Sunday 30 October 2011

The Minotaur & Pret A Diner at The Old Vic Tunnels

I love the Old Vic Tunnels. The dark, damp and musty brick tunnels hidden beneath Waterloo station make an intriguing blank canvas for events such as The Minotaur to bring it to life. The Minotaur was an exhibition recently held there, comprising of a very curious collection of Minotaur-inspired art from the Lazarides Gallery, and a brilliant pop-up Michelin quality banquet by Kofler & Kompanie called 'Pret A Diner'.

A friend and I went along to the final day of the exhibition last week, and had great fun getting lost in the labyrinth of tunnels, disappearing through arches to hidden dark corners and discovering weird, wonderful and random pieces of art everywhere we turned. In ancient Greek mythology, The Minotaur was a body of a man with the head of a bull.

We feasted our eyes on strange hybrids of dolls heads stuck on sticks; a hanging mobile of bicycle wheels and discarded electric fans; a pilot child with skull helmet and aeroplane wings; a Minotaur made of nails on the cross; an intimate cinema screening peculiar images of eagles and bulls and even a giant ball which on closer inspection revealed thousands of rats, though presumably not real ones! My favourite pieces included a mesmerising, ever-changing image reflecting on a pool of water, and a clever portrait made entirely from chipped plaster.

Housed in one of the tunnels was a lavish banqueting room which had been created for 'Pret A Diner', a very special pop-up dining experience (the only thing letting it down being its unimaginative name.) Diners got a chance to sit at decadently-decorated tables and enjoy a fantastic Michelin-star feast, one of the chefs being Nuno Mendes of Viajante. At £75 per head without wine, this was unfortunately a little out of my financial league, but the organisers were kind enough to let us pop our heads in and absorb the atmosphere, which could have resembled the set for Peter Greenaway's 'The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover'.  Full of enormous candelabras, gorgeous bar staff, extraordinary decor, elaborate fruit displays and a glamorous DJ, I loved every aspect of this pop-up restaurant and just wish I could have had a chance to sample its culinary delights too. Maybe next time...

Once we had taken in every interesting nook and cranny, we found a comfy sofa and enjoyed a drink in the busy bar. It reminded me a bit of Shunt, a wonderful underground bar and arts space which used to be situated in the vaults under London Bridge, but is sadly no more. I wish the Old Vic Tunnels would open their bar to the public permanently as it's such a great vibe and I for one would definitely be a regular. Meanwhile, do keep an eye on the Old Vic Tunnels website, as they host all sorts of brilliant and unusual productions. Also, check the Lazarides Gallery as they put on regular exhibitions and shows at their flagship gallery in the West End.

The Minotaur has ended, but for news on future events, check out the websites below:

Old Vic Tunnels
The Minotaur
Pret a Diner

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