I’m sure many of you recognise the names, as (Sam) Bompas and (Harry) Parr are pretty hot in Londinium right now – their jelly has been on the menu at the brilliant Hawksmoor (swoon) for some time, they’ve hosted some of the coolest events in the city (think ‘flavour tripping’ – more of that in a minute) and just last week they provided jelly for one of the city’s emerging ‘underground restaurants’.
I was excited then, to find myself at B & P’s office/workshop/actually their house, chatting about blogging and jelly. It turns out the jelly mongers are completely charming, and patient – I got hopelessly lost as usual and it took three phone calls, repeated wandering of streets and eventually, Sam coming down to find me before I joined the team for a much needed brew.
Sam wins me over instantly by telling me he made my chilli and loved it. Clever man knows the way to a cook’s heart. He apologises many times for ‘the mess’, although seriously, it’s not that bad. Not when I think of my flat anyway. I assume that what he considers ‘mess’ is the collection of moulds, prototypes and pictures everywhere, which to me, an outsider, is just plain cool.
Bompas and Parr make jellies to order, in any conceivable shape or size. Harry Parr (previously an architect) draws up all the designs first on the computer and they are then made into plaster protoypes and plastic moulds. Weird and wonderful quivering masterpieces have included a jelly ‘airport’ and a jelly wedding cake – it seems that anything is possible in the world of wobble.
Sam tells me they have some of the wibbly stuff in the fridge right now, disappearing and returning with a heart shaped mould filled with clear jelly, gold leaf suspended inside (for a Market Kitchen Valentine’s Day piece – gin and tonic flavour).
This TV project seems relatively tame however, compared to some of B & P’s previous creations. It’s hard to miss a gingerbread replica of the gherkin standing tall in the corner of the room and a look around their website reveals a sandwich consisting of a crispy kreme donut filled with bacon – so naughty my heart misses a beat just looking at it. Last night they created the UK’s first ‘scratch and sniff cinema’, screening ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover’ – where the audience enjoyed the scents of ‘rotting meat’ and ‘dusty books’. I had a sneak preview of the scents while I was there and seriously, they were pretty realistic.
Just when I think I’ve heard it all, Sam asks if I’ve ever tried ‘flavour tripping’. I reply in the negative. Flavour tripping, he explains is an experience made possible by a ‘miracle berry’ (Synsepalum Dulcificum), which makes ‘lemons taste like toffee and vinegar like sherry’. Bompas and Parr threw the UK’s first public flavour tripping party last year and when I ask how they got their mitts on this magical substance, Sam tells me how purchasing ‘supplies’ is easy as Bompas and Parr is a registered chemical research company. Of course it is.
In the midst of all this fascinating chatter, I ask possibly the most boring question you can ask a jelly monger – what’s your favorite flavour? Sam responds like a pro however, not a flicker of despair in his face at the sheer tedium of my conversation – it’s ‘strawberry and mint, made with fresh mint’. Sounds delicious, very summery. I imagine a different me, punting down the Isis, eating strawberry and mint jelly and quaffing champage.
Before I leave, Sam bestows upon me a small gift – six ‘flavour trips’ – as far as I know, perfectly legal. He gives me intructions to let one dissolve slowly on my tongue and then let the tasting commence. I have come close to taking one of these tablets three times now, and each time, something intervenes. Yesterday then, I went and bought myself a bag of lemons and a bottle of finest malt (vinegar). This weekend, thanks to the jelly mongers, I’m ready to trip like a teenager.
*top photo from the Bompas and Parr website.