Valentine’s Day, the day of love or calculated consumerism: depending on which side of the fence one stands.
This year I had crossed over to the smug-couple side, actively mocked and despised in previous years, and I was sufficiently out of practice as the boy proudly presented his card in the morning to my sheepish: ‘I thought we didn’t do cards’. Luckily, I had booked the main event in the evening: the Caravan of Love.
Before you all get ideas and my mother reads this: the Caravan of Love is a pop-up restaurant concept by Lemonade and Laughing Gas. Just a good clean food experience by two artists, Louise and Amy, whose mission it is: ‘to bring an extra level of fizz to the events world and organise a fun night out’. For £40 a head, you get a three-course dining experience in a caravan with ‘a private chef, waiter and bartender’.
The boy and I walked into the caravan with another couple, who were seated on the other side of the vehicle. Suddenly the private buy-out option made sense, as there is nothing as romantic as sharing a confined space with two strangers supposedly on a date. The schmaltzy pop-love songs that were to be the soundtrack of the evening were almost a welcome bonding experience for us four. The space was advertised to seat eight, but seeing my six-foot four-inch man crammed between the bench and the table I would worry about eating comfort if two more adults were to join us.
Eating comfort however was not high on the agenda, as the three-course meal (and welcome cocktail and canapé!) was served to us in rapid fashion to accommodate the 80-minute slot we’d been given. The Raspberry Collins was lovely and strong, and the malt loaf toast and ogleshield/pear canapé was nice. The starter was salmon with brassica, in our case cauliflower, and spring onion. The vegetables were barbecued and it was a tasty touch.
Outdoor cooking must make one think of barbecue as that treatment was also given to the main of roast rib-eye, presented with braised shin of beef, salsify and charred sprouts. My rib-eye was perfectly cooked, and I gave one slice as a love token to the boy whose portion had contained two slices of gristle. The flavoursome braised shin was a highlight, despite being hidden for its lack of aesthetic. Dessert was blood orange pudding with rhubarb posset, again served in quirky glass jars, but it was not the sweet ending I had wished: the tart rhubarb did not gel with the bitter marmalade.
The boy and I had optimistically asked for a bottle of fizz for the occasion, but as the end of the slot was approaching, it was clear we wouldn’t be able to finish it. We only had to settle up for the drink as the meal was already paid for but, walking away with uncomfortably stuffed stomachs, I quietly added up the complete bill and wondered: ‘Valentine’s is still calculated consumerism indeed – even on this side of the fence’.
Caravan of Love took place on Saturday 14 February.
Find out more about upcoming pop-up events from Lemonade and Laughing Gas on their website.