I’m happy to report that London’s Olympian frenzy has even penetrated the kitchen. A gastro project in Stratford has to be one of the most off-the-wall happenings of the London2012 calendar, easily beating Danny Boyle’s Brit-centric opening ceremony, as this one is truly global. Supper clubs have been around for a few years but the ambition and ingenuity of Global Feast 2012 is stratospheric.
It’s the brainchild of a zany architect, Alex Haw of Atmos Studio, with a little help from the London supper club doyenne, Kerstin Rodgers, aka MsMarmitelover. Take an open-sided marquee, erect it in a courtyard behind Stratford Town Hall (5 mins from the Olympic Park), enlist 20 cooks covering 20 different regions of the globe to successively work 20 nights, make an extraordinarily quirky dining-table seating 80 people which replicates a digital map of the world (a 3D version of NASA’s Equidistant Cylindrical map of the world – don’t ask) complete with schematic Himalayas rising out of the table, set up a little kitchen and a bar, employ a handful of charming young waitresses, bring on related entertainment – then sell tickets online! WOW.
The whole experience (I went last night for the Iranian/ Middle Eastern evening) is somewhere between an art performance and a restaurant. To start with, I found myself sitting on the coast of West Australia, looking across this section of the table or rather ocean at South East Asia, all part of Atmos’ ingenious, jigsaw-like Worldscape. The holes in the table turned out to be city locations, as scaled in night satellite photos when all lights are ablaze.
Due to restricted cooking conditions, the food was not quite gourmet, but there was oodles of heart and soul, yum flavours and gargantuan portions. The Lebanese Ksara red from the Bekaa Valley was a treat, as was the giant roasted poussin (in this case a chicklet on steroids) served with the most delicious rice. Studded (‘bejewelled’) with colour and flavour from pomegranate seeds, raisins, shreds of caramelised orange peel and maybe the odd pistachio, it was a feast in itself.
According to Sabrina Ghayour, in Iran it’s known as ‘wedding’ rice. Sabrina, of Persian extraction, was minding the stoves together with Sally Butcher, the quirky author of Persia in Peckham. Before that we’d stuffed ourselves with a huge starter salad of fresh herbs, spicy giant couscous grains, dates, walnuts, fresh cheese and houmous – plus freshly grilled homemade flatbread to mop it up. And that followed the substantial canapés that were liberally handed out with our cocktail on arrival. Phew.
Back to the main course though, while dissecting the plump poussin, we chatted with our Brit and American neighbours, though there was no musical chairs round the table as Alex Haw had hoped. Then followed an interlude of energetic belly-dancing, and finally the coup de grace of coconut pistachio cake with cream. With no room left, I instead admired the table accessories – notably ‘mapkins’, table map rosettes, suspended map rosettes and map plates, all illustrating a theme close to my peripatetic heart; its obsessive repetition was a winner.
By now it was distinctly crepuscular outside as the full moon ducked and dived behind London cloud – so, magically as always, candlelight took over.
Then we exited the global bubble, back onto the streets of Stratford and into the overground train – less than half an hour later we were home, still digesting what we’d eaten and experienced. A global Olympian trip indeed.