I know it’s just a stunt but today’s publicity surrounding the world’s most expensive ready meal is fascinating to me.

Swish-pie-bigham

The ‘Swish Pie‘ is said to be the ultimate fish pie made with turbot, scallops, oysters, smoked salmon and lobster all poached in a Champagne sauce. This is then topped with white truffle and mashed potato plus a gold leaf crumb, and served with spoons of caviar.

These stories used to be set around a specific product or restaurant dish but it says a lot that today it is about a ready meal. When did we get to a place that believes we would spend £314.16 on a ready meal? Still, Charlie Bigham’s have well and truly placed themselves at the luxury end of the market with this one and I think that’s a clever place to be at this moment in time.

Charlie Bigham

What really fascinated me was the elements that they saw fit to improve on in order to justify the price tag. They reflect the key components for anyone working in the food world:

1. Well sourced ingredients

Every single ingredient has a great story, whether it’s the hand dived scallops, the Cornish lobster, the Yukon Gold heritage potatoes, the Dom Perignon 2003 Champagne or the Alba truffle, each and every element has been carefully sourced as the best in its class by chef Bigham.

2. Approachable originality

Really great food has to at least feel original, but sometimes that can be taken too far. So having what I call approachable originality is an important dimension. Here the mother of pearl spoons of Beluga caviar as an amuse-bouche presumably to be consumed whilst the pie is heated (hopefully not microwaved!) is a nice touch. I am sure it helps to raise the value just over the previous claimant of this most-expensive-ready-meal accolade

3. Presentation

They say we eat with our eyes and there is surely a lot to be said about how we present any food product or experience to the customer. The website says that the pie is presented in a gold leaf tray although it looks pretty much like the original panibois tray which maybe has some gold somewhere on it and why oh why didn’t they adapt the cardboard sleeve?

3. Service

Each of these dishes are said to be delivered in a bespoke aluminium case, handcuffed to a security guard. Let’s hope that the guard knows to keep the case held flat or else there really could be trouble…and does he turn the oven on? I am not quite sure how all this delivery is arranged. I guess it is order only and not to be picked up from the multideck fridge at Sainsburys. Shame – I had this vision of plucking said gold tray from the shelf next to the chicken curry and then being pounced upon by some handsome devil who was going to deliver it personally to my home and cook it for me.

Anyway, the point is that service is an integral element to the enjoyment these days and that has to be something that is relevant to the food that is offered. I am not convinced the Swish Pie service has been as clearly thought through as perhaps it could have, but I guess the point is illustrated.

5. Taste

Finally, after all that pomp and circumstance it simply has to taste good. This I can’t comment on since I am definitely not about to spend £314.16 on a ready meal. It is marketing madness. And really someone needs to figure out their pricing policy. I know Charlie boy says it is in reference to Pi but that’s just tenuous. Surely you would round it to £315, wouldn’t you?

Does all this make it, as the charming Mr Bigham hopes, the most exceptional ready meal out there? Somehow I am not convinced, but you have to admire the aspiration. Maybe I’ll go and buy his lasagne and see how that stacks up.

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