dylan (his favourite) to the heart-racing Vivaldi Violin Concerto in G minor in an instant. Dining at Gucci Osteria feels like you’re on a live set of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.
The Crunchy Part of the Lasagne has been talked about to considerable hype and lived up to expectations. Unlike his signature rendition in Osteria Francescana, this one is coloured in theme to the Singapore flag—the cheese wafer decked out in red and white. If there’s one thing to know about me, I would not let up on the merits of scoring the corner piece of lasagna. Let’s be honest here, crunchy pasta, browned cheese that squelches in between toothsome grins and meaty fillings enrobed in tomato paste with a slight char—there’s nothing more fiercely romantic than being offered a corner piece by your loved one.
We graduate to the ‘Meet the Meat’ course which presents a hunk of Wagyu tenderloin flanked by a darkened root puree. If the experience of dating a French has taught me anything, luncheon or any occasions by that matter, is never complete without a glass of wine and with the quizzical format of free flow beverage options (red or white wine at $70++ per guest) on offer, I would suggest that you go for the red—the Sangiovese is quite palatable. It’s hard to mess up the beauty of a cut such as this one, the leanness of the protein working in tandem with the rich puree. But God, it’s the slight touch of aged balsamic vinegar that elevates the virtuous combination. Genius.
The supporting act of the dessert, Strawberry Fields was a tad dreary. Meringue discs that disintegrated on the tongue to reveal undissolved sugar crystals and a lack of balance from acidity. Did I like it? Not so much. Instead, right at the end, there is the Charley Marley that tugs at the heartstrings. Dedicated to Massimo Bottura’s son who has a penchant for chocolate, this localised version throws in kaya into the mix. The perfectly formed sandwich gleamed with gold dust and embossed with ‘G U C C I’ for extra luxe, should be finished in just under five bites as it is quick to disintegrate in the stifling heat of the dining room. The coconut jam pan cotta was made by someone who knows exactly how much gelatine is needed to set such a delicate cream.
The fortunate few who have secured seats to this sold-out Gucci Osteria spectacular will probably want to avoid this review for fear of spoilers. But if you are curious about the hype, this piece may shed some light on the experience.