In 2006, Hackney institution Bistrotheque launched The Reindeer, billed at time as London's first pop-up restaurant. Housed in The Truman Brewery, the so-called 'guerilla restaurant' served an astounding 23,000 people in a whirlwind three weeks leading up to Christmas. A forerunner of experiential eating, The Reindeer's theatric feasting raised the expectations of London's design-savvy diners.
Bistrotheque co-founders David Waddington and Pablo Flack swore they'd never attempt such a colossal undertaking again. Flack said, to the disappointment of the city's drama-starved food critics, 'Only very special circumstances would call The Reindeer back to town.'
The late fashion icon Lee Alexander McQueen's charitable foundation Sarabande provided the necessary boost. This Christmas, The Reindeer will return, taking place at the Sarabande HQ in Haggerston. The converted warehouse provides free studios and mentorship for hand selected graduates – including menswear designer Craig Green – helping them take defining steps in their chosen creative field. The dining event will double as an open house, allowing guests unique access into the designers' workspaces, and all proceeds from the event will be fed back into the foundation.
Flack and his team have kept things a little more exclusive this time around. 'It's only for two nights and one lunch with just 400 people getting to experience The Reindeer [this year],' he explains. Each event will centre on Tord Boontje's fang-shaped Ketel One Bar, created for Sarabande in August. From here, guests will be served a Citroen-based cocktail designed by Ketel One – a founding partner of Sarabande – before entering an immersive winter wonderland to enjoy a warming six course meal devised by Bistrotheque head chef, Blaine Duffy. Christmassy chestnut notes appear throughout, bracketed by smoked salmon skin canapés to start, and a fermented apple sorbet desert closing the show.
The beef main course will be served on Boontje's reissued 'Deer In Forest' plate designs, created in a limited edition run of 90 especially for the event. The London-based designer is no stranger to festive design activity. He somehow manages to avoid the traps of Christmas gaudiness, balancing class with just a sprinkling of playful kitsch. He's therefore the perfect designer to partner up with The Reindeer – renowned for making Christmas dining cool back in 2006.
The new iteration of The Reindeer is topped off an atmospheric ceiling installation created by one of Sarabande's supported designers, Esna Su. Central to the immersive display, this installation proudly showcases the inventive work being created within the foundation's walls; an apt reminder that the young designers are Sarabande's raison d'etre.