2023 Degustation prices hit new heights

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It’s likely a new record for degustation prices in Australia. In March 2023, chef Mauro Colagreco, whose French fine diner Mirazur was named “best restaurant in the world” in 2019, began a four-week pop-up stint in Sydney. His degustation menu had an asking price of $685 per person, presumably without drinks.

At a time when one in eight Australians is living below the poverty line, it makes you wonder who could afford to eat like this. A person on the Job Seeker payment would get just $13.55 change after spending their whole fortnightly allowance on the meal. And even on Australia’s average weekly salary of $1746, you’d be spending close to 40 per cent of it on a single night out.

There are precedents. In 2014, Heston Blumenthal of England’s Fat Duck set up shop at Melbourne’s Crown Casino for six months. His set menu, at $525 plus drinks, was billed at the time as Australia’s most expensive. Allowing for inflation, it was probably equivalent to Colagreco’s 2023 offering.

When René Redzepi of Denmark’s famous Noma ran a similar pop-up in 2016, the asking price was $500. Reservations sold out in minutes, with a hefty waiting list. The same seemed not to be true for Colagreco. Is he less famous? Or is it a sign of the times?

In fact, we need to extend some sympathy to the fine-dining crowd. They, poor dears, are also suffering from the rising cost of living. While not reaching the stratospheric heights of the foreign pop-ups, Australia’s own fine diners have hiked their degustation prices over the last few years.

Take Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, for example.  In 2015, their set menu was $250. In 2023 – $350. That’s an increase of 40 per cent. Attica, perhaps Melbourne’s finest, has increased prices by 47 per cent over a similar period. Dinner there will set you back $360. And then there are drinks. At Vue de Monde, you can choose from three levels of wine pairing, from $210 through to $380 for the top-shelf offerings.

Other top restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne have similar degustation prices. Sydney’s Quay offers an eight-course menu for $340. If you really want to push the boat out you can add the Benchmark Wine Pairing for $1100. Per person. The Botswana Butchery in Sydney offers a “Gold Dinner in its private dining room. The wagyu, the caviar, the dessert and even the martinis come decorated with real gold. In this case, your $500 does include drinks.

Other Sydney establishments are bargain-priced by comparison. At Aria, your $325 includes a glass of champagne on arrival. Tetsuya’s eight-course menu, at $295 per person, can be paired with wines for an extra $195. At Bennelong, you can have three courses and sides for $180 as long as you don’t order the Backmore 9+ Wagyu, which will set you back an extra $50.

However, the degustation prices in Australian restaurants are nothing compared to the world’s most expensive restaurant. At Sublimotion, in Ibiza, Spain, you’re looking at 1,500€ per person. That’s around AU$ 2400.  Well, we can only dream. Meanwhile, we’ll eat in. And lament that the crispy pork bánh mi from our favourite Vietnamese bakery has gone from $5.50 to $10.00 since 2014.

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