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Lights & Music & Gazpacho Are On My Mind: Sugar Mountain's 'Sensory' Previewed

We share a meal with Cut Copy, Tin & Ed, and Bomba.

Downstairs at Melbourne's Bomba, light streaming in from the Lonsdale Street window, illuminating a gentle bustle of work Christmas lunches. I'm sitting alongside Sugar Mountain co-organiser Brett Louis with the restaurant's head chef and owner Jesse Gerner, design duo Tin & Ed, and Cut Copy's Dan Whitford. They're up to something – conspirators in Sugar Mountain's "immersive restaurant experiment" Sensory. The whole thing is highly conceptual. In fact, it's more an amalgamation of concepts, attempting to unify their three respective fields into a unique culinary experience. It's a broad framework, one with little to nothing in the way of previous reference points. In conversation, they present abstract ideas showing initial signs of coagulation – each artist excited at the prospect of the unknown. There's no way to preview Tin & Ed's design plans for the allocated festival space, or Cut Copy's soundtrack. However, we are presented with a sample of Bomba's nearly-finalised menu that will be on offer in Sensory.


I'm not a foodie, and perhaps have the aesthetic sensibilities of a potato. Maybe I'm not the best guy for this. But here I am. The menu is compartmentalised into Before, Beach, Earth and After. Before entails "tapioca crisp, Manchego cream, guindilla powder, tomato, jamon". I understand fifty percent of these words. It tastes good. While food might seem like the most straightforward aspect of the project, Jesse sets the challenge beyond preparing the food. "For us in the kitchen, we're trying to hide food in the table settings and the surrounding in the building, plus test tube desserts."

"Wait, so with the hiding of food – there's a chance people can go in and miss out on dishes because they can't find them?"

"Possibly. We're working out the cues, with light cues and sound cues."

"There'll be a table that doesn't get it, I can tell," adds Tin Nguyen. "We'll have to get in there and point it out."

Time for Beach. I'm served a small jar of gazpacho. "This is a really small jar of gazpacho," I think to myself. I know gazpacho from that time Lisa Simpson turned vegetarian. Did I mention, I'm also a vegetarian? Crazy. The gazpacho tastes amazing. It seems bottomless, even though it's a really small jar of gazpacho. I like the gazpacho.

Read: Sugar Mountain Reveals Their 2016 Boiler Room Lineup

"The music is being prepared in advance, we won't be performing while people are experiencing the space," Dan says on Cut Copy's approach to the soundtrack. It will be creating an immersive sense to the space and experience. The thing with the music will be about connecting to the lighting, the shape of the space, and the food. There'll be different things going on. There'll be a need for some degree of flexibility, working with the service." It's vague, still in its primitive workshopping stage. But it's promising.


"Will it be something more ambient from Cut Copy?"

"I think it's not going to be overpowering," Dan says.

"No bangers?"

"Ha, that won't be appropriate. Something disorienting, that gets people's attention without distracting from the food."


"That's something we've considered. We're figuring out channels, but even with stereo you can create an interesting dynamic. Two channels at the moment, but we might do the whole 5.1 experience."

Time for Earth. There's pork jowl. I'm not sure if the jowl is a vegetarian part of the pig. I play it safe with the gluten free grain salad. Did I mention I don't eat gluten? It would be weird if I did, because I do eat gluten. Crazy. Despite their lack of gluten, the grains are delicious. Smart, even. It comes with smoked yogurt, which seems like a strange thing to do to yogurt. But it works, and I make plans to smoke the nearly out of date tub of Jalna I have in the fridge at home.

The courses are satisfying, and despite no concrete outline of what exactly Cut Copy, Tin & Ed – and Bomba's serving plans – will be concocting on the day, the promise of something unique, exceeding the sum of its fine players, is satisfying, too.


Sugar Mountain takes place Saturday January 23 at VCA. Tickets, including tickets to Sensory, on sale now.

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