Last week I made my way to Stratford tube station. Trains and platforms were crowded with people heading to and from the stadium and other parts of the Olympic Village. Accents from all over the world melded into an excited buzz and huge numbers of police and volunteers helped direct the foot traffic.
Just to be contrary, I wasn’t there for the sports. I was there to feast! (So, what’s new?!)
Global Feast is a pop up dining experience designed to show case food from all around the world.
Conceived by Alex Haw, of Latitudinal Cuisine and Atmos, and Ms Marmite Lover aka Kerstin Rodgers, well known London supper club host, Global Feast “offers a journey through the best of world food”, over 20 successive evenings during the London Olympics.
It’s an interesting development from the original Latitudinal Cuisine, where guests come together for potluck meals, each bringing a dish they’ve cooked themselves. Their dishes must represent locations from different points along the longitude that corresponds to the date in the year. It’s all about friendship, community, learning and enjoying good food.
How to translate that into a 20 day event?
By choosing 20 locations to represent the world and presenting them in order of longitude.
Kerstin has pulled together a series of guest chefs to cook food from destinations including West Africa, Italy, the Middle East, Indian & Pakistani, China & Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam, Japan, Australia & New Zealand, North America, the Caribbean and South America; many of the chefs also run supper clubs themselves. Kerstin is present everyday, running the kitchen and supervising service. Judging on our meal, and how professionally the starters, mains and desserts were served, quickly and on time, to around 60 guests, she’s running a tight ship.
I attend the Russian & Soviet night, with guest chefs Katrina, who writes The Gastronomical Me blog and Karina, who has recently published the book Russia on a Plate . Together they run a supper club called Russian Revels.
The venue for the event is The Old Town Hall in Stratford, in the small internal courtyard garden. There’s a small bar, that serves a rose ginger mule cocktail on arrival, a tiny field kitchen and walk in fridge and a large marquee in which the impressive guest table is set up.
Atmos have created what they call Worldscape – a table representation of the world, based on the Equidistant Cylindrical projection, which maps longitudinal and latitudinal lines as equidistant vertical and horizontal lines.
The enormous map table is hugely impressive, and certainly unique – I’ve never seen anything like it, in person or in pictures. The main table surface represents sea level; major land depressions are represented by cut outs and land contours by sculpted shelving.
That said, it’s a shame the seats are ugly garden variety conference chairs rather than a continental shelf bench all the way round as originally designed. I’m not sure all the contouring shelves are completed either, certainly they aren’t as detailed as those in the draft images on the Worldscape site. And I can’t spot Australia at all; perhaps it didn’t fit into the tent? But it’s still high impact and fun!
And love the pots of herbs and little map paper flowers scattered over the table as decoration.
On to the food…
As guests arrive, we mill around in the open courtyard, there’s a pretty fountain with the soothing noise of running water and the weather is mild and dry. Canapés are served on trays decorated with beautiful Russian dolls – a wild mushroom pate, a soft and smoky aubergine and a pickled beetroot and date mixture. All are tasty, but the aubergine one is the winner.
We take our seats at the table, encouraged to choose our own places along the edges of the various continents. We choose the southern tip of Africa, figuring the round table shape will make for a more sociable evening than the more bay-like coasts or the straight edges of northern Russia.
A small shot of cold vodka is served to enjoy with our zakuski style starter plate which features lightly pickled Baltic beetroot eggs garnished with smoked herring caviar, a Borsch-inspired pie and a Georgian Lobio salad. I enjoy all the items on the plate. A great start.
A selection of pickles is also provided, served in a hollow bread basket. Of these there aren’t enough, certainly not for each diner to try one each of the red and green chilli, patti pan and gherkin pickles. There are just six of these pickle baskets between 60 diners.
Our main is a ballotine of free-range chicken, stuffed with buckwheat, chutney and bacon, served with Peter the Great’s favourite spicy marinated cherries and herby buckwheat. The chicken is delicious, with good flavour, cooked well and served hot. The accompanying buckwheat is a little bland (and cold when it arrivesm though the chicken is hot), and somewhat repetitious given the stuffing in the ballotine, but it’s filling and not unpleasant. The sweet sharp marinated cherries are fantastic and it’s a shame there are no bottles to buy and take home; I’d certainly have been in line!
Before dessert, we are well and truly entertained by the charismatic, beautiful, witty and talented cabaret singer Jessie Pie, accompanied by guitarist Chris Thorn. Jessie Pie plays the crowd wonderfully, holding the entire audience in her hand as she sings about masochism and what I think may be a love song to red cabbage!
For dessert, a deconstructed Napoleon cake. Napoleon cake is, we are told, the tsar of all Russian cakes; normally a neat mille feuille patisserie, here we have a plate of Russian custard cream, lemon zest and raspberries amid flakes of golden grown pastry. Simple but delicious.
Guests are encouraged to stay late, the bar is open until 2 am (later on Fridays and Saturdays). However, my friends and I leave after dessert, keen to make the long journey home while trains are still running. I imagine those who stay on make the most of the balmy evening and friendly buzz.
At £45 per person (plus £2.20 booking fee) this isn’t an inexpensive night – the food, whilst tasty, is essentially good home cooking. However, when you add in the experience of the setting (the table is really worth seeing) and the entertainment, I think it’s a fair price.
Globalfeast is running till Monday 13th August. Tickets are still available for some nights.
Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Global Feast.