Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Laughing Gas and Lemonade, Surrealists Dinner, 15th August

Laughing Gas and Lemonade are basically an events company putting on events with a twist. this one was a dinner/dance based on the famous Diner de Tetes Surrealistes hosted by Madame Rothschild. We were told it was black tie and to wear surreal headgear and we were only informed of the venue the night before.



We arrived at the allotted timeslot and were given a name tag and envelope. These were our alter egos for the night and I was lucky enough to be Princess Grace of Monaco. Inside the envelope was a 'mission' for the night - a character or two to seek out and what you had to say to them. In essence, it was a way to make people mingle. I really liked this idea but I think they could have gone further. For example, one of the characters I was supposed to find and talk to was Truffaut and I was to ask him about appearing in a film. It turned out Truffaut was in my group of friends. I assumed his character notes had told him to wait for me to seek him out and what sort of reply he would have to give me, a bit like a murder mystery, but when I talked to him, he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and instead was supposed to find Catherine Deneuve to offer a role to. I think it would have been good for each character to be told to seek someone out, but also be told who was seeking them and why so that they could roleplay a bit better. Going one step further, it might have been nice to be allocated your alter ego a day or two before so that those who wanted to could do some research on the person and dress like them if they wanted.

As we entered the dining area, they had done a pretty good job of recreating what the guests of the original dinner may have experienced (albeit on a smaller budget) with a 'labyrinth' to enter through and creepy cats lounging on the stairs. The tables were decorated with strange and quirky ornaments such as broken dolls and lobster phones, creating a suitably surreal environment. 

I had pretty low expectations of the food (thinking it would be more an excuse to have the event rather than the main attraction) and I must admit, if never have the starter or dessert again, my life would suffer no loss. But I think they were more like props to add to the surrealism than meant to be taken seriously as food. Our meal was 'backwards' – we had cake to start and prawn cocktail for dessert. But the starter was still savoury and the dessert sweet. It was very odd to eat what looked like a cream cake but taste beetroot and crème fraiche in your mouth instead. Dessert was pieces of cake with pepper in it, and apple and raspberry curd and a basil foam (the first foam I’ve ever had and it worked a treat) which was less disconcerting.



The main, of course, if you’re having three courses, is the main whichever way around you do the meal and so this was the most normal course and was truly delicious. I’m not saying restaurant delicious, this was good home cooking, but I stuffed myself with it because it was so good. It was basically coq au vin, and I now believe chicken should always be cooked like this – for a long time and in wine, with whole roasted baby onions. And we got a very generous amount. This was served with semi-mashed potatoes, rhubarb and purple cauliflower with almonds sprinkled atop.


There were a few bizarre activities along the way as well, for example when Dali lead us in a ‘song’ accompanied by his xylophone, each table in turn making a sensual, spiritual, erotic noise of their choice to be woven into a complete musical collaboration. Then, at the end of the meal we were all solemnly lead out of the hall to watch an eerie candelit procession. This of course was a ruse for them to move us so they could clear the tables away, so that we had space to watch the erotic ritual involving a young nymph and lots of cherries. We were then directed to look at the balcony where the deity of disco signalled the start of the dancing. He came down amongst the crowd and spread his disco love with glitter aplenty. I was one such victim – he literally blew glitter all over me. I’m surprised I’m not still finding it more than a week later!

Disco God attacking me with glitter
I had a lot of fun at this event and one of my friends said it was the most fun they’d had on a Thursday ever. It is clear fun and silliness are at the heart of their events. I had been unwell in the day so didn’t stay long after the first couple of songs but I wasn’t the only one to leave earlyish as it was a schoolnight. I can imagine that the Friday and Saturday would have got quite raucous and debauched. Having said that, I think the night was quite uneven – your experience really depended on where you were sitting and which actors interacted with you. From reports I had from my group, some were better at being in character (and actually knew their character’s background) than others. My table had no seat for characters to come and sit with us, although they did come by and perch and chat, whereas other tables had one seat left free so characters could partake of the meal with them. However, I definitely had a good enough time to be interested to see what else this little company has up its sleeve.

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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.