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Sunday, 16 October 2011

An evening with the Minotaur

I have frequented the Old Vic Tunnels once before for a play, but last Friday it was time to return to experience it in a slightly different, more culinary way called 'Pret a Diner'.

The experience was a collaboration between gallery group Lazarides and catering provocateurs Kofler & Company so therefore included an arty bit and a dining bit. We arrived a little early to have a poke about the tunnels and happened upon some very interesting pieces.

The below kaleidoscopic work is by Zak Ove:

Surreal portraits by Michael Najjar. We never did work out whether it was photography, or hyper-real painting:

Atma is behind the installation below:

Vhils describes his technique as 'vandalism art', having chiselled this portrait directly out of the wall.

Stanley Donwood is apparently Radiohead's official artist. Behold his mine made of rats:

In case you didn't believe me about the rats:

One of my favourite pieces was Doug Foster's ever-evolving projection. Oddly mesmerising and relaxing, it was possible to let your imagination run wild and see everything from faces to jellyfish, ever changing and reflected in the water beneath the screen:

We also found a labyrinth. Obviously you can't have an art exhibition centred around The Minotaur without one. It seemed dangerous:

Thankfully it wasn't all that scary. Just a lot of darkness, black lights, weird noises, mirrors and the odd flashing lights.

The Minotaur herself? Nope, just me and my glowie teeth.

Ah, so then came our turn to dine. One of the side tunnels had been decked out in a sumptuous, baroque-derelict style:

It was rather hot and humid in there, but we were soon brought refreshment in the form of wine, and a bag of bread:

There appeared to be two set menus to choose from (Ollysan & Nuno Mendes), each with three courses. Sadly two of the courses from each menu appeared to feature fish, much to M's disappointment (he generally feels that fish reminds him of public loos and is hence unable to bring himself to eat it). The waiter helpfully informed us that there was no alternative, and that we weren't able to 'mess with the food' as he eloquently put it.

I am a huge sushi fan, but can understand that it's not to everyone's taste so couldn't quite fathom why they didn't at least have a veggie option..

More fish-fest:

Half-way through the meal two manager-looking types stopped by our table and asked whether everything was alright. When we mentioned the fact that it was a shame there was no veggie alternative they looked shocked and told us that of course there was a vegetarian menu! Argh. None of them actually offered to bring it to us though.

Oh well, when the third course arrived M could finally tuck into some very nice steak and we all agreed that this was the best of all the food we had enjoyed that evening - even though it did take an age to arrive.

In the end we got a free bottle of wine, 20% off the bill and various serving staff coming up to us and make heart-felt apologies about either the waiting time or the lack of knowledge about the veggie menu. We were also offered one free dessert, but what use was that when we were six people dining? We did all have a fabulous evening though, despite the slight service disaster.

On the way out, we spotted this sign combo: "This is not a pop-up restaurant. This is a dining experience." You can say that again! Time to head for the exit..

We were secreted into the 'graffiti tunnel' that links Lower Marsh to the Southbank and took a while to admire the various layers of spraypaint. We also took in 'the car that wasn't there':

Then we dispersed, sated and happy after an interesting evening of weird art, waiters with weird moustaches and weird food. We all felt very urban-cool indeed.

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