I was forced to study two instruments as a child – one with keys and one with strings – a total of 10 years. I took up a wind instrument on my own as an adolescent. That one kept me occupied for seven years.
Sadly, the only thing that those 17 years of musical training taught me was that I have virtually no musical talent whatsoever.
But I enjoy music immensely. The right song at the right moment can frame life in a way like nothing else can. Music sets the mood, evokes emotions, pumps adrenaline, calms the soul, and etches memories.
Website designers, good ones and (unfortunately) bad ones, have discovered this. And so have a few restaurants, who have made good use of my speakers with wonderful soundtracks on their websites to convey personality, paint vivid backdrops, and entice. I know some who find website soundtracks annoying or obnoxious. To them I say, put your computer on mute. Me? I love them. Here are some of my favorites (in alpha order):
Daniel Boulud’s family of restaurants (Beijing, London, Miami, New York, Palm Springs, Vancouver) – Boulud gathers all twelve of his restaurants under one umbrella website. But each restaurant has its own sub-site to which the designers have assignd a color and a song. All of the songs are great – modern, oft-jazzy numbers with a side of pop that are fun, yet sophisticated, retro, yet au courant. One of my favorite sites is Bar Boulud’s (New York), which explodes with Jack Johnson’s Katalyst Remix version of “Losing Keys.”
graham elliot and grahamwich (Chicago) – Singer Sufjan Stevens wrote the cute soundtracks to both of Graham Elliot Bowles’s restaurants’ websites, playfully capturing the childlike nostalgia upon which Bowles has built his cuisinary style. Stevens’s songs make you want to skip and laugh just as much as Bowles’s fun and innovative food does. While you wait for graham elliot’s website to load, a pot of popping corn helps tie you over.
Guy Savoy (Paris) – The recently redesigned website for Guy Savoy is magnificent, beautifully shot and produced by the Frères Salto. The music, by Eric Serra, brims with excitement and romance, brilliantly conveying the celebratory feel of this Michelin three-starred restaurant as you go from market to plate. (I gasped aloud when the veal shank un-seamed at the gentle prodding of a fork at 4:35.) I can almost feel the cobblestones underfoot, pulling up to 18, rue Troyon.
Le Bernardin (New York) – Synthesizer spa music (as I call it) typically turns me off. The breathy and shapeless zen sounds go nowhere and do nothing for me. But set to a gorgeous slide show that takes you, figuratively, from ocean to table, the soothing music that introduces le Bernardin on its website eases you into the simple elegance of the restaurant and Ripert’s food. The music fades into sounds of the kitchen, which I find almost as calming as the introduction.
Le Bristol (Paris) – A hypnotic call-and-answer among strings, a harp, and a piano, drops you right into the middle of this über–luxe hotel, home to Paris’s newest Michelin three-starred restaurant. Yet, the title of this instrumental piece – “La Grande Ourse” (“The Big Bear”) – suggests something very different altogether. After some sleuthing, I contacted the composer, Nicholas Errèra, and located a copy of the song. True to its title, on its own, the song magically conjures images of a mountain of brown fur, leisurely lumbering along in the woods, lapping at a babbling creek, among the brambles, nudging a beehive, sleeping. But set to two unicorns butting on a field of lime green, who give way to a picture show of the opulence within, “La Grande Ourse” becomes a steely soundtrack of luxury on le Bristol’s website. (I note that the cut in the loop is unduly jarring. If I recall correctly, the loop used to be longer and better spliced.)
R Bar (Kansas City) – The snippet of my hometown’s anthem, “I’m Going to Kansas City,”* in the introductory sequence to R Bar’s website is just enough to put you in the right, jazzy frame of mind for experiencing this bar and eatery – urbane, hip, and contemporary, with a dash of honky-tonk – in the historic West Bottoms. R Bar has, in its first year, quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city. This version of Wilbert Harrison’s hit is by David Basse.
Thank you for the music.
Email or leave me a comment on some of your favorite restaurant website soundtracks. I’m a sucker for a good show and song.