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Friday 16 July 2010

The Complete History Of Food - Bompas & Parr - Review

By Leluu
“Ladies please take off your shoes if you have high heels on,” yells the attendant, “as you’ll have to walk over a tight bridge with live eels – yes – you heard me – there are live eels – I hear they are quite frisky at this time of day too.”

Before that, we enter a dark room (The Medieval Room By Saf). A handsome and charming man tells individually, (just by looking at us in the dark)  if our humours are in harmony. “This means that a person’s health and personality is dependent on four all-important bodily fluids: the humours: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood.”
I was immediately diagnosed as ‘yellow bile’ – short fused and angry (that didn’t please me) and need some 'Phlem' to calm me down. Simon having too much 'blood' - too happy needed some 'black bile' to make him ‘melancholic’

It was dark, atmospheric chamber music was blasting off the speakers – Instead of plugging us into the Thames like they used to do in those times and we would have had bloodthirsty leeches purge the excess fluids from us – restoring us back to good health; but today, we were lead to another room where there were eels swimming around outside, a bar where, of course, a mixologist, served us according to our demeanour.
As the sounds of dungeons and dragons tickled away in a candle lit cave, Simon had a popsicle-lemon, sorrel paired with a Courvoisier Exclusif Pear and Cardamom Sidecar and I had the ‘angry’ Popcorn truffle, porcini paired with a Courvoisier Exclusif Apricot Martini, It was a very warm and sweet hit to our appetite. (NB – yes he’s right – I am an angry person).
The poetry of fast forwarding us to present day (or rather - the 80s) was quite quirky as we were shuffled into a tight lift all the way to the roof where we were greeted with duck foie gras balls, covered in nuts with a port jelly filling by Michelin Starred Chef, Alexis Gauthier. It was interesting…it was certainly a take on Ferrero Rocher!
The view from there is wonderful. London looks so different when you can see it from a height and this is a great way of making us feel like we are in the present, in the now with Paul Tvaroh’s (a molecular mixologist) glass of flat champagne cocktail without the fizz. The fizz is in the grapes! Very clever and very nice indeed!
Then like Michael J Fox, we were back in the 50s as we trailed down the beaten stairs into a living room for our Bompas & Parr scratch 'n' sniff TV dinner. It did smell pretty good and dirty. I really fancied it in that room on that comfy couch with the telly on!
But the fun was really to be had in the next bit: bouncy castle in form of the insides of a rotten stomach by Visual Artists Andy Best & Merja Puustinen
Talking of stomachs, we were getting pretty hungry and were wondering where the food was; we walked along some corridors and then found a room with a dinosaur in it. That was our dinner table, representing the Victorian fine dinning scene, as that was when restaurants were on the rise and “extravagant and sumptuous dinner parties" became popular.
Who better to know about extravagant dinning than the Bistrotheque boys. The duck confit puy lentils, beetroot and black champagne sauce was completely welcoming. Although it was perfectly balanced and quite good it was rather ordinary and very contemporary for an Iguanodon Dinner, with ‘Josephine’s Tea Garden’ punch with Courvoisier (of course), green tea, apple juice and elderflower cordial by Ben Leggett.
For the journey’s finale, Bompas & Parr created the Renaissance Banqueting House. We entered a room shelved with amazing sugar sculptures, a massive revolving cake with plates of our desserts: jelly! Candied Orange, Iris Jellies and Ambergris Posset (whale’s vomit).
The jelly, a good rubbery texture with a taste, typical of something artificial and extremely sweet was the highlight of what we all came to see. I liked the little bit of whale vomit – it was just like good custard. You can find ambergris or whale vomit on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean or washed up on the beach.

This was obviously served with Courvoisier as a little plate of jelly on the table kept trying to take off.
The Complete History Of Food – was like a little journey for the senses. A great journey with Cognac for sure. But not really sure where the food comes into it. The title seems a little misguided to us but it was certainly a very enjoyable experience all in some abandoned house in Belgrave Square, near Hyde Park.
In my opinion, it is a half way house between an excellent, quality art installation (such as the very sensory show by Cildo Meireles at The Tate Modern in 2009) and something you must get at Alton Towers with a lot of Cognac. The product placement was certainly un-missable – not that we don’t love Courvoisier – we really do!
Perhaps if we had not been so dedicated to all of Heston Blumenthal’s Feast, we may have expected less.  But upon saying that, we did hope to see a little more jelly. The sugar sculptures were certainly very beautiful but the room did not present itself grandly enough in my opinion as ‘renaissance’ and the entire billing of the show being “the ‘complete’ history of 'food'” did not really fit the experience. We had a great evening nevertheless and enjoyed our tokens for the bar very wisely.

Thank you to Focus PR for inviting us.
Read more on Ambergris and how it is used in perfume on here:

The Complete History Of Food 14-18 July 2010 is Sold Out


  1. I saw this and thought it looked interesting, figuring it would be one of things that either really worked, or really didn't. Happily, it looks like the former is the case.

    I love the idea of whizzing from the medieval right to the eighties and then slipping back down through the ages, Back to the Future style.

    The environment sounds as much fun as the food and the whole idea of a theme park playground type experience with food sounds like it was a lot of fun (helped by all that Courvoisier no doubt).

  2. well it LOOKS fabulous I can't wait to go over the weekend

  3. My only real problem was that nothing really lived up to the first couple of rooms - as soon as I hit the roof (apart from the bouncy stomach) it didn't really inspire me quite as much as the start.

    The food and drink side was really good, I just thought the presentation needed a bit of a tweak.

  4. Great photos - it sounds like you had a great time. We went for one of the lunchtime sessions and I have to say, it wasn't quite what I expected (never having been to a B&P event before). We were literally in and out in an hour, it seemed like a bit of a conveyor belt.

    It was a shame that the staff either did a brief explanation to the first person in the group that they saw, or not at all (so ambergris is whale vomit? Interesting. Yes, I still would have eaten it) to the point where after I fell down the stairs (predrinking!!) due to poorly lit steps, the guide had legged it off already, and only the first two people from our slot heard the bit about 'water' and 'eels' and next thing there's a squeal and someone with a very wet foot...

    The cocktails, however, were fabulous! And I'm not usually a brandy/Cognac drinker. I must find out more about this Courvoisier Exclusif thing. The bartenders were, as only to be expected, pimping their own places more so than the drinks so didn't find out much..

  5. @The Grubworm
    The grand title of the show lead us to believe it had a certain ambition but as rightly said by @Billy that after the first couple of rooms, it failed to inspire.

    The idea of having a playground type experience for food tasting is really wonderful but perhaps hard to achieve in a house?! and for so many hundreds of people trekking through. We wondered how they had cooked the duck leg/ or had to reheat about 5oo of them in a day for service.

    Hope you will have a wonderful time. We loved the bouncy castle!

    Really sorry to hear of your experience. The staff were very nice and friendly to us but we did lose them after the eel thing so not surprised that you had no guidance. We were lagging half an hour out - being those naughty customers who do not do what they are told! heh!

    They would have had to say and do the same things every 15 minutes, and perhaps got bored by the time you got there! Thats a real shame as such a show is so dependent on staff.

    Because we were lagging behind and turned up at rooms when everyone had gone was how we got information. (Tip!)


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