Chocolate tasting, intestine-wriggling and tropical butterfly viewing – the new museum of food from Bompas & Parr is as mad as we'd hoped
Breathable clouds of alcohol. A 200-course tasting menu. Glow-in-the-dark jelly installations. The crazy creative duo behind Bompas & Parr – specialists in weird and wonderfully immersive flavour experiences – sure don't seem to run out of ideas.
And their latest creation is the most accessible yet. From Sam Bompas and Harry Parr (pictured above, l-r) comes Britain's first ever museum of food – a free multi-sensory experience located near London's Borough Market. And it's open for a whole three months from 23 October.
"Fundamentally it will seek to change people's lives by helping them consider what they eat, and to spread knowledge around nutrition and health. And to recognise its role in culture," say the pair.
We popped down to the small townhouse housing it all for a sneak peak at what's on offer.
1. Feel what it's like to digest food
"Digesting food is an experience we all share," says Bompas. And understanding that universal experience is the idea behind the first room you enter when you're in the museum. "It's exactly what you could see if you were on the end of a fork," he adds.
Sit in a red massage chair, pop on some headgear, and get shaken into a visual journey of a meal from mouth to intestine. Odd, but strangely enjoyable.
2. Be part of a chocolate experiment
We'll eat as much chocolate as we need to in the name of science. Head into each of the room's chocolate cabins – tiny spaces with a curtain for privacy, a bit like a voting booth – and taste the chocolate on offer while you listen to a specially selected piece of music. Detail on some paper how it tastes to you, noting the elements like bitterness and creaminess.
At the end, hand this in to the very lovely staff. It will be analysed, along with all the others, to form a study of how sound influences taste.
3. See how we've eaten through the centuries
Truly fascinating artefacts from the British Menu Archive are on display in glass cabinets, including printed, penned and typed lists of restaurant and cafes from the courts of old kings and queens to war times.
4. Wonder at a whole other side to butterflies
Sure, you know that these flighty insects are beautiful with those delicate wings. But did you know they're also key players in the pollination process? The "tropical room" of the museum is a steamy, humid space of exotic plants populated by handspan-sized butterflies.
The best part is they're totally blasé about your presence, meaning you get a remarkable close-up look at their intricate patterns.
So, is it worth a visit? Yes. Number one, it's a snap at a fiver per person. Secondly, it's a great opportunity to learn way more about food beyond ingredients and technique – from the very start of how seeds turn into crop to how malleable taste is when you engage your other senses while you eat.
There's also charming jots of history and walls full of gastronomic photos and illustrations. But be warned: the space is small and windy – a full day out, National History-style, this is not.
For more information on The British Museum of Food, visit bmof.org
Like this? Then try these:
- This man helped to create breathable alcohol
- Try Bompas & Parr's skull punch this Halloween
- Could you handle a 200 course tasting menu?
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