| LONDON, March 25
LONDON, March 25 Ellen Parr's photographer
father Martin is famous for a 1995 book that showed British food
for what it was - greasy, heavy, unhealthy and, more often than
Now, at a pop-up restaurant in a community hall in east
London, Ellen Parr and partner Alice Hodge are serving dishes
that may resemble the food Parr's father so graphically
portrayed in "British Food". But they are given a few twists to
make them healthier, more international and trendier.
Served at communal tables, the dishes at the Say Cheese pop
up play with conventions of Englishness.
The meal starts with three humble radishes - the stalwarts
of British allotments, or communal vegetable patches - served on
This is followed by a more conventional selection of raw
vegetable crudites served with taramosalata and anchovy sauce.
The quintessential English scone with jam and clotted cream
gets an international twist: The cake is infused with cumin and
topped with labneh, a type of goats-milk yoghurt and served on a
plate hand painted by co-chef Hodge.
A spicy Thai beef and coconut Massaman-style broth is served
into china teacups from a teapot clothed in a tea-cosy, a
distinctly British covering used to keep the tea piping hot.
Chicken roasted with vermouth comes with spring greens. It
is served in an unassuming foil container, typically used for
Chinese takeaways, but the quality of ingredients and depth of
flavour makes the dish anything but ordinary.
Desert is a lemon curd mousse served in a jam jar with a
cardamom and crunchy sour cherry biscuit.
All this with decorations - in case anyone need be reminded
of the dark ages of British cuisine - that include a stuffed
ferret, royal memorabilia and copies of the mass circulation Sun
newspaper from the early 1980s.
Chart hits from period pop acts like Spandau Ballet and
Human League, plus the senior Parr's photographs of greasy
English fried breakfasts - sometimes called heart attack on a
plate - help set the mood.
Parr and Hodge talked to Reuters about their pop-up:
Q: How does cooking in a pop-up differ from working in a
Parr: You get to control the whole event. I still work at
Sam and Sam Clark's Moro where I picked up a lot of my skills.
This is more fun, but it's really hard work! Some people are
doing it as a dress rehearsal for opening a restaurant, but we
are much more into the event side of it, doing something new
Q: Why do diners go to a pop-up rather than a conventional
Hodge: People who go to pop-ups are open to new experiences,
and meeting new people. At a recent event we served ox heart,
which people were reluctant to try, but many did and we got very
positive feedback, so we're able to challenge people.
Q: What other locations have you worked in?
Parr: We're doing a series of events with (conservation
charity) the National Trust. We did one at Ham House which was
on the theme of servants, so we cooked peasant food, but refined
it and served it in brown bowls and on wooden boards.
Q: What's next?
Parr: We're going to do an event at Osterly House, which was
owned by a family whose wealth was built on trade with Asia.
We're designing a menu that will encompass food from the region
and looking at creating an oriental setting.
Q: What is the connection between food and art?
Hodge: People often say that you eat with your eyes. When
food comes out, people make a visual interpretation of what's in
front of them, so how it looks is very important when we're
designing our menus.
Say Cheese 'Tea' recipe.
4 Portobello mushrooms roughly cut
250g beef off cuts
2 onions peeled
2 sticks celery
1 bunch coriander
20g cane sugar
3 inches of ginger
10 cloves garlic
3 teaspoons of cumin seeds
3 teaspoons of coriander seeds
4 Thai cardamom pods
6 coriander roots
10 dried Thai red chillies
1 piece cassia bark
1 carton of coconut cream
(Reporting by Simon Falush; Editing by Michael Roddy and Toby