Tash Walker, Founder, The Mix London
A long time ago I made a promise to my dear old Gramps.
This was a man who lived what can only be described as colourful life.
In the early 1950's he discovered you could buy engagement rings for the equivalent these days of about a £1, so he bought 10 and decided to see how many women he could get engaged to in one evening.
Turns out it was 7.
The man was a bit of a legend.
Not only was he a legend to me but his life experiences were written on his face.
He was the only 80yr old I knew who could still capture the attention of a room.
In my experience, the curse of being brandished 'elderly' is that you seem to become invisible.
People stop noticing you.
Not this man.
So of course when such a character gives you advice you must listen, and listen I did.
His advice was this.
"You must experience the best things. Go to the best places. Know the best people go to the best parties. It will make you interesting and you will always be remembered."
I got married just before the great man Brian F. Shilstone departed from this world to bother ladies in another realm with his £1 engagement rings, and my husband and I resolved to spend every wedding anniversary on going somewhere insanely ace in his honour.
I'm talking Michelin starred shiz.
There is one place in particular we visited last year, which I believe Gramps would have approved of immensely.
El Cellar de Can Roca. Girona, Northern Spain.
Be still my beating heart.
Greatness requires bravery. No doubt.
Nothing great ever came from something safe.
The tone is set when you immediately can't get a table.
Not even one in 8yrs, you just can't get one.
Even rich people can't get one.
But you go through the whole charade of putting your name on a list just in case.
We got a cancellation, which happened to be right on our wedding anniversary.
My grandfather was clearly bribing some feasting deity up above with whisky or something because this was insanely fortuitous.
I think I literally did a small skip when Sam called me to say we were going.
So we knew we were going.
And immediately you consult the menu, reviews and basically anything you can get your hands on.
All you can find are excited whisperings of things had and enjoyed. This foolishness can last months.
Did I mention you have to get a plane and a train to get there?
This is another level of dedication to experiencing the best things.
So a bundle of excitement, you arrive finally at the date of your experience.
You have travelled to be here. The travelling seems to serve only to whip you into a new frenzy of anticipation.
So the morning of dinner arrives and of course all you can talk about is the evening. All day decisions are made about what to eat, what to not eat to stave off potential food poisoning. What to wear, what it will be like.
At one point I literally had to tell my husband to pull himself together.
He'd booked it, I think the pressure was getting to him.
Then a cab arrives and suddenly the hour is here.
The weird thing is, in the cab, you go away from even this tiny town to a small rather average looking neighborhood.
The name announces itself on the side of a discreet building.
You could literally walk past it if you didn't know about it.
It took us about 5minutes to work out if there was even a doorway.
(Picture two excitable London twits, a bundle of both excitement and nerves who can't even find a simple doorway.)
Finally pushing through the absurdly obvious gate, you may as well have stepped into another realm.
Moving from absolute anonymous hot bland suburban hubbub to a still, cool space.
Nerves were replaced immediately with intrigue.
You are greeted as though you a rare commodity. Service doesn't even cover it.
As you are seated, a glass of something really awesome appears without you even asking. People come, welcome you, shake your hand.
They want you to be here. Sam and I kept looking at each other (more of the excitable London twit faces I'm afraid). It was like we had managed to blag our way into a party of millionaires and they hadn't yet noticed us.
So there we were. A pair of wallies. Sat in the best restaurant in the world.
And then it began.
Food arrived not on plates but in surprising and unexpected ways.
A whole olive tree was placed on the table. There were things to eat hanging from it to be eaten gleefully.
Photo credit: The Fashion Plate Magazine
Next a book arrived, as it was opened, a pop up story emerged, with the story of the 3 brothers who founded the restaurant leaping from the pages and on each page, a waiter placed a 'snack'.
Snack infers Frazzles or Monster Munch in my mind but I can assure you this was not that.
Each item was something from their childhood that inspired them to want to become chefs.
Photo credit: Escape Eat Explore
This might all sound terribly grand at this point, like a weird sterile art gallery but honestly you are encouraged to eat with gusto and enthusiasm and at every bite they take you to the very brink.
Would I eat heart or fish heads ordinarily? No. But in the hands of these people I would have jumped off a flipping cliff.
Course after course brought new theatre and excitement, new perplexing and ridiculous things that don't even look like food but I can assure you tasted delicious and we reached midnight and felt as though we might have to just lie down to rest a little while...suddenly it was done.
A cart arrived brimming with homemade chocolates. I think I uttered a strangled groan. My heart urged me to throw myself in front of it and shovel handfuls into my mouth my body warned that this might induce a heart attack.
But the kindly staff had seen all of this before.
They swiftly emerged with boxes for me to fill with the delicious morsels to take home.
As we went to leave, the 3 brothers emerged triumphant from the kitchen.
In a haze we paid the mind boggling large bill and leapt to shake their hands.
These people had just charged me more for a meal than we had ever paid for food in our lives, possibly more money than we will ever pay for food in our lifetime.
They pulled our proverbial pants down and we responded with enthusiastic gratitude.
This was the definition of an experience.
Something I have talked about countless times in the 18months since we went.
Something I will tell other people about in the future.
Something I will remember.
In 2012 the ASA claimed that 89% of marketing activity for brands in a single year is not remembered.
Brands might find it worth adopting the same philosophy my Gramps wisely shared with me.Suggest a correction