Monday, October 1, 2012


By far the most exotic food and drink experience I had in London (and this will hardly surprise you) was organized by Bompas and Parr, formerly jellymongers, now something a good deal grander.  The majority of the images here are courtesy of Bompas and Parr.

The event was titled The Mercedes Drive Thru, and it was in the old Selfridges Hotel, a place I’d always wanted to visit but never had till now.  It was part of Fashion Week and, in Bompas and Parr’s own words, they “pushed cup holders to the limit … As part of the Avant/Garde Diaries curatorial programme we worked with light artists Jason Bruges Studio to create a vast pulsating light installation which illuminated as diners drove through it, picking up emotionally compelling food. The Drive Thru featured a revolving restaurant, troupe of roller girls (The Doughnuteers), uniforms by Tour de Force, triptych The Four Horsemen of the Oesophagus, specially choreographed soundscape and the only cheese-trolley in the world capable of sprinting from 0-62 mph in around 6.6 seconds. The design of the installation and menu itself (including the Big Merc) was developed following meta-research into the gustatory implications of in-car dining by Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart … Bompas & Parr further collaborated with renown nose Dawn Goldworm of 12.29 to create salami-based artisanal air fresheners, designed to dangle from visitors’ rear view mirrors.”

I was aware of at least some of these things, and certainly picked up on the general idea that this was all about eating in cars.  Actually the best part was just getting inside.  Entrance was via a kind of air lock with flashing lights and dry ice, and on the other side you were in a packed bar with roller skaters, a really good off-the-wall band - Dom James and His Masticators, and waitresses who came around bearing canapĂ©s featuring tongue, and jellied or fried quail eggs.     

There was also a fondue counter, though I’d have thought fondue is not quite the food you want in a car.

Anyway, it was all good stuff, and the cocktails were suitably recherchĂ©: martinis with sausage or octopus Garnish; VS Shake - ice cream, milk, cognac; Alchemical Mountain Brew – Tanqueray, green Chartreuse, green tea, pineapple syrup, Yellow 7, and best of all, The Eagle Tail After Aleister Crowley – consisting of Ron Anejo Pampero Aniversario, Old Kirsch, absinthe and syrup of ether.  You don’t get to drink that every day.  they looked like this:

Spirit of ether, I discover, is two parts alcohol, one part ether, and seems to tie in with Crowley’s Tarot in ways I don’t begin to understand, but I’m sure Bompas and Parr, and indeed Mercedes, would never be involved in anything satanic, although a girl did stagger up to me as I was sipping my Eagle Tail and said, “I feel so drunk, and I don’t know why, cos I’ve only had five of those.”  Love is the law, indeed.

I’ve always thought Crowley was a fairly ludicrous character.  I mean if the News of the World calls you the “wickedest man in the world” you know you’re not really all that wicked.  True, he was involved with dubious sex, and some unpleasantness involving cat killing and blood drinking, but by the standards of higher wickedness this is surely pretty tame.

Still, for my money, the most convincing account of Crowley comes in Anthony Powell’s volume of memoirs Messengers of Day.  That's him above, and I'll bet he's not drinking spirit of ether.  The two met for a business lunch at Simpson’s in the Strand: Powell was working for the publisher Duckworth’s at the time.  Powell writes, “There was much that was absurd about him; at the same time it seems false to assert – as some did – that his absurdity transcended all sense of being sinister.  If the word has any meaning, Crowley was sinister, intensely sinister, both in exterior and manner.”

Powell also records that they both had saddle of mutton for lunch.  Powell drank a pint of beer with his.  Crowley drank a glass of milk.  Crowley’s father, incidentally or not, had once been a successful brewer.

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