Review: Immersive Dining with Flavour&Some at Carousel, Marylebone
You'll begin by mingling upstairs in the Carousel restaurant, a lovely lady (who we soon learn is Eileih) will come over, register you and check for any dietary requirements. My dairy intolerance was noted and I hoped this wouldn't mean I would miss out on any of the fun (I needn't have worried). When you go downstairs into the dimly lit room which was more of a studio space, you hang your belongings up and are personally introduced to your (not just your regular) waiter or waitress who will be looking after you for the evening.
Our waitress was Lauren, she guided us to our table and asked that we didn't put our phones on the tables. This made me very suspicious but in a good way! Lauren also explained that she would gently rest the bottom of her palm just on our chin below our mouth to indicate that we should open our mouth to taste and then can close it again. I thought it would be a weird but wonderful way to get through a four course meal but hey, I'm up for the experience! Needless to say, the blindfolded moments last only a couple of minutes.
A glass of prosecco later and the music is playing while people are chatting, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a regular restaurant setting but this feeling is short lived. As you sit closely with others, it should be said that you may be separated from the guests you arrived with but after an initial feeling of discomfort you'll be grateful for sharing the experience with a new individual as you are navigating your way through your Flavour&Some journey together.
Shortly after sitting, a blindfold was placed on my eyes and it took me a moment to get over the element of surprise and to figure out how I would drink without the use of sight and how I would converse without seeing my companion's facial expressions. Soon after, comes the gentle hand on my chin and another hand gently placed on my back and an appetiser is neatly popped into my mouth. I am not quite sure what I've eaten, was it a fruit or a vegetable? It could have been a tiny ball of melon, pear or perhaps cucumber, or none of the above! I know the taste, I'm sure I do but without seeing the food, without asking someone or checking a menu for confirmation - I haven't a clue! The others share a knowing validation that they have eaten some kind of cheese croquette. You hear a ripple across tables as people experience things in the same moment but not exactly the same time, this is to become a theme throughout.
Not a moment later, the table (pallet) whizzes across the room and I quickly realise we are sitting in a completely different side of the room. I cannot see through my blindfold but the atmosphere feels and sounds different. You become so much more aware of your surroundings and at first you are tense and nervous, you feel an extreme desire to hold on to something concrete or peep out of your blindfold but you become more comfortable every minute you are sat there. Before our blindfolds are gently removed again. First we tucked into the focaccia bread which was served with a creamy butter and smoked pepper butter. The focaccia was softly baked and a little addictive as it tasted like it was baked with rock salt and rosemary. Conversations start to warm over the bread course and the ice is broken.
Now things start to get exciting, the waiting staff begin to delicately plate our food in time with the playful live music. They carefully move around each other, their bodies weave over and under one another as they plate our smoked salmon fillets, spiced vegetable purée (the dairy version being a smokey cheese and parsnip purée) and tortilla shard in a synchronised contemporary movement piece. With every opening of a jar or spoon of caviar, the dancing waiters exchange a playful gesture or facial expression which causes a ripple of laughter across the room.
Despite all of the movement, we observe and appreciate how perfectly plated the food on our plate is. The light grilled smoked salmon fillet was fresh and soft, contrasted with the crunchy tortilla and garnished with a sprig of watercress. This was all complemented by a great quality fruity white wine.
We are left to eat, drink and chatter before we are blindfolded and whizzed around for our third course. The waiting staff are gathered in the corner and the dull, slow, haunting sounds of the violin creates a tense atmosphere as the waiters move towards us in a stylised slow motion movement with our plates and glasses in hand. I am served a tender chicken breast with fois gras and asparagus (at least I think so) and my guest cut into a supple steak with greens. Our cutlery was presented in a closed wooden box and when we opened it, we discovered a hook securing a scented tablet to the rear of the fork. This was particularly compelling as with every mouthful you take in an aroma which added another dimension to the dining experience. The herb or plant scent was strong but not too overpowering. Again we are left a moment to socialise with our neighbours and there is another blindfolded tasting of a white chocolate truffle that had a lightly salted exterior but when you bit into the creamy white chocolate was filled with a sweet and tart passion fruit cream (the lady next to me was an official chocolate taster so we'll take her word for it) before we our tables whisked off for the grand finale!
Momentum builds as the music intensifies and the waiting staff dance in a beautiful contemporary dance sequence as the guests surround the performance and orchestra. (Our tables have now been arranged in a large circle clearing the floor space for an in-around performance) As the movement and music quickens, the waiters paint a fragrant red squiggle in what smells like raspberry but we later discovered was beetroot! Along with the layers of music and dance building atmosphere, the art attack style table design builds with chocolate panache, pistachio purée, hazelnut cream, marshmallows, mint sugar shards, crushed pistachio, sugar covered hazelnuts and chocolate covered popping candy which is placed, flung, trickled and sprinkled right before our eyes. A scent was sprayed in the air and cocktails arrived. So that's all senses and textures covered. With a final pop of party poppers, the guests erupt into a heartfelt applause. Dainty dessert spoons and forks were tied up in adorable velvet ribbons and all that was left to do ... was eat the art! And it tastes as good as it looked.
Essentially you do not always know what you are eating even if you can see it or smell it, much of your experience is built on trust/experimentation and discovery which definitely adds to the enjoyment.
A feast for the senses and a feast for the soul, perhaps I'm biased as a foodie and coming from an arts background but this may possibly be one of the best dining experiences I've ever had. If you are wondering how you can enjoy it now I've revealed all their secrets, fear not; Flavour&Some are planning to have more events with various themes and so everyone can join in the fun! At £75 a pop, it might not be your regular evening out but I can assure you for a special evening out it's worth every penny.
Reviewed by guest writer Syeshia Sweeney