Arty Feast: Sean Rogg’s Waldorf Project
“Go on, eat it,” British artist Sean Rogg insists, pointing gingerly at what appears to be a plate of fruit jellies. I hesitate. Harsh blue neon lights cast an eerie glow on the mysterious cubes of food. I pick up a piece from the glass plate and take a tentative bite. It tastes of liquorice infused with mustard but I can’t be sure. “It’s supposed to taste like the colour blue,” he explains.
Rogg takes us on a multi-sensory food journey with his latest art show, the Waldorf Project (5-11 February), which is centred on colour. What does purple taste like? What does green smell like? What does orange feel like?
Immersive food experiences are neither new nor groundbreaking. Culinary duo Bompas and Parr have been doing it for years with their irreverent projects from multi-sensory fireworks made of strawberry clouds and banana confetti to an experiment prototyping dishes from the world of science fiction. Pop-ups Pret-a-Diner and Gingerline combine food and wine with performance and art. In 2012, the organisers of Frieze Art Fair commissioned a programme of food-related events, including a squirrel “vermin dinner” by Sam Clark of Moro and a “red meal for red-haired curators” by Margot Hendersen of Rochelle Canteen.
In contrast to others’ tongue-in-cheek approach, this dining experience takes itself seriously, and you can tell by the wine: 1979 Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Sanford Winery and 1985 Chateau Picque Caillou magnums. Each of the seven courses is paired with a beautiful wine selected by Rogg and wine specialist Robert Atkin, a former owner of the Benedict and Sandford vineyard.
The food is perplexing, largely due to the absence of a menu, which is surprising given that dinner is at a dizzying £160 per head. Each dish is moulded into a plain cube, adding to the confusion. French chefs Vanessa Kryceve and Bruno Viala collaborated with Rogg to craft these strange offerings: what I think might be baba ganoush, a marshmallow version of Turkish delight, cheese, pudding, oats with bone marrow, a mushroom tart, condiment-flavoured jellies and rice crispies coated with chilli and salted caramel. Of course, this is all speculation. The ‘waiters’ — in fact they were choreographed dancers — kept mum about the contents of the menu.
While Rogg’s show is trying, the performances are charming, and for all the culinary acrobatics, there is a simple message: food ought to be savoured with all five senses.
£160 for seven courses and wine
5-11 February 2015
29-32 The Oval, London E2 9DT
020 7183 4422