The art of dining is as much about the overall experience, from decor to music, as the food consumed. Let the show begin, says Shannon Harley.
CURATING THESE EXPERIENCES is in the hands of the chef, who must add conductor, choreographer and creative director to their repertoire. UK chef Heston Blumenthal understood the importance of taking diners on a multi-sensory journey 10 years ago, serving diners at Fat Duck an iPod with a soundtrack of seagulls and crashing waves to accompany his ‘sound of the sea’ dish.
At the top eateries around the world, the stimulation of the senses goes far beyond our tastebuds. For Massimo Bottura at Osteria Francescana (number two on the 2017 World’s 50 Best list), where his veal course is inspired by artist Damien Hirst’s psychedelic spin painting, art is more than a source of inspiration.
“Art reminds you to keep a small window open for everyday poetry, and when that happens, the most mundane object turns to gold,“says the chef. “A lemon tart drops and you realise that’s the next recipe,“he adds, referring to his dessert ‘oops I dropped the lemon tart’, which looks straight out of Jackson Pollock’s studio.
Ben Shewry offers nostalgic Australiana – ‘cuppa tea & bikkies in the garden’ – at his Melbourne fine- diner Attica, while James Gaag, at La Colombe in South Africa, serves his whimsical Alice in Wonderland-themed course in a secret garden behind a nondescript door in the dining room.
In Cape Town’s The Test Kitchen, art and theatre are part of the show. Map in hand, diners pass through a dark room cloaked in Japanese charred-wood installations, before ‘seeing the light’ in a room alive with classical music and white tablecloths. “The drama and art complete the experience,” says chef-owner Luke Dale-Roberts.