An Evening of Meat at The Vaults is an intriguing premise: a ‘dinner installation’ where choreography, performance art and food collide for an evening of quite literal dinner theatre!
Guests arrive at The Vaults and after being ‘checked in’ by the hostess in her red velvet suit, are directed down a black corridor lined with hanging chandeliers and into a chic but somewhat utilitarian bar. A large ‘An Evening of Meat’ fresco is painted on one wall and the room is decorated with several sculptures of the feminine form.
So far, so good. We’d arrived at 6.30pm, which was a mistake, as the show didn’t start for another hour. When the time came, we were called by name and ushered upstairs to our allocated seats (there’s a seating plan and everything).
Entering into the dining room with it’s curved, bunker-style roof, we sat at one of three long tables, upon which two women lay still, curled foetus-like. Quite soon, as the pre-starter was distributed (Chicken Liver Parfait served in a savoury cone), and an East Asian lady, ostensibly the leader of the group, dressed as all the performers were in Asian print fabric and fishnet tights, bought the coiled figures in front of us to life, one by one.
What followed was an exploration of ‘the all-fours position’ as the all-female cast spent the meal crawling on the three tables as diners ate, drank and chatted. The performers would stare at us, listen to us, look at our food and sometimes interact with each other in front of us, never once coming to standing (other than the groups ‘leader’ who stood often) or speaking.
After we enjoyed our Salt baked potato with yeast beurre noisette, and crisp pancetta, we were treated to a more formal ‘number’ with specially composed music by Patrick Rivera. The lights dimmed and the performers began a flurry of scraping and banging the on tables, mostly still in one position, sometimes moving back and forth.
This became something of a variation on a theme as every one of the three music and dance interludes were similar in style in terms of performance and choreography.
As for the food (created by Head Chef Chavdar Todorov): this was formed of six small but almost perfectly formed dishes with meat as the golden thread running through the menu. Highlights were the Braised mutton shoulder with sweet garden peas, spearmint and dehydrated feta – the mutton was full of rich flavour, beautifully tender and went perfectly with the sweet peas and salty dehydrated feta. The dessert of 70% Guanaja chocolate and olive oil ganache with coconut bacon flakes and vanilla smoked salt was also really delicious: rich chocolate ganache which had a really salty bacon kick from the bacon flavoured coconut – this may sound wrong but it was SO right as the sweet and savoury contrasted and complimented so well.
Sadly the entertainment never reached the complexity of the flavours we were served and the perfect cooking of the meat was not reflected in the content or subtext of the performance. I’m sure Kate March, who conceived and choreographed the performance, had a real understanding of what she wanted to explore in this piece. Sadly, whatever that may have been was lost on me and, at times, on the performers themselves, who seemed at times ill-at-ease with their role and function.
‘An Evening of Meat’ is certainly an unusual night out and in terms of food you could do a lot worse for your £35. But if, unlike me, you leave The Vaults with an understanding of what you’ve experienced; please could you let me know?!
Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Photo: Hanson Leatherby