Dinner Time Stories is food theatre Instagrammers have to experience
A new dining experience employs tech and in-the room touches to tell a tale
It's not quite theatre, not quite a film and not quite dining out either. In the quest for ever more novel experiences, Dinner Time Stories is a combination of all three, with some pantomime, tattoo art and dress-up thrown in for extra kicks.
In a darkened room at the Faircity Quartermain Hotel in Johannesburg, dinner guests file in and take their seats at long, communal tables. A huge storybook is placed in front of each guest and the show begins. A tiny chef comes to life on your plate and travels across deserts, raging seas, mountain ranges and through colourful marketplaces in search of the perfect ingredients for his menu, which he presents by hopping onto your plate and gazing up at you, before launching into an explanation of his dishes.
The two-hour show is made possible by using 3-D mapping visual technology and animated optical illusion techniques that project the chef onto your plate and tabletop.
"My journey in search of a story has taken me to unfathomable places. I have travelled in the footsteps of Marco Polo, the intrepid Italian traveller who made his way through terra incognita, traversing Asia's glory," squeaks the little guy in a high-pitched voice from the edge of your plate.
"I am a seeker of tales of taste, of gastronomic gallantry, of an experience rather than a meal," he continues later in the evening before the table becomes awash in a raging sea, or he jumps on the back of a little swallow to take to the skies and fly over snow-capped peaks before falling off and tumbling back down to Earth where he bounces off the brightly covered fabric of some marketplace shade.
The story and the exotic patterns projected onto the table are accompanied by a different course, each with its own props. The wait staff are dressed up according to the traditional costume of the country from which each course's food comes. It's a clever little touch. They're also armed with ink stamps to tattoo guests with images of camels and the like during the Moroccan part of the show - my advice is not to let them stamp you on your face.
While the courses are small, there are lots of them, including a fun excursion into the Himalayas, once again projected across the table, during which a palate cleanser of citrus sorbet wafting in a silver teapot on a cloud of dry ice smoke is served.
Between courses and following the chef across the world and your tabletop, guests are encouraged to chat to each other, which makes it quite a social evening.
In the end, the chef returns home with the exotic ingredients he's collected from his adventures around the world to present the final dish on the menu. It's the pièce de résistance - a dessert that includes elements from all the places he visited, with a classic crème brûlée as the base.
The delicious finale (and the rest of the show) provides excellent opportunities for the Instagram eater with swirling, animated tablecloths in technicolour enlivening every dish.
• The show is on in Johannesburg for the month of September, after which it will tour SA.