When the U.K.’s most innovative foodie studio Bompas & Parr announced that it would open a British Museum of Food at London’s gastronomic mecca, Borough Market, mouths started watering all over town. The company, set up by Sam Bompas and Harry Parr in 2007 to make artisan Jell-O for the likes of Mark Ronson and the London Festival of Architecture, has since expanded into all sorts of ambitious projects around the multi-sensory appreciation of what we eat and drink. Needless to say, this would be no ordinary museum.
Running from October 2015 until January 2016 (but very likely to continue in an expanded form beyond that time, either here or at another location), the museum takes the form of a collection of fun and stylish installations exploring the artistry and history of food, the science of taste and digestion, and the role of pollination in food production. You’ll leave knowing more about all these topics than when you arrived, but you probably won’t be aware of the learning along the way — that’s the magic of Bompas & Parr.
For example, take “Be the Bolus: the Peristalsis Experience,” which puts you on a ride down the gastrointestinal tract with the help of a film made using footage from a capsule endoscopy camera and a powerful massage chair that mimics the motions of the stomach and gut.s grotesque than it sounds, the piece makes you see the work of the human body in a whole new light.
Another star attraction is a display of significant and historic menus from Bompas & Parr’s 400-strong collection. Not something we pay much attention to usually, the humble menu actually reveals a lot about a particular time and place. Examples on display at the museum include one from The Ritz London signed by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a chilling menu from Stalag Luft III, the Nazi prisoner-of-war camp depicted in the film The Great Escape.
There are also displays of work by leading food photographers, a gift store featuring some of the most bizarre food books around (recipes for cooking on your car engine, anyone?) and an aural chocolate tasting experience, but the most unexpected exhibit in the museum is “The Butterfly Effect.” Inspired by the banana-ripening warehouse that used to occupy the museum’s 19th-century building, the installation brings together hundreds of South American butterflies under a rainbow of grow lights to highlight the role of the insects in pollination and banana production.
Once you have sweated it out in the insect-filled room, head to Alcoholic Architecture, the bar in the basement (advance booking is essential), to experience humidity on an entirely different scale. It’s home to what might be the world’s first walk-in, breathable cocktail cloud.