A Theatrical Tasting In Five Acts -The Table of Delights, Bristol Old Vic, Bristol

Sizzling dishes, flambé, dry ice and Sounds of the Sea; dining out can be quite a theatrical experience. Table of Delights at Bristol Old Vic, a collaboration between Bristol based Theatre Damfino and Flinty Red builds upon this notion, turning theatre into restaurant with its audience as diners. A play in five acts or five courses, there is no overarching plot devise, rather the showcasing of five ingredients, in five separate stories that provoke each of the senses.

The Table of Delights at the Bristol Old Vic
Photograph from www.theguardian.com by Paul Blakemore

Taking our seats at a long black table, a cast of waiters led by Tristan Sturrock busy themselves around us. At the head of the table, Matthew Williamson of Flinty Red, kneads, grinds, chops and pounds ingredients for each of the acts.

Photograph from www.bristololdvic.org.uk/tableofdelights

Act One -Bread

Photograph from www.bristololdvic.org.uk/tableofdelights
Puffs of white flour curl under the spotlights as our waiters clap rhythms to celebrate bread: the cycle of growing wheat and harvesting; the ritual of baking and breaking bread; the meeting of strangers around a table. A glass of soft, jammy Borsao is poured, and we make a toast then start; tearing pieces of olive oil enriched flat bread, scattered with fennel and sesame seeds.

Act Two -The Egg

Photograph from www.bristololdvic.org.uk/tableofdelights

Shot from a cannon, an egg flies over our heads, through a hoop, and is caught in a mixing bowl at the end of the nine metre long dining table. Whipped rhythmically with olive oil, to the strains of Barry Egg White and his band, a pale gold wobble of mayonnaise is made. Served with sweet herb salad, and half a boiled egg, it is a gentle reminder that this versatile of ingredients should really be celebrated as the star of the show.

Act Three -Beetroot
A surreal tale of two beetroots in love. Following trial and tribulation, finally they kiss.... only to be plucked in their prime, mercilessly cleaved, and blended in the blood curdling light of their own juices.  A horrifying plate of steamed beetroot puree ensues, spiked with sweet vinegar, cumin and chopped dill. How can we possibly eat it?

Act Four -Spices
Under instruction, we taste cinnamon, black chilli, coriander and cumin. Countries and Empires were built upon their exotic spice trade; now commonplace, how often do we truly savour and appreciate each fragrant note? A symphony of flavour is served to us as Turlu Turlu, a Turkish dish of roasted vegetables and chickpeas with a thick, spiced, tomato sauce, yoghurt sprinkled with black chilli and fried chickpeas coated in pungent spice mix, spooned over the top. We eat: A canopy of stars held over our heads.

Act Five -Honey

Photograph from www.bristololdvic.org.uk/tableofdelights
Deep amber and viscous, a pitcher of honey poured from great height is offered up to make ice cream. Double cream and dry ice, mixed and beaten, quickly sets; plumes of ice vapour tumbling from the bowl. A lady in fishtailed gold sequins, steps across the table. Her voice melancholy and sultry -mourns a world without bees, whilst we eat honey rippled ice cream, topped with crushed pieces of honeycomb.

Directed by Katy Carmichael, with a fantastic musical score by the Bower Brothers; this theatre of food, with ingredients taking centre stage, is a wonderful experience. Dining out I fear, will never be the same again.

For those without tickets, run by Claire Thomson, Matthew Williamson and Corks of Cotham, you can sample some of the fine food, with a little less drama at Flinty Red. Here's hoping for future collaborations.

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