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Eat Film at London Restaurant Festival
October 22, 2014
‘Dinner and a movie’ is such an ubiquitous concept that it’s surprising that there aren’t more events that bring the two together – aside from overpriced nachos or the occasional ‘gourmet’ cinema. Eat Film, part of the London Restaurant Festival, does exactly that, treating guests to canapés and drinks, a film screening and a three-course meal, all in the luxurious setting of BAFTA. The event is in its second year, and this time around fashion photographer Rankin curated the evening, selecting the classic Italian film Cinema Paradiso, supported by a selection of Italian food and drink.
Upon arrival, guests were treated to Peroni Nastro Azzurro Piccola – essentially Peroni lager in a slightly smaller bottle – or a glass of Tempranillo or Viura from Rioja (technically Spanish wine rather than Italian, but we didn’t push the point). Italian street food-inspired canapés completed the reception. Figs in parma ham were salty, sweet and moreish, whilst sfincione – rather like bruschetta with a softer bread – were beautifully sharp, thanks to a tomato and anchovy topping. The arancini disappointed slightly, winding up slightly dry and bland thanks to the decision to avoid messy fingers by serving them without any sauce.
From there it was on to the screening, accompanied by peach juice and the much-anticipated Parmesan popcorn. With a surprisingly delicate flavour, the Parmesan didn’t quite overpower the popcorn as it might have done, and it will be with some reluctance that we next return to our local multiplex’s salted popcorn, having been spoilt for it now.
As for the film itself, it’s widely regarded as a masterpiece, and rightly so. Following a filmmaker’s nostalgic memories of growing up in rural Sicily and falling in love with film, Cinema Paradiso is a love letter to cinema, revelling in its power to bring us together. Rankin described it as a “filmmaker’s film,” but it will have power over anyone who has ever felt moved by a film. Speaking of which, Cinema Paradiso is undeniably moving itself, and for the first five minutes after the credits rolled the audience were ever so slightly sombre. It’s a beautiful film, grappling with love, memory and the pains of growing up, coupled with an astonishingly bright sense of humour, and surely worth a watch – with dinner or without.
When BAFTA chef Anton Manganaro set out to design the menu to follow Cinema Paradiso, you’d forgive him for feeling slightly daunted, as food itself barely features on screen, leaving little room for inspiration. Manganaro drew on both the film and his family, taking the rustic Italian setting as the inspiration for a menu featuring the flavours that his father grew up with. A salmon carpaccio with fennel and orange salad started us off, beautifully balancing the strong citrus notes with the earthy fennel. Stuffed belly of pork with polenta, treviso and pine nuts and sultanas was a resounding success. The sultanas provided a sweet touch that serves as a wonderful alternative to the apple usually served with pork in the UK, while the light, delicate polenta was enough to convert even the most ardent critic of the stodge that polenta is known for.
The real star of the night was dessert: three mini cannoli filled with chestnut, vanilla and chocolate cream. For the uninitiated, cannolis are tubes of pastry, fried and filled with a sweet, creamy filling. They’re essentially the Italian version of a custard doughnut and, like most Italian counterparts to British foods, are incomparably better. Crispy, gooey, messy and sweet, they’re the ultimate finger food dessert, sure to satisfy your inner child.
With luck, Eat Film will return once again next year, and if so, it’s well worth a look. Good food and good films are two of the greatest pleasures you can have with your clothes on, and Eat Film provides some of the best of both.