Edinburgh Festival: Dinner is Swerved (4 stars)

Finally, a Fringe show with food that hands you more than just a croissant. But don’t go expecting background jazz and a candle-lit table for two. This isn’t a meal with a bit of light entertainment thrown in, it’s a “multisensory dining adventure”. Apparently our amiable (and very tall) host Charlie Byles at one point wanted to call it “Food Sonnet”, but was luckily persuaded against this.

Like a lot of the best shows, to tell you pretty much anything about it would spoil things, so I’ll try and give you an impression without taking away the surprises. And surprises are what it’s all about. Like a more homely and less expensive version of Heston Blumenthal’s famous restaurant The Fat Duck, it turns food into a performance.

Seated at a single long table in an intimate room, 16 of us sit down to eat five courses which include an aperitive of assorted rainbow pâtés and a main of organic shrubbery on a fresh bed of compost. But thanks to chefs Catrine Skeppar (who also hosts) and Jonathan Memel, it all tastes wonderful.

Weird little musical numbers, an oddball waiter slinking about in the shadows and guest speakers with a twist act as interludes. Nothing is what it seems. A wine appreciation talk is a particular treat and the wine sounds truly lovely (not at all like whatever it is they give you in the rest of C-venues). If only I wasn’t reviewing, I could actually drink it.

Some of the set-pieces are stronger than others. The best genuinely subvert your expectations of both food and performance, while others simply present something strange without giving it enough context.

We’re encouraged to chat to one another, but at times it’s unclear whether we should be doing this or watching the acts. Yet overall it’s a special experience, where you’ll get out as much as you put in. If you act like you’re at a dinner party, you’ll feel like you’ve been to one – a really good one. One with free-range celebrity chef’s tongue for dessert.

Written for The Scotsman

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