Spirited Away from EAT FILM

One of the reasons I love living in London is the vast varieties of cultural and social going-ons which seems to be endless.  This capital city really is the “melting pot of World’s cultures”.

Just a few weeks ago, it was London Fashion Week, then it was followed by London Design Festival.  Now that October has arrived, it’s London Restaurant Festival!!

There are some very cool, creative events to really enhance one’s dining out experience in this buzzing city; and since I am an avid foodie, of course I made sure that I would try out a few, such as the Laurent Perrier’s Gourmet Odyssey, the House of Peroni’s Cichetti Trial, and last but not least, the BAFTA’s EAT FILM.

Laurent Perrier Gourmet Odyssey was very fun.  The idea of the event was restaurant hopping across London in a Routemaster, whereby in each of the 3 restaurants, courses were served with Laurent Perrier Champagne pairing for each dish.  Suffice to say that it was a very memorable tasting afternoon, which I was totally exhausted, not to mention a little tipsy, and would most likely participate again next year!

Out of the three events I tried during the festival, my favourite-but-most-disapponting of all was certainly EAT FILM at the BAFTA, a collaboration between London Restaurant Festival organiser and BAFTA to celebrate a unique marriage of London’s great cultural pillars: food, film,and music.  This was the first event of its kind where a prominent figure in the film industry was invited to curate a three course dinner to complement the theme of a movie of their choice.

BAFTA Dining Room for EAT FILM evening
Champagne Reception at BAFTA

Jonathan Ross was the curator and host of the evening.  The cocktail reception and post movie screening dinner were all inspired by his all-time favourite film, Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away.  Needless to say that this was also one of my all-time favourite movies, so I was very excited to go to the screening, not to mention curious of what the three course dinner would be, and how well it would relate to the theme of the movie itself; given the fact that last summer, Edible Cinema did a screening of the same movie with food and drinks pairing to match key scenes within, capturing the particular feelings of the moments, which I thought was a very unique and memorable way of experiencing a film.

EAT FILM, however, took a different approach altogether instead, the evening focused on recreating the music and the food of the traditional Japanese Spirit World that Chihiro found herself in.

We were greeted with a Tattinger Champagne Cocktail reception called “Miyazaki Sunrise”, which was champagne mixed with Umeshu (Japanese plum wine); accompanied by an endless supply of the moist and juicy Hirata buns with various meat fillings, whilst Shamisen players serenaded us with traditional Japanese music scores.  I could easily get completely full with the Hirata buns alone because they were so moreish.

My Miyazaki Sunrise and 5th Hirata Bun
A Bartender preparing Miyazaki Sunrise Cocktails for guests

Luckily, after an hour or so, we were ushered into Princess Anne’s Theatre for the Spirited Away film screening, which I thought it was rather befitting to the occasion, this being the first EAT FILM event, and the movie itself was, in parts, a celebration of food, drinks and merriment, not to mention the danger of greed and other more deeper human issues one faced while growing up.  I was also relieved to find that we were given only a small bag of wasabi flavoured popcorn and a bottle of still water each for the screening, which should leave me ample time to digest all those Hirata buns I previously consumed.

Jonathan Ross giving an opening speech to the film screening of Spirited Away

The film itself was brilliant, and reminded me all over again the reasons why I loved it so much.  An enchanting adventure story about a young girl who was thrown into a world where good and evil dwell together, and there, she experienced how to survive.  Not because she was extraordinarily beautiful, nor because she was unusually intelligent, but because of her courage of conviction, capacity for flexibility, devotion and perseverance that she saw herself through the crisis, avoided danger and got herself along with her family back to the ordinary world somehow, without losing herself and along the way made lasting friendship.

In the fantasy world of Yubaba’s bath house, if Chihiro, the heroin, had refused to work there, or said that she wanted to go home, she would have been eliminated by the sorceress.  She would have been made to wonder about until she became invisible because of her uselessness until she disappeared.  Instead, she convinced Yubaba that she wanted to work in the bath house, and that she was useful even though she did not know how, even the sorceress could not ignore her courage of conviction.  She had to give her a place to stay and something to do, which was how the heroin survived.

Because of her strong heart and unwavering loyalty, she became a more beautiful person towards the end of the film.  It was a reminder that when unexpected circumstances happened in life, we could only rise above them if we faced the hardship head on, even if it might appear to be a setback, because these obstacles might, in the end, propelled us towards our goal faster than we expected.

The disappointing part was actually the three course dinner post the film screening.  The menu, although, sounded exciting and full of promises, but unfortunately, they did not quite deliver.

Our first course was a tasting plate of Aubergine Miso, Chakan, Grilled Shio Koji Devonshire Chicken, Slow cooked Old Spot Pork Belly Kakuni, and Loch Duart Salmon Temari; none of which tasted how they should, even though their appearance were all enticing.  The aubergine miso was under cooked, the grilled chicken, pork belly and the salmon were all too dry.

The Tasting Plate.

Our second course was Miso glazed Cornish Hake, Azuki rice and diakon with Yuzukosho which was the best of the three.  The hake and diakon with yuzukosho were both well cooked and complementary to each other, only the rice was again too dry, but all in all, it was an enjoyable dish.

Miso glazed Cornish Hake, Azuki rice and diakon with Yuzukosho

Our final course was Stem ginger cake with chestnut ice cream, creme fraiche and sesame crackling, which was far too sweet and too heavy for me, so I could not finish.

Stem ginger cake with chestnut ice cream, creme fraiche and sesame crackling

Overall I felt that the combination of flavours for each dish were not quite right.  It was as if the chef never tasted these cuisine before, and was just blindly following a recipe without knowing how they should taste like.  Either that or this was a western interpretation of these traditional Japanese dishes, so they tasted more like modern European cuisine rather than Japanese.

I felt rather confused about the dinner because perhaps I was expecting a little too much and thought that there would be more correlation between the food and the film, or that these clearly Japanese named dishes should taste Japanese, when in the end they did not.  To be fair, the first and second courses were plausible that they would be something that the Spirits in the Bath House would have available to eat, but this would be a very literal interpretation of the film.  Having said that, if the menu did not have Japanese name to them, they might have been perfectly fine chef-designed three course dinner.

Of course the FILM part of the evening was as good as ever, I would always enjoy it no matter how many times I see it, but in the end, the EAT part was not quite up to scratch yet.  It would have been so much more enjoyable and so much more impactful if they had tried to recreate the atmosphere of the movie for the evening, or at least, tailored the menu to capture the spirit of the movie and perhaps did a little more research to improve its authenticity.  Then again, this was their first time organising it, so perhaps next year EAT FLIM 2014 would come with some improvements.

Nevertheless, it was still a memorable evening in a fantastic venue, and to quote the writing on BAFTA wall by Annie Hall, “That was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.”

Quotes on BAFTA Stairway to Princess Anne Theatre
On my way to Princess Anne Theatre at BAFTA

Dress by DVF
Watch by TAG HEUER


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