The 200 Club by Bompass & Parr at The Factory
Cloistered behind the arches of Borough Market, alcoholic vapours fill the air. Dubbed the city’s first “cloud-bar”, Alcoholic Architecture is an experimental space that implores visitors to consider the nature of their usual inebriation, and open their mind to the possibilities of drinks that transcend their usual form, providing a challenging sensory experience. It’s the kind of avant garde creation that’s come to be expected from Bompas and Parr. The eclectic duo have made a name for themselves by taking an unabashedly highbrow approach to their work, walking the thin line between pretension and artistic vision with remarkable alacrity. Their latest creation is the perfect example of that, a feast for the senses and the palate that can only be described as extraordinary.
Organised in conjunction with Bespoke Offers, it’s an event comprised of the world’s longest tasting menu. No less than 200 dishes are eaten over the course of 24 hours. Let that sink in: a new dish every seven minutes, non-stop, for a solid day. Four open slots are filled by an ever-changing selection of diners, including Bompas and Parr themselves, but four guests arrive early Thursday morning and leave the same time the next day, having eaten throughout the night. They sample each and every one of those 200 dishes.
“It’s so very much more than just food,” they say, “it’s an experience.” Frequent restaurant-goers in the capital will be familiar with that particular line; it’s one that’s peddled out regularly. Ever since El Bulli and the Fat Duck hit the popular consciousness, it’s not enough to have food served by itself. It has to be accompanied by delights of the senses, a complete experience unlike any other. In this case though, there actually is something there. Some aspects fall short – the group reciting a poem before each set of 20 dishes gives several guests the giggles – but underneath it all there’s a sense of camaraderie building. It’s so extreme, so far beyond what anyone there has experienced before that it actually does feel distinctly unique.
So what about the actual food? Cooked by a number of kitchens that rotate throughout the day, the small plates on offer are designed to amaze, to delight and to challenge. Things are divided up into ten sessions of 20 dishes, each suitably themed. They range from zingy breakfasts to sultry, midnight darkness, but we sampled White Elevenses – a truffle butter tortellini, sitting in a soup and foam of creamy cauliflower; scones with spiced greengage compote and lashings of clotted cream; champagne-soaked peaches with crisp meringues.
Not all of it worked. Custard Creams, actually parmesan biscuits with a cod’s roe cream, are a cruel trick of the senses. Tea-poached pears seem to have been left in an oversteeped liquor, and have a rather punchy flavour that doesn’t entirely sit right with the rest of the dish. Funnily enough, a simple panna cotta, beautifully rich and creamy, yielding to every touch of the spoon with voluptuous grace, easily steals the show. That’s the nature of the beast though: challenging dishes are often met with mixed feelings. It’s the overall tone of the meal that matters, and in general the food was exquisite.
Whether the four guests who have taken on the challenge of eating every single course will emerge with smiles or sobs, Bompas & Parr and Bespoke Offers have pulled off something quite miraculous here. It’ll be one of the few experiences in the capital that can truly claim to have been “unforgettable”.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮