Recently we had the opportunity to experience a dinner that goes well beyond the realms of reality and lands you far into fantasy. If I said to you the dinner is combined with 3-D mapping and augmented reality, what would you expect? Well, whatever your imagination just conjured up, it’s probably not a patch on the all-round entertainment and fine dining experience presented by 100%Event with their magnificent production of DinnerTimeStoriesSA.
We had no idea what to expect, and that was a fantastic way to start. After arriving at the Faircity Quartermain Hotel in Morningside, Johannesburg, we were met by Paul Rouessart who has brought the Dinner Time Stories concept to South Africa. Over a chilled glass of Prosecco, Paul chatted freely but gave very little away about the experience we were about to have.
Down in the dining room we met our fellow diners, and sat down at the long table, eagerly awaiting the beginning of the show. “Chef Lucky” opened the proceedings by telling us all to sit as close to the table as possible, so as not to miss a thing. We were all intrigued by the big story books on the table in front of us. Following Lucky’s instruction, we opened our books to the middle, laying them back on the table in a patch of light. The lights dimmed, and the magical tale began to unfold.
Behold! Right on the table, in front of our very eyes, a little man in chef’s clothing appeared. This is Le Petit Chef, who is the main character of the fairy-tale dinner theatre experience. He takes you on a tour that follows the footsteps of Marco Polo as he travelled across Asia on the famous Silk Route. Collecting ingredients along the way, these are incorporated into the dishes presented to you in a 6-course journey designed to delight your senses and tantalise your taste-buds.
Stormy seas and some rough travel will have you ready for the opening treat of the evening. A little paper boat menu told us the first course is the Amuse Bouche, which is two small fish-based items, both delicious. Now I am not a huge fan of fish, but I am prepared to try most things, and I was glad I did because both parts of this course were amazing. These items were presented to us in a little case, which sets the tone for the courses to come. As we were to find out, both the staff and the table change props and decorations to suit each place you are “visiting”. These decorations are beautifully matched to complement the menu and the story. This doesn’t perhaps hit you as you enjoy the first course, but as the evening goes on and the story continues, you find yourself waiting to see what the next course will bring and just how it will be presented to you. Each time the scene changes, you are again delighted by what you are seeing and indeed by what you are tasting.
Just remember one thing – each course has at least two parts to it, and they may seem like small portions, but by the time you get to the final course you will be amazed at how full you are. The top button of your trousers may be pinching a little by the time the story has ended.
After the first course has been cleared away, the lights are dimmed again and the story continues, and we follow the Little Chef on his travels. Suitable music accompanies the tale as we wait in wonder, eyes glued to the storybook in front of us. Amidst swirling patterns on the tablecloth, and with beautifully concocted graphics, our diminutive host takes us over Persian carpets to the Arabic Course, the second in our epic journey. This was brought to us in a big wooden box, which is an intricately designed “table” containing the fragrant dishes we were about to sample. More dishes were placed next to us on the dining table, once again crafted with care and eye for detail. The menu is presented on a Persian carpet and tells of exotic treats that were, to the very last bite, absolutely delicious. Even though I knew there were more courses to follow, I couldn’t help finishing every last morsel in my terracotta pots.
Next the Little Chef traipses over the sands of Arabia and meets up with a small friend, who helps him travel onwards to the wonderfully colourful spice markets of India. The scents and visual arts continue, as elephants and incense announce the next menu. A little jewelled trunk conceals spicy and mouth-watering items, but these were not the only jewels on the tray. A delectable brew to cool the tongue is sipped through a corn straw, while the staff apply “henna” to diners’ hands, completing the Indian experience.
On flies Le Petit Chef with his little friend, across harsh landscapes and up into the snowy heights of the Himalayas. Here our taste buds are given a chance to cool down and refresh after the interesting flavours of the first three courses. A palate cleansing sorbet is presented to us but here the theatre continues… Following Lucky’s instructions, we find ourselves immersed in a spectacle of swirling cold air, and icy mist. The sorbet itself is like a blast of refreshing spring water, sipped from a mountain stream with lemongrass growing on its delicate banks. As the course is cleared, we are offered the opportunity to take a 5-minute break. We are so busy discussing the amazing show so far, we almost forget to leave the table!
Now the tale continues as our little friends fly onwards, towards the temples and markets of China. Fireworks light up the night sky as we read the scroll inscribed with the course’s dishes. Clay and wicker steam pots arrive in front of us, and chopsticks are at the ready as we begin the fifth leg of our journey. My stomach gave a little groan as I started eating, knowing I was going to want to finish every last noodle! To end off, a fortune cookie is cracked open to reveal a snippet of wisdom, which we read aloud accompanied by the crunching of the sweet crackers around the table.
Le Petit Chef’s epic journey is almost complete, and we take a moment to reflect as he travels back to his home, full of great ideas and inspired by all he has seen and tasted. We watch as he uses the spices and ingredients he collected along the way to develop and refine our last course. Camels and dragons appear magically before us, as the little chef sprinkles, shaves and crushes his chosen additives into the pot, adding a flash of fire to complete the final dish. As the story comes to an end, we are invited to close our big story books and the scents of dessert reach our nostrils. Oh gosh, more than one item arrives on our place with a flourish. “Do I have room?” I wonder but how can I not try all these marvels in front of me? As we bravely complete our own epic taste adventures, coffee and tea are served on the decorated table, and finally, our travels have come to an end.
This must have been one of the most entertaining dinners of my life, simply because there is way more to it than just the food. Of course, the food is outstanding, but the whole spectacle and theatrical flourishes add to the setting in a way you cannot imagine. This is more than Dinner Theatre, this is a taste sensation, intricately enhanced by carefully selected and sourced props. I strongly advise you to book at Computicket for your own adventure before Le Petit Chef sails off on a new adventure. Pack your adventurous taste buds, grab some travel buddies and make it an occasion to remember, you will not be disappointed. Hats off to Paul and his crew at 100%Event, to the staff and chefs, I salute you. Long may the magic continue.