Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Complete History of Food by Bompas & Parr




The doctor diagnoses your 'humour': whether you are choleric (red haired, skinny, angry), sanguine (plump with rosy cheeks, enthusiastic), phlegmatic (shy, rational, observant) or melancholic (creative, self-reliant). All medicine used to be based on these four medieval humours. I once had my chart analysed by an astrologer who used William Lilly's methods. They use a points system with planets (in their fall or exaltation for instance) to determine your type. I was overwhelmingly Jupiterian, Sanguine, with some melancholic Saturnian notes.



Making our way across a bridge to a 'flooded' banquet in a ship, apparently there were eels in the water.

I had the antidote to my choleric mood, a reviving mead and spiced liqueur with truffle popcorn.
Each person had a different cocktail depending upon their humour. The cocktails were made by Saf mixologist Joe McCanta.

A very small lift. When I lived in Paris, I had an even tinier lift, fitting only 3 people. 

A helper leading the way. The post war period brought a new way of eating: processed food was considered very modern, the equivalent of molecular gastronomy today. I've talked about this before on my Elvis meal post. This room was set up like a 1950s living room and we were given Scratch n sniff cards to 'eat' our TV meal from. The smells were remarkably strong. I went to John Water's Odorama film Polyester and I still have the scratch n sniff card from that. On it were numbers 1 to 10. When a number popped up on screen you had to sniff the relevant 'disc' on the card. Some of the smells were pretty unpleasant: farts for instance. 





Next up was another 'modern' food room: you had to take off your shoes to enter a food based bouncy castle with huge colourful inflatables of chips and peas. Everybody entered into it and started giggling and jumping up and down like 5 year olds. Great fun!


We were then lead up to the roof where there was a 'living' bar made out of herbs and plants (rather like a sedum roof). We had a cocktail developed by Paul Tvaroh of Lounge Bohemia, with fizzy grapes.


Then a hallway with lots of tiny mushrooms (through the looking glass?) downstairs to the 'restaurant' proper.

The whole event was housed in an elegant building in Belgravia Square.


This room recalls an avant garde 19th century restaurant held inside a dinosaur!

Unfortunately the only dish was meat which I could not eat. A veggie option would have been nice but perhaps it wasn't authentic to the era...


A sculpture of the gherkin, one of London's architectural landmarks, made out of gingerbread.

Into the renaissance sugar room. A giant turning cake with tiers filled with pastel sugar sculptures. We had dessert, a delicious jelly and a little cocktail.

The jellies were made with ambergris, a substance that sperm whales regurgitate, that was traditionally used to 'fix' perfume, and is found naturally floating in the sea or on the beach.

Sam Bompas, the Walt Disney of food!

A table with a sensitive jelly that wobbles according to your heart rate!

Lastly the elegant bar where you could get Courvoisier based cocktails. It was a good place to talk to others who had also gone on the 'rides'. I met an American couple who having heard about my notorious Harry Potter dinners, failed to grab a ticket and hosted their own simultaneous Harry Potter dinner! They showed me photos, it looked fantastic! 
I also met Claire, who is a series editor on Masterchef. My teen once applied for me. I got a phone call but didn't hear anything more. Claire said the issue was probably that I wasn't considered an amateur. Trouble is, I'm not sure I'm a 'professional' either! She said the inclusion in the last series of food blogger Justcookit! was heavily debated: was he a food pro? I felt that having a food blogger on the programme was a good thing, showed Masterchef was keeping up to date with new directions in the food world. Food bloggers are one of the tightest communities on Twitter and, as with all new media, things seem to be tilting towards online content. (Will be interested to see the results of The Times paywall experiment).
 I said that the standard of contestants seems very high, that they often look like they've had professional training. Claire explained that they learnt their skills during the Masterchef process, for instance, the test where they work in a real restaurant is held on only their second day. Scary stuff. Claire said that you can never tell who is going to get through: some of her favourite applicants don't make it, it's very unpredictable. We also talked about a recent incident between bloggers and John Torode. Apparently John Torode was scathing about bloggers, which was possibly not a good idea at a bloggers event, but he was hurt by a negative review of his restaurant by one of the attendees. This was interesting to hear because one assumes that someone of his stature would not be affected by a negative online review but of course, he's human, just like the rest of us, and passionate about what he does. Often a restaurant blogger is someone who happens to have enough money to eat out alot (hence the typical restaurant blogging demographic of people that are young, childfree with straight well-paid jobs). Of course, if people are paying for a product/service then it's good to have their feedback. But there are times where you get the feeling that bloggers, like some journalists (but with no editorial filter) are more interested in making a name for themselves or creating a controversial blogpost than giving a fair summary. I would also argue that it's unfair when reviewers don't complain to you directly at the time but save their venom for their anonymous mutterings on the interweb. As both a restaurateur of sorts and a blogger, I see things from both sides here. 

A drinks menu projected onto the side of the bar.


This exhibition/event/installation was educational, stylish, fun and interactive. The Complete History of Food is an adventure theme park devoted to food, reminiscent of Disney. I mentioned this to Sam Bompas and discovered that he too is a huge fan of Disney theme parks. (Actually my daughter's father helped to build the Peter Pan ride and Sleeping Beauty's Castle at Eurodisney. Originally the park was supposed to be 'dry', with no alcohol served. The American powers-that-be tried to ban alcohol from the building site of Eurodisney. The French downed tools and refused to work until their lunchtime pastis and pichet de rouge were reinstated! Now Eurodisney serves alcohol in the theme park too, just like French Macdonalds.) What I also liked though was the slightly amateurish feel about it, like a squat party in a grand house, a far cry from Disney sleek. At £25 entry it was also a very good deal.
 6TRS5JU2R7ZA

10 comments:

  1. I wouldn't want to pay £25 for food I couldn't eat though... they really ought to have a veg option. Presumably the jelly isn't vegetarian either.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think it's a shame to include in a blog post a dig about a situation which was extremely hurtful for those involved in it.

    John didn't simply express hurt about a negative review that upset him. He relentlessly bullied the blogger who posted it in a completely unacceptable way.

    And whilst you're right that SOME "bloggers, like some journalists (but with no editorial filter) are more interested in making a name for themselves or creating a controversial blogpost than giving a fair summary", I don't think that was the case for the review in question. It didn't help that he was clearly mixing up the review in question with a completely different one, as he repeatedly referred to things which weren't mentioned.

    I'm quite disappointed that you would choose to post about this, having not spoken directly to the people involved in the scene itself.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Please don't get involved; you don't know what happened. Claire wasn't present either.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The subject came up with the lady I spoke to that night as I had gathered something happened from the rather oblique references on Food Urchin's blog. I'm reporting. Would you prefer it if I didn't report? I think her comments are interesting and worth reporting.
    I don't want to be censored on my blog. The whole issue of reviews and blogging is an interesting one.I think I'm merely adding to the debate.

    I never said that this 'bullied' blogger was making a name for themselves. I'm making a general comment. I'm sorry if that was the impression I gave, it's not the case at all.
    Perhaps the blogger concerned (is it Meemalee?) should explain what happened? Then we all know. At the moment we are guessing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well Meemalee (and I didn't even know it was you involved until now) it seems to me you have a story...why don't you tell it? I'm sure you could even make it very funny.

    What people don't want to read in blogs are PR heavy blog posts being super polite and diplomatic!

    ReplyDelete
  6. green drawers19 July 2010 11:23

    As noted on twitter, I thought this to be a great review of something that I'll never get to see, living out in the sticks. It was informative and personal and, by including commentary on an intimate conversation, also involving in a way that a straight review can never be. This is the joy of blogging at it's best.

    I will make no secret of the fact that I know Msmarmitelover - we are not best friends and I am more than capable of criticising her when necessary. It is a friendly relationship nonetheless. I tell you this in light of what I am about to say.

    The part of the review that focused on a conversation between MML and the Masterchef person was interesting, especially when it expanded into professionals' perception of blogging. For most of us, that live outside the ivory tower that is the London restaurant scene, any little insight into what goes on in this rarified world can be interesting. When it comes without any brown-nosing, it is a breath of fresh air. I've read of lot of these blogs and most of the time I'm afraid they do come across as being written by the few for the few, which is why most bloggers don't go on to be professional journalists (should that be what they desire). The internet is a very broad church, and sometimes it would do well for those that empty their hearts in public to remember that what they write will be seen by others that do not share their view point; for me that is the whole point - 'we learn nothing from those with whom we agree'.

    From what MML said in her piece there is no way that the blogger involved in the John Torode spat could be identified by anyone who didn't know directly - and of course that would be most of the world then. That is until the comments.

    I know it must seem that way to the person / persons involved, but from the outside looking in, this was no 'dig', but a valid comment on the state of blogging reviews - if you stick your head above the parapet, expect to be shot down occasionally. If you're not thick-skinned enough for comment on your comment, then don't do it! As MML states, the food blogging circuit is very tight - I might say this just proves that maybe it's a bit too tight, and that it's actually bordering on the incestuous - never a healthy thing. Stop sniping about each other and start saying something relevant about food, in all it's wonderousness, today, yesterday and tomorrow. Otherwise set up a fanzine, charge people to see it and that way you'll only get people who agree with everything you say. Which is what I suspect will happen to Times Online - another element mentioned in the original posting.

    C

    And I agree with Fingersandtoes - to pay £25 for something I can't eat is a bit much!

    ReplyDelete
  7. green drawers19 July 2010 11:23

    As noted on twitter, I thought this to be a great review of something that I'll never get to see, living out in the sticks. It was informative and personal and, by including commentary on an intimate conversation, also involving in a way that a straight review can never be. This is the joy of blogging at it's best.

    I will make no secret of the fact that I know Msmarmitelover - we are not best friends and I am more than capable of criticising her when necessary. It is a friendly relationship nonetheless. I tell you this in light of what I am about to say.

    The part of the review that focused on a conversation between MML and the Masterchef person was interesting, especially when it expanded into professionals' perception of blogging. For most of us, who live outside the ivory tower that is the London restaurant scene, any little insight into what goes on in this rarified world can be interesting. When it comes without any brown-nosing, it is a breath of fresh air. I've read of lot of these blogs and most of the time I'm afraid they do come across as being written by the few for the few, which is why most bloggers don't go on to be professional journalists (should that be what they desire). The internet is a very broad church, and sometimes it would do well for those that empty their hearts in public to remember that what they write will be seen by others that do not share their view point; for me that is the whole point - 'we learn nothing from those with whom we agree'.

    From what MML said in her piece there is no way that the blogger involved in the John Torode spat could be identified by anyone who didn't know directly - and of course that would be most of the world then. That is until the comments.

    I know it must seem that way to the person / persons involved, but from the outside looking in, this was no 'dig', but a valid comment on the state of blogging reviews - if you stick your head above the parapet, expect to be shot down occasionally. If you're not thick-skinned enough for comment on your comment, then don't do it! As MML states, the food blogging circuit is very tight - I might say this just proves that maybe it's a bit too tight, and that it's actually bordering on the incestuous - never a healthy thing. Stop sniping about each other and start saying something relevant about food, in all it's wonderousness, today, yesterday and tomorrow. Otherwise set up a fanzine, charge people to see it and that way you'll only get people who agree with everything you say. Which is what I suspect will happen to Times Online - another element mentioned in the original posting.

    C

    And I agree with Fingersandtoes - to pay £25 for something I can't eat is a bit much!

    ReplyDelete
  8. green drawers19 July 2010 11:38

    I just spent half an hour writing a comment that was then deleted as it was too long!!

    The summary of that comment - great review; informative, witty, involving & personal. I know MML - not well, but relevant to this...

    'We learn nothing from those we agree with'.

    Food bloggers write a lot about themselves, for themselves, mostly involving the ivory tower that is the London restaurant scene. They appear to forget that the internet is the broadest of churches and when their PUBLIC comments are thrown back in their faces there is often upset and incredulity that someone could disagree with them. My understanding of MML's writing about this here was that she was merely discussing the principle 'if you stick your head above the parapet then surely you must understand that your head will get shot at'. If you're not thick-skinned enough to take comment on your comment then don't do it. Set up a fanzine, charge people to see it and that way you'll only get people who agree with you. And to bring in another facet of the original post, that's exactly what I think Time Online will become - a fanzine for Murdoch.

    C x

    F&T - totally agree - £25 steep for pudding only!

    ReplyDelete
  9. The chips smelt the worst, I found (on the scratch 'n' sniff card). I like your description 'Walt Disney of food' BTW.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Douglas: I must re-smell those chips. I saw you went to the Petersham nursery meal...lucky you!

    ReplyDelete

I would love to hear what you think of this post! I try to reply to every comment (if there is a delay, I am probably away from an internet connection or abroad)