Friday, 2 March 2012
Food, Glorious Food?
For those musical fans among you, I apologise but this isn't going to be an article about Oliver!! It is, however, a discussion about food and film. I must also apologise to fans of films such as Babette's Feast, Chocolat or The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover but it's not that kind of discussion either. It's more to do with the role food plays in the cinematic experience.
In this week's Metro, restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin reviewed a slightly different eating experience. The Odeon cinema in Whiteleys of Bayswater, London, is doing something a bit different- restaurant-style and quality food whilst you watch a movie. 'Food consultant' Rowley Leigh (of La Cafe Anglais), has advised on the menu and several types of food are available- salsify fritters, penne rigate, squash lasagne, tuna sashimi, breaded squid and a hot dog/popcorn/ice-cream float combo are among the culinary delights on offer. Rubber trays are provided on each seat which are sound-resistant and the front-of-house staff wear black and are as discreet as possible when taking orders.
Certainly a very interesting move, combining dinner-and-a-movie into one block of time (perfect for those with busy lives), but it raises a few questions for me. Firstly, even if the staff are discreet, you still have to put up with whispering orders as you're trying to watch a movie. And I don't see that, by combining the food and the film, you're doing justice to either- you'll either be too engrossed in the movie (hopefully) that the food becomes secondary, or so engrossed in the food that the film passes you by. Plus, you'd have to be very selective about which film you pair with which food: you wouldn't want to risk a venison chilli whilst watching The Devil Inside or The Woman In Black, would you?
This brings me on to the wider issue of food and cinema. I've never, for the life of me, understood why cinemas- a place where you'd like people to be quiet so you could listen to a film- end up serving the noisiest of foods; popcorn, nachos, huge drinks with straws that slurp at every given moment. Always seems very contradictory to me. But I do appreciate that the food concessions are important because it is where most cinemas make their money; unless you're dealing with a blockbuster, a lot of films don't make a lot of money so revenue from other sources is important.
I will hold my hands up and admit I am not a huge fan of traditional 'cinema food'. I occasionally have a bag of Revels* but they're normally gone before the trailers. So the idea of having restaurant style food whilst watching a film doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. I would much rather do one and then the other, rather than both at the same time.
But that's just my opinion. What about you? Are you a popcorn fiend or a nacho muncher? Would you go to the Odeon Bayswater to try this out or give it a wide berth? Let me know in the comments below.
* Other chocolate is available.