Words by Rachael Louise
As the future of Nature hangs in the balance, so the future of our food system – from our seeds to our dinner tables – is a pretty big question mark right now.
Will there be any fish left? Will anyone know what a potato is? Will we even still eat with our mouths and taste with our tongues?
One restaurant reviewer’s experience fifty years from now sheds light on what the future of food might have in store for us. Don’t ask where we found it…
Table For 1 | 2 Free-Time Tokens | 8 Food Tokens | 45-Minute Dining Limit
I arrive early to my booking but late to my meal. For the first time in years, this is not due to how long it takes to walk down the stairs in a cooling suit because – hold on to your helmets – The Tasting Tunnels has an air conditioned lift from street level.
No, instead my delay is entirely the fault of a restaurant host stuck on Swedish and a tiresome reset process, though management (quite rightly) don’t deduct these minutes from my allocated dining time.
Once I have smiled and nodded through frantic apologies, I am led through a dimly-lit room to my chair. Algae-bots can be left in the greenhouse by the entrance to charge – a nice improvement on outdoor waiting rooms. (Note: if you haven’t upgraded to the X-4000 yet, you’ll need to request an umbrella).
In contrast to my android friend, I find myself in a quiet, cave-like space. The flooring is standard epoxy and there aren’t any VR windows, but this sets a scene of anticipation rather than frugality. And it’s not all basic. The seats have anti-sweat covers, which I note and appreciate as I slip on the menu glasses.
Biometric profiles are automatically synced, and I find the dishes arranged in order of recommendation based on my last 30 days of consumption. I’ll leave it with you to decide whether this is helpful or infuriatingly pushy. I opt for re-sorting the seafood by Omega-3 content, meat by B12 and veggies by D – i.e., based on which formulas are running low in my cupboard at home.
Audio accompaniment is “carefully curated by our soni-chefs and is vital to the flavour profile of each dish”, I am told, so cannot be customised.
This would be a shame if the flavour profiles turned out to be empty promises. Thankfully, they do not.
With waves of trip hop comes chargrilled jellyfish, served titillatingly cold on a briny seabed of nori mousse topped with tuna-teeth shavings. (The teeth shavings make a rare and welcome change from flavoured calcium balls, though I am reminded by my server not to chew. You have been warned).
A stack of greaseless ox-heart is taken to new heights with lashings of potato and rosemary ice cream, served with soundbites of grass rustling in the wind. Harissa chicken feet make love not war with dried pear corn-cous and upbeat folk music. Even the soft-bone sausages brought out to Mozart are the perfect example of a classic, though you’d be forgiven for deciding this is neither the time nor the place for food you can find at the market.
Veggie sharing platters show off the kitchen’s access to giant varieties and the latest hybrids. The two-metre cold-roasted carrot stuffed with asparbage and mini cormatoes is my personal favourite, the buttery sweetness offset perfectly with generous sprinklings of crispy salted mosquitos. Other newcomers include parsnions (tangy), fennelery (perfumy) and caulibarb (a little confusing).
To be sure, not everything hits the mark. The smoked “fish” in algae crumb is a reminder that it’s easy to get too carried away. This arrives at the table in a salt-ice pyramid backed by deep, booming vibrations which I can only assume are composed to bring an extra marine kick to the recipe. Upon inspection, the pyramid is covered with personalised motivational engravings. Mine includes a suggestion to visit Neptune again soon, a blatant exposure of the restaurant’s sponsors.
It’s a work of art, of course, as well as a flaunting of their latest 3D-printing technology.
But I should point out that a funeral march for a mummified haddock trapped in an ice tomb doesn’t make the “fish” any more real. I’d have been happier to forgo the drama of pretending that it’s not pretend-fish.
And then dessert arrives – and all is forgiven. A sculpture of tofu arrives in a playground of texture, from the lightest of sponges to crunchy bean-curd sheets, and a voice encourages me to enjoy my taste journey. As aromatic mists flow from the walls, ceiling and below the table I begin to eat and find myself transported through forests of blueberry, pools of white chocolate, clouds of ginger biscuit. Here, the parade of innovation has purpose… and is simply brilliant.
My chair provides a five-minute neck and shoulder massage before my time is up, and I am escorted back to the lift. Despite the reality that I’ll know nothing but Vita-Shakes for another month, a lingering sweetness tingles on my tongue all the way to street level and keeps a smile on my face. If the Plutonians haven’t invaded by then, I’ll be back for more.
Since the State Health Insurance Policy update announced in August all restaurant bookings require you to submit your Body-Type Certificate and Gastro Health Card prior to arrival. Any attempt to arrive without doing so may result in a food token penalty.