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If I were to write a list of my favourite things to do whilst still clothed, it’s a safe bet that eating food, drinking beer and watching films would sit proudly in the top three spots. Come to think of it, they’d feature pretty highly in a list of my favourite things to do without clothes too. Hence my feverish excitement at the prospect of an evening that combines all three of these, simultaneously.
This is the concept behind The House Of Peroni‘s ‘Film Feast‘. An evening of epicurean overindulgence combining a screening of Paulo Sorrentino‘s La Grande Bellezza (2013), The Great Beauty, with a specially designed menu from Bottega Wapping‘s Lorenzo di Francesco, all washed down with several teeth-achingly cold glasses of Italy’s most famous beer, Peroni Nastro Azzurro.
Located between Oxford Circus and Regents Park, House of Peroni is open from the 6th – 30th November and aims to showcase the best of Italian style and creativity from Michelin-starred chefs, award winning film directors, fashion designers and artists. The decor is chic and modern with plenty of floor to ceiling mirrors for the attractive clientele to admire themselves in. We are led down a stark white corridor to the softly lit screening room where we take our seats on cream couches.
Set in the breathtakingly photogenic city of Rome the film follows journalist, lothario and all round hedonist Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) as he drinks, eats and sleeps his way through all that Rome has to offer on his quest to find the true beauty of life. The eight course menu of Roman cuisine, served at carefully chosen points during the film, aims to gastronomically transport you and your taste buds to Italy to follow Jep on his voluptuary adventure.
The first dish, aptly named Cocktail O’clock is served during Jep’s 50th birthday scene and features an almond crusted scallop on a bed of zingy orange juice marinated vegetables with a cube of Negroni jelly. The firm, sweet scallop marries perfectly with the sexy yet stylish celebrations on screen. Like our first impression of Jep the bitter Negroni jelly is brash, in your face and borderline offensive but thoroughly likeable none the less.
As I’m savouring the last mouthful of scallop I lift my head from my plate back to the screen only to realise, we’re not at Jep’s birthday party any more. The film has moved on and it’s time for the next dish. I struggle to walk and talk at the same time so the prospect of having to eat, drink, read subtitles and watch the film all at once is the sensory-multitasking equivalent of me skipping up Mount Everest whilst reciting Macbeth backwards.
Dish number two is a homage to authentic Roman cuisine. Slow cooked oxtail croquette with a rich tomato sauce and chocolate breadcrumbs. This traditional fare is paired with vast panning shots of the Colosseum and Ancient Rome and both the food and scene smack of history and authenticity. The sweet chocolate breadcrumbs and deep meaty oxtail are an inspired combination.
The film moves on to a dreamscape by the sea where we learn more about Jep’s past and his first love. The accompanying dish is tuna tartare with oyster water and squid ink mayonnaise, served in a mother of pearl lined oyster shell. This exquisitely presented serving is a real punch in the taste buds. I’m not transported to the sea, rather dragged by the ear kicking and screaming. The diced, raw tuna is pungent and slimy with coarse grains of sea salt throughout. Without any fresh acidity to cut through the salty, umami fish this dish was overpowering, and dare I say it, the portion was too big.
Thankfully course number four got the evening back on track. Luxuriously creamy ricotta wrapped in crunchy kataifi pastry with a spicy pepper sauce was paired with a seedy but sexy scene in which Jep visits a strip club and meets his future love. Fittingly the food, like any good lap dance, left you wanting more.
After a brief intermission to replenish our drinks the film feast continued with the show stopping dish of the evening. Deconstructed carbonara tortelloni. This al dente pasta parcel filled with runny egg yolk and topped with crispy pancetta flakes burst satisfyingly onto the plate. This was carefully planned by Lorenzo di Francesco, the head chef at Bottega Wapping to mirror the visually striking scene on screen where a young modern artist throws tins of thick paint onto a giant white canvass. The warm velvety egg yolk, perfectly cooked fresh pasta and salty pancetta combined to make little mouthfuls of golden Roman heaven.
This was followed by lamb cooked in Peroni which felt slightly engineered to fit in with the hosts self-promotional desires. Being such a light, crisp beer the Peroni failed to impart any flavour into the lamb which, although succulent and tender, wilted in the imposing flavour-shadow cast by the previous course.
Next was a palate cleansing salad of raw root vegetables which after the gastronomic challenges of previous courses was refreshingly simple and elegant.
As the final credits rolled to the backdrop of an early morning ride up the Tevere River in Rome the trio of deserts was served. Maritozzo con Panna, a sweet bread roll filled with whipped cream was accompanied by a boozy gin and tonic jelly and Pastetta Napoletana, a custard filled pastry delight elegantly presented on a giant mirrored plate.
As I hoovered up the final crumbs of pastry the smug, spent reflection looking back at me in the mirrored plate was that of someone who has had all their senses tickled and played with for two and a half hours and enjoyed every minute of it. House of Peroni‘s ‘Film Feast’ is a veritable smorgasbord for the senses. It was challenging at times due to sheer sensory overload. The film looked visually stunning but I left feeling I’ll have to watch it again to truly appreciate it as for most of the evening I was too busy shovelling food into my face to read the subtitles.
Having said that, the food was excellent and the Peroni crisper than a freshly starched collar on one of Jep’s tailored shirts. As with most activities in life the only way the experience could have been improved is if clothing was optional.