Bacon, table performers, darkness and wine: the launch night of An Evening of Meat, an immersive dining experience at The Vaults, had everything a pole dancer might ever want from life. Read on to find out more about this one-of-a-kind project.
Me & Meat
Yes, I went to a night called An Evening of Meat and loved it. Veggie friends, don’t hate me! If you read this blog you’ll know I’m not actually vegetarian or vegan, but that I really enjoy and admire the craft going into veggie and vegan cuisine. Unfortunately I also love and admire bacon, and I could marry it, so you’ll just have to take this as one of my many contradictions.
I don’t eat meat that often. I hardly ever buy it because I believe you can survive without eating meat everyday. Meat is something I let my dad cook when we’re having a barbecue or that I just have when I’m eating out. So when I heard of the provocative concept behind An Evening of Meat, I thought it’d be the perfect occasion to jazz up my weekly meat intake.
An Evening of Meat
“No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative! It gets the people going!” said Socrates. Or something. And ain’t that the truth. Provocation sells, and it did so very well at An Evening of Meat.
Immersive events are always a bit of a hit and miss. They’re either so immersive they make people uncomfortable, or not immersive enough, with some actors going around to have a chat with you. An Evening of Meat was different, and featured the right amount of ‘immersion’ into the concept.
We started the evening being led through a darkened corridor through an unassuming door inside the already edgy Vaults of Waterloo tunnel. We ended up in a dim lit room populated by spiky sculptures and torn couches. Here, we received the only thing that gets you going when it’s only Wednesday but you’ve already worked enough for a week: Prosecco. Thank god.
After this much needed welcome, we were then led through another darkened corridor and upstairs, while the smell of cooking meat was teasing us with unrecognisable but delicious promises of what was to come.
The Red Room
We arrived to a darkened room only lit by red lights. The decor was minimal, and the space was filled by tables set in a U-shape. Oh, and there were women on tables. Women on all fours, women curled up in a ball shape, women wearing elaborate costumes. No biggie.
We were sat down by the hosts and all it took was a glass of red wine for the performers to start to do their thing, instructing us to hold our glasses so they could perform their routines on our tables. I’m talking headstands, splits, crawling, and a variety of artistic dances that portrayed something similar to them having a fit, but that they totally pulled off. My comment to my friend was: “I could NEVER do this. I may dance on a pole, but put things next to me… and I’m gonna break them.” Respect.
An Evening of Meat describes itself as “a feast of femininity where expressive dance and indulgent food meet to thoroughly inundate all the senses.” Performed by an all-female collective and created by American director Kate March, it’s an eclectic mix of choreography, performance art and food.
Featuring a fine-dining menu and dancers using a table as a stage, An Evening Of Meat explores the all-fours position, with guests enjoying their food while being confronted with performers struggling to reach the vertical position.
The dancers explore various aspects of the on-all-fours position, such as vulnerability, strength, stability, sensuality, power, domestication and wildness. In this exploration in femininity, the audience and performer build a unique relationship. As the diner becomes part of the dancer’s struggle, screaming for her to stand up, she in turn destabilises their gaze and becomes more than just a piece of meat on the table.
I loved the fact that Kate March herself was performing, directing the experience and the choreography with mastery. Both her and the dancers’ presence was so captivating it was pretty hard to focus on anything else. That being said, I’m not 100% sure of how many men in the audience understood the whole “performance art” and “dancers are not a piece of meat” thing. I did see quite a lot of virtual devouring going on there, but it might have been the wine.
Following the show, guests are invited to stay behind and enjoy drinks, music, dancing and underground after-party at The Vaults.
The event features a menu created by Michelin-trained Head Chef Chavdar Todorov. It’s a six-course meal, and every dish has been designed to tempt and tantalise the senses. Considering I’ve now become a bit more serious about my food intake, I must admit I was a bit worried about this. I hadn’t had six courses since before becoming a pole dancer (if you exclude Italian holiday meals). Luckily, the food comes in tapas-shaped plates and although rich, indulgent and exquisite, it’s also the perfect amount, so that you don’t get distracted by food comas.
We started scoop of chicken liver, served in a savoury cone, with spiced beetroot glaze and walnut crumb. I’m not a huge fan of liver, so this wasn’t my favourite, although the beetroot really helped cover it up. One of my favourite dishes was instead the salt baked potato with yeast beurre noisette and crispy pancetta. Remember when I said I would marry bacon? Exactly my point.
Then came a seared carpaccio of dry-aged tender beef, with kohlrabi, haricot verts, puffed rice and a thai dressing. I’m one of those people who can’t deal with raw meat – hence why I barely ever cook meat myself – but man, this was worth it. It was incredibly fresh and zingy, the perfect follow-up to the richer crispy bacon.
What I really loved about the menu was that it wasn’t just meat for meat’s sake. Yes, the dishes were meat-based, but they were surrounded by vegetables that enriched their taste and made them one of a kind. For instance, every time I’ve had braised mutton shoulder, it came with fries, barbecue glaze or something that made me think I’d have to do shoulder mount climbs for days to burn it off. Here, instead, the braised mutton shoulder came with sweet garden peas and spearmint, 14-day fermented black garlic mustard, dehydrated feta, pea shots and charred wild garlic. Which sounds like a whole lot of stuff but, actually, it was a very interesting salad which happened to have meat in it. And it was great.
The final savoury dish came in the shape of rare breed pig cheek oyster with a side by side pairing of lentils, a gently spiced red dahl and herby Puy topped with citrus gremolata. I hadn’t tried any of this before, and if you tell me “pig cheek oyster” I might start imagining little piggies running around scared. But reader, I ate it and I loved it.
The dessert was equally fantastic, coming in the shape of 70% Guanaja chocolate and olive oil ganache, sesame ash, coconut bacon flakes and vanilla smoked salt. I’ve always found coconut bacon a fancy nonsense, but I’m sold now. Just don’t use it to replace real bacon please.
Vegetarian options are available on the night for people who want to enjoy the performance without eating meat.
An Evening Of Meat is as much about fashion and music as it is about food. Kate March’s performance company I AM collaborated with Singapore-based designer Lisa Von Tang on costume design, and LA-based composer Patrick Rivera on an entirely original music score for the show.
An Evening of Meat has reached critical acclaim in Sydney, Hong Kong and Berlin for its innovation and expression. It was born in London and it has now come back full circle.
Its director Kate March is now based between Hong Kong and New York, having completed an MA in choreography in London, where she began exploration of the all fours position, placing performers on tables and creating a powerful collision of the culinary, performance and fashion worlds. She began creating conceptual dining experiences in Dalston and reinventing ‘dinner theatre’ which lead to the eventual creation of her company I AM.
An Evening of Meat