The Olympics bring out the best and worst of us. Amid the rampant commercialism and LOCOG's draconian restrictions burst the creative genius of Danny Boyle's opening ceremony.
Beside the slavering corporate greed, heroic feats of human sporting endeavour are being performed daily. And just a few hundred metres from the gargantuan pop-up McDonald's -- the biggest in the world -- another very different pop-up dining experience has emerged.
Global Feast is a 20-date banquet that brings together an array of the nation's most celebrated supper-club and underground chefs to prepare global cuisine served on a giant table in the shape of the world.
The feasts take place in a tranquil courtyard -- complete with fountain and ivy-covered walls -- outside Stratford Townhall, just minutes from the Olympic Park. Each evening a different chef prepares a four course meal from a different region of the globe, with courses interspersed with live music and performances reflecting the culture of that region.
But the centre piece of the evening is the remarkable dining table, a huge sculptural art installation created by award-winning design studio atmos which has transformed the world into furniture. Guests sit on a single 80-seater bench snaking around the contours of the five continents dining off coastlines and illuminated by cities. Latticed mountain ranges rise and fall across the 15 metre table which is laid with a bespoke set of plates and 'mapkins.'
Starting in London the banquet is constantly reinvented as the menu shifts further east each night ending on 13 August, the final night of the Olympics, with Brazilian night and a symbolic handover to Rio 2016.
On Monday the feast had reached Eastern Europe, and a menu expertly prepared by Frank Fforde of the Rodborough Supper Club. Guests were welcomed with a honey-spiced vodka cocktail called Krupnik as waiters drifted around with trays canapés: buckwheat blinis with sweet herring, horseradish, salmon roe. Once seated we were served a deliciously rich borscht with sour cream followed by a main course of knuckle of pork cooked with caraway and nutty dark beer. There were pierogi dumplings and pickled vegetables, smoke cheeses and meats with dill and thyme. Dessert was a surprisingly light baked Polish cheesecake and cherry soup accompanied by music from a polished three-piece band.
The evening also included brief talks by Alex Haw, director of atmos, explaining his inspiration for the event and chef and writer Kerstin Rodgers who has shaped the menus for all the banquets. An exhibition by French artist Nadege Meriau is also part of the evening's experience.
With conversation following as freely as the wine and guests welcomed to stay and mingle until the bar closed well after midnight it was a memorable evening and much more than a fine dining experience. Combining the subversive playfulness of the best supper clubs with a wonder-inducing artistic flair Global Feast is well worth seeking out. However, with celebrated chefs including Martin Morales of Cerviche (Soho) and Anna Hansen, founder of The Modern Pantry (Clerkenwell) amongst those taking a turn in the pop-up kitchen, it is worth booking soon as, unlike at some Olympic events, there won't be many empty seats at Global Feast.
Stefan Simanowitz is a writer, journalist and broadcaster. www.stefansimanowitz.com
Follow at @StefSimanowitz
This article first appeared in The Independent newspaper.
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