I must admit I’m not the biggest Olympics advocate. What with the the corporate bullying, unbelievably over-budget figure, the security farce and the fact that the British public (who paid heavily out of their own pockets for the disruption and overcrowding) have been constantly pushed to the back of the priority line when it comes to all the upsides. But, if you’re going to be involved, then damn well do it properly, as has Alex Haw, of Atmos, with his superb Global Feast.
Merging architecture and design with Olympic expression, Alex focused refreshingly on the global aspect, a welcome contrast to the popular hysterical outpouring of garish patriotism which we have been forced to bear witness to. Part brainchild of Kerstin Rodgers (The Underground Restaurant) and part designer’s dream, the concept was to bring together chefs and supper clubs from around the world to collaborate in a one-off event and to celebrate the most pertinent point of the Olympic theatre; that is, its role in bringing together nations from around the world, celebrating difference and variety.
What has emerged is two glorious weeks of cutting-edge cuisine, served up in the courtyard of Stratford Town Hall every evening by different chefs, the metaphorical food compass moving each day as the event continues. This fabulous culinary melee is set around a unique table centrepiece; a vision in MDF. The planet, in all it’s map-flattened glory and contoured loveliness, is presented through the Equidistant Cylindrical map of the world as the pièce de résistance of a year of planning and technical calculation. One look and you grasp instantly that blood, sweat, all-nighters and a lot of espresso went into the birth of this baby.
On finally arriving, after being herded through the mass of over excited Olympic fans taking photographs of stairs and the like, I was handed a complimentary Courvoisier cocktail and a tantalising canape from a vast array. Very nice too, and certainly not my last. A quick tour of the table by Alex and starters were served; a blue cheese salad with sweet pickled cherries and small flowers, courtesy of Aoife Behan (Jelly & Gin), devoured greedily by myself and the BF and mopped up with beautiful map-covered napkins designed by Kerstin. As I basked in the glow of its deliciousness, I spotted various other exquisitely understated touches. Into each plate was scratched and inked a map, some drawing the shape of the Thames. Add to this scattered candles and flowering table decorations created from folded A-Zs and I began to feel as if I was at an incredibly upmarket and creative version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. We were even encouraged to swap seats and experience other parts of the world, but alas, no doormouse to provide sarcastic commentary.
Main course was the classic fish and chips with homemade Tartar sauce, the only sensible choice for a truly English main. Cooked to perfection, the (sustainable) Pollock melted in the mouth, while the crunchy chips were the very apex of co-ordination and served in map cones. Cue the beginning of the opening ceremony, shown on a TV screen in the marquee to a delighted crowd (I have to admit I was a teeny bit intrigued to watch), fuelled by the fast circulating rumour that the party going on in the adjacent town hall would feature the Kaiser Chiefs – a bold claim, sadly later proved incorrect.
As the drinks flowed and the atmosphere took a party turn we were served with dessert. My favourite dish (but then I may be biased) was cooked by my very own big sister Denise Baker-McClearn, chef and owner of the delectable Moel Faban supper club in North Wales. We were treated to Apple and cinnamon tarts, Welsh gingerbread, whisky ice cream and Vanilla salted caramel sauce, finished off with a shot of Penderyn whisky which warmed its way down to my stomach like some heavenly golden lava.
By this point my senses were well and truly Experienced and as the night continued and we became progressively intoxicated in the process, the setting adapted with us. Low lighting and fast music contributed to a climactic celebratory atmosphere from which we piled out into the Stratford streets, sated and laughing, to make our way cheerfully homewards. Thanks for the memories, Global Feast.
Global Feast runs every night until 13th August. To book tickets click here (I highly recommend that you do)
To see more pictures of the table and from the night check out my Flickr page here